Final Words

In my first week with the iPad mini, it quickly became the iPad I actually wanted to carry around. The mini's form factor is really where all of the innovation is. It's thin, light and an almost perfect balance of functional screen size and portability. I really love this form factor. In my life, a tablet is really an augmentive device rather than something that takes the place of a larger notebook. As such, I actually want something even more portable than the current Retina iPad and the mini delivers just that. It's small enough that I don't mind taking it with me, and it retains nearly all of what made the iPad such a great consumption device. I say nearly all because there are some definite tradeoffs when moving to the smaller display. Mainly all UI elements shrink in size, which can be a bit annoying when tapping small widgets (especially at the corners of the display). There's always something to be given up in pursuit of ultimate portability.

From a performance standpoint, the iPad mini is basically the same as the iPad 2. You do lose out on the battery life front (especially compared to the newer 32nm iPad 2,4), but in terms of repsonsiveness the mini is no different. Thanks to just how power hungry the iPad 3 and 4 are, the mini's battery life isn't really much worse despite the significantly smaller battery. In general you can expect anywhere from 6.5 - 11 hours on a single charge depending on what you're doing with the mini.

Unlike most brand new ultramobile devices, I don't necessarily see buying the mini today (vs. waiting for the 2nd generation) as a bad idea. We'll likely get A6 based silicon next year, perhaps even an update to the WiFi stack (802.11ac anyone?) but I'm not expecting significant changes. As always, I wouldn't recommend buying a fully loaded mini as Apple tends to charge way too much for NAND upgrades, but I don't have any problems recommending the mini today. It's a very well designed iPad that would act as a great companion tablet. Ultimately if you're buying this as your primary consumption device, I'd probably recommend the bigger iPad instead, but for someone like me the mini works wonderfully.

The biggest issues with the iPad mini really boil down to display and price. Despite boasting a higher pixel density than the iPad 2, anyone exposed to the iPad 3 or 4 will be let down by the iPad mini's display. Colors aren't as accurate, black levels aren't as good and the lower pixel density does impact reading small text. These are all things you can get used to, but they are all aspects where you give up performance compared to the big iPad. I don't know that there's a quick solution to this problem, as a doubling of resolution won't happen to the mini anytime soon without ruining the excellent form factor. If you haven't been exposed to (or aren't constantly bombarded by) the big iPad's Retina Display, this likely won't be an issue. It pains me to say it, but compared to most similarly priced notebooks, the iPad mini's display is amazing.

 Nexus 7 (left) vs iPad mini (right)

At $329, the iPad mini is $130 more expensive than Google's Nexus 7. I do like the form factor better than the Nexus 7, but whether or not the difference in price is worth it to you depends entirely on how much you value iOS. If all you want is a small tablet, the Nexus 7 is a much more affordable solution to that problem. In many ways this is the same discussion we've been having on the Mac vs PC side. The Apple premium tends to come from build quality, component selection and software. In the case of the mini, component selection isn't necessarily a huge advantage as there are better displays offered at similar if not cheaper prices. Build quality is excellent and materials choice is pretty unique at this price point, but the Nexus 7 is also very well built. The form factor is special enough however that I can see it pushing some folks to the mini over a competing tablet. I know that's true for me personally.

If you're not as enthralled by the mini's form factor however, you're really left with software as the main differentiator between the iPad mini and other 7 - 9" tablets. Once again, this brings us back to the question: how much do you value iOS? I don't know that I can answer that for you, as everyone has different priorities and preferences. If you're already in the Apple ecosystem (e.g. if you have a Mac, iPhone and/or additional iPads), then the choice is pretty simple. This is exactly why Apple spends so much on software development and by integrating things like iCloud into everything, to keep you in the family.

WiFi Performance
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  • daar - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Who manufactures the display? I recall in reviews of old this was mentioned, would be nice to see in future reviews of anything with displays this info, thanks. Reply
  • zepi - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Since the current-gen ipad-retina-displays are pretty abysmal in terms of power usage (see displaymate's measurements for example), would it be unreasonable to expect LTPS or IGZO panels to make things considerably better?

    Apple uses Low-Temperature polysilicon IPS in iphone for a reason and it's said that the forthcoming IGZO's would help in power consumption as well.

    I think that Ipad 4 is a "failure" as it doesn't address any of the shortcomings of the 3rd Gen ipad. Namely weight, thickness and reasonably poor visibility in direct sunlight. Though Apple just decided it's not worth the tradeoff to use A6 instead of A6x to reduce the battery weight by a tiny margin.
    Reply
  • doobydoo - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Firstly - the iPad 4 isn't a 'new iPad' as much as the iPad 3 was - it's an upgrade a partial way through the year, so it shouldn't be expected to address all 'the shortcomings'.

    Secondly - the iPad 4 doubles the GPU power which addresses the single biggest issue with the iPad 3 - the underpowered GPU. It's significantly faster than any other tablet (as is the iPad 3).

    Also it was important to get all the devices using the lightning connector.
    Reply
  • Alucard291 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Yeah its the newer new ipad >.>

    Also known as the biggest ripoff apple has yet produced. Lightning connector (differently shaped usb 2.0), not-really-upgraded soc which brought nothing for the end user. Right? Because iOS is always super smooth? Or is it not?

    Wait wait wait and you're also saying that having even more unused gpu power is a shortcoming that was addressed? Well no point arguing with such logic.

    Especially since the cpu is already outdated. A9's (even with a custom memory controller) are so 2011.

    Man you are a MASTER of facepalms. You initiate a wave of them with every post of yours.
    Reply
  • NCM - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Alucard291 writes: "Lightning connector (differently shaped usb 2.0)"

    Bzzt! Wrong.

    Thanks for playing, come back when you've done your research properly.
    Reply
  • Jorange - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Why did you zoom in on the Anandtech website on the Nexus 7, whilst the iPad mini is zoomed out, it makes the Nexus look like it can't display a full webpage which it can!! Subtle Anti-Android bias strikes again. Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I don't know about bias (I like to attribute ignorance over malice) but it seems particularly bad that not only is the N7 zoomed in compared to the Mini, but it's zoomed in so much that the N7's image is larger than the Mini's.

    I can see zooming so that they're physically the same size (but then the N7 would be using more pixels to render the same thing) but it's not even at that level.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    because Anand's bias is showing.

    Still waiting for this rumored 'Anandtech' windows 8 review. But OMG look a small ipad, the site owner himself reviews.

    Might as well start renaming the website 'appletech'
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Our Win8 performance guide will be done this week. We're not doing a massive review (that would mostly be rehashing our significant DevPrev and ConPrev articles) will hit all the high points.

    And note that what Anand does has no bearing on Win8. AnandTech is more than one person, and in this case since I'm the OS guru it's my article.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I'm just disapponted that a site I've trusted and visted for years, is changing focus.

    if its an apple thing, there are tons of in depth reviews done right away, product, os, accessories etc etc.

    windows is now becoming the abandoned step child.

    look at this, pages of writing, that could be summed up in 2 words:

    smaller ipad.
    Reply

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