Ergonomics

We’ve always thought the iPad was on the heavier side for prolonged use, particularly for one handed use. This was something more true for the 1st/3rd/4th gen iPads than for the comparatively svelte iPad 2, but at 1.33-1.5lbs, they were all too heavy for truly ultramobile use . The mini changes that in a big way, introducing a chassis that has 60% of the footprint and 47% of the weight of the latest 4th gen iPad in a 25% thinner frame, but even versus the iPad 2, the mini is a featherweight. It’s thinner than both the 4th generation iPod touch and iPhone 5, though not as ridiculous as the 6.1mm frame of the latest iPod touch. At 7.2mm thick and 0.68lbs, the mini has the size and weight part absolutely nailed.


From top to bottom: iPod Touch (5th gen), iPad mini, iPad 2, iPad 4

Part of this is due to the smaller screen, but the bezel around the display has also been whittled down significantly, particularly on the sides, so it’s actually possible to grip in portrait mode with one hand if you don’t have particularly small hands. I wouldn’t necessarily call it comfortable to do, certainly not as natural as on a 7” 16:10 widescreen Android tablet. It’s definitely possible, but about 10mm too wide to do it properly.

The best way that I found, actually, was to hold it like a paperback book - pinky underneath for vertical support, thumb on the side for horizontal support, and the rest of the hand spread across the back. The mini is actually light enough that this is a perfectly natural way to do it no matter which hand you prefer holding the tablet in.

It’s just an absolute joy to carry, the weight and thickness really make a big difference in the ergonomics as well as the portability. The footprint, too, has opened up some more mobile use-cases. You can easily use the iPad mini when walking around, something I found exceedingly difficult to do with the 9.7” iPad or any other 9-10” tablet without looking out of place and feeling like I was going to drop it every time I tried to walk at a normal, semi-rushed urban pace. The mini fits more readily in car gloveboxes and center console bins too, and it generally is a much more handy device.


iPad mini (left) vs Nexus 7 (right)

It’s about a centimeter too wide to fit into the back pockets of my jeans and about 5mm too much for the inside pocket of my jacket, but with baggier clothes it's a non-issue. The N7 does fit into my jeans, though not comfortably (is there any situation in which a pocketed tablet does?). The mini will fit really easily in most purses, and fits in most suit jacket inner pockets, so it’s about as portable as you can get. I already have CES plans that involve stashing a mini in my suit and relying on that and my phone for web publishing from the show floor.

If you’re familiar with 7” Android tablets or, my previous favorite portable tablet form factor, the 7.7” devices from Samsung and Toshiba, this really isn’t news. The smaller tablets, particularly the Nexus 7 and the Galaxy Tab 7.7/7.0+, have excelled at bringing a content consumption experience that is as good or better their larger 10.1” counterparts in a cheaper, more portable package. This is new to iOS though. Previously, there was a pretty gaping hole between the pocket-friendly iPod touch/iPhone and the notepad-sized iPad, and I think the mini does a great job of filling that hole. It’s smaller than the iPad by enough to make it worth considering for the size alone, but not enough to take away from the user experience, and that makes it all the more tempting.

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  • MadMan007 - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Here's another display-related thing to fix: the charts for Brightness (black and white) and contrast don't include the Nexus 7 for some bizarre reason..hmm...but the later charts on the same page 4 do. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Fixed, thank you :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • ksherman - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    While I understand where you're coming from, the reason the Nexus is zoomed in is because the Nexus "fakes" it's resolution in the web browser to about 603 so that responsive web pages render elements larger so they're easier to use on the Nexus 7. So the side by side photo is simply comparing the default view on load.

    In fact, this is actually somewhat of a negative for the iPad Mini on responsive sites because it means it's rendering pages designed for a much larger display.

    Source: http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1663
    Reply
  • MadMan007 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Now this would be something interesting to investigate and inform readers about. I didn't know about different devices presenting different resolutions and am not sure what the differences really mean. Reply
  • Galatian - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    As a medical student I fast pretty fast in preordering the cellular white iPad mini here in Germany. It is the perfect size to fit into a white coats pocket. I will read a lot of books on it, so it was a hard decision between this and the 4th Gen iPad. But size does matter and eventually Retina will come to the mini line. For right now I just have to live with the resolution. Reply
  • Granseth - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    This is a big issue for me with the Ipad 2, and it will be the same with Ipad mini. When I try to use the Ipad2 as a productive device I often lose information I write because the webpages and apps has to reload when the device gets out of memory and have to free something to load the next app/webpage. And this has become much worse as the Ipad has aged, so it's terrible that they are selling a new device with only 512MB of RAM.

    But hopefully people will use this smaller device as a consumption device, and not a productivity device.
    Reply
  • ratte - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Excellent review as always, balanced and informative.
    It's a pity that Apple can't easily go to an intermediate resolution like 1600 x 1200, like Android can, but is stuck with the rezdoubling. For me the mini would have felt more futureproof if they had used an A6 with 1Gb memory. but then this is Apple....
    Reply
  • MadMan007 - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Yeah, they need something obvious but AWESOME to make sure everyone buys a new one next year. Reply
  • Gaugamela - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Now it's easy to understand why Apple wanted to ban the Galaxy Tab 7.7. The iPad Mini is a rip-off of it. With a much worse display since the GT7.7 had a Super Amoled + display of superior resolution.
    Samsung was a year ahead of Apple and it still holds up great, if Samsung updated it to Jelly Bean.

    I would like to see a new Galaxy Tab 7.7.

    And the display is a disapointment. It makes it a no buy device instantly, it's 130$ more expensive than the Nexus 7 and offers a worse display. Anyone that picks the Mini should only do it by the form factor or preference by iOS.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    The form factor is why I'm considering the iPad Mini over the Nexus 7. It has great build quality, is thinner, lighter, yet has battery life that is similar or better and has a screen that's a third larger. The Nexus 7's advantage in screen resolution in itself is not as important for me because the screen is smaller so showing more tiny content isn't useful. The lower pixel density is a concern for clarity. The CPU may be weaker, but the GPU is stronger which given good GPU acceleration for UI responsiveness is a reasonable exchange. $130 more maybe worth it if the better form factor makes the device more useable so that it sees more use. Reply

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