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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  • EnzoFX - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Just give the 7" the 2048 res treatment, and then double the 10" iPad's resolution once again! lol.

    Seriously though, it involves support on their end for some software changes, hope they follow through. I doubt they would want this mini to always (even the near future) have this resolution.
    Reply
  • Zink - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    LCDs in phones are at 440 ppi with some manufacturers testing almost 500 ppi so with a big investment from Apple, doubling the Retina (264 ppi) iPad's resolution would probably be possible within 1 or 2 years. It wont happen though because of reduced battery life and reduced performance on current hardware for a very subtle gain in image quality. It will probably be 5 years before we see 10 MP+ tablets because battery life and light weight are more important. Mobile SOCs also just aren't fast enough. Even with DDR3 next year the iPad will still only have twice the memory bandwidth it had for the iPad 3, not enough to even attempt 4x the pixels. Getting enough memory bandwidth for double Retina in an iPad will require next generation DDR technology or an even wider memory system which won't be viable anytime soon. Reply
  • jecastejon - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    I just hope the "resolution war" on tablets and phones to be over at 400 dpi, but it should be already over at 350 dpi.

    From the human sight point of view it is basically over. The extra power and resources should go to better frame rates, better graphics and battery life.

    Today there are a few ridiculous measurements or also detrimental technology examples going higher every day like the dynamic contrast on TVs or the megapixel war on tiny consumer sensor cameras. They are misleading advertisement.

    500 dpi is useless to 99.9% of humans at almost all ages even if the technology allows to go further and further.
    Reply
  • Dribble - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    It's going to age very fast with that ancient cpu, and only 512mb of memory. Basically the moment the mini 2 comes out with a faster cpu this one will be forgotten and apps won't run on it.

    tbh seems like a rip off to me. It says something that the main reason I read for buying it is the shape of the screen - you've got to love that a lot to buy something that is all the other ways worse then it's much cheaper competition.
    Reply
  • marcolorenzo - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Did you look at the benchmarks? I'm not sure I would say that it is "all the other ways worse then it's much cheaper competition."

    As a HTC One X user, I can tell you first hand the Tegra 3 isn't the sum of its parts, and the benchmarks that Anand provides proves that.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    You actually anticipate developers will drop support for the iPad Mini "the moment" the 2nd generation is released? The 1GHz A5/A5X CPU is also used in the iPad 2 and iPad 3, while the slower 800Mhz A5 is used in the iPhone 4S and 5th gen iPod Touch which will both be on sale into 2014 given Apple's 3 year iPhone and 2 year iPod Touch sale cycles as they move down price tiers. The majority of iOS devices are A5 devices and will be for the next year or 2. The vast majority of apps still support 3rd generation devices and 4th generation device support is even higher. Apple's license agreement guarantees the iPad Mini will get iOS 7 and historically each device runs 3 major OS revisions over it's lifespan, so the iPad Mini will likely get OS updates into 2015. The chances of developers dropping support for 5th generation devices like the iPad Mini in the next year or 2 seem slim. Reply
  • Dribble - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    You can think that if you like but 512mb of ram is already a limiting factor, and the cpu/gpu will start to be come one too as time goes by.

    This is the world of apple - if it's not new then it doesn't matter, and with the mini you are essentially buying something that's already 1 1/2 years old.
    Reply
  • drx11 - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    Except its 512MB (megabytes, no mb or megabits) of RAM.... but I know what you are saying. I suppose you should have some concern, but then again Apple - at least for the last few years - has been the best at SoC and even my old arsed iPhone 3GS runs well with iOS 5. It could run iOS 6, though it wont have the best features ... so that should change your mind.

    Unlike Google/OEMs/phone carriers, Apple supports its hardware and you get more out of the hardware - even when the specs are not "as good" as the competition.
    Reply
  • DeciusStrabo - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    CPU is still ok, GPU the same, but the 512 MB RAM is absolutely something that's a worry. It wasn't enough on my iPad 2 a year ago and it's very annoying in Safari if you have several tabs. And it will only get worse as time moves on. Adding another 512 MB RAM would have cost Apple basically nothing and made the product a lot more future proof (as far as it is possible in this fast-moving segment of a fast-moving industry). Reply
  • karasaj - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Will it blend? Reply

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