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The iPad mini is pretty impressive, but not easy on the pocket like most 7-inch tablets

The iPad's smaller sibling, iPad mini, was finally revealed last week in an effort to sneak Apple into the 7-inch tablet market -- and the reviews are in.

Here, we take a look at reviews by three tech news sites that were able to get their hands on a mini: Engadget and The Verge.


 
The Specs

Before we dive into the reviews, lets take a peek at what the new mini is packing:
  • 7.85-inch display
  • 1024x768 resolution
  • Dual-core A5 processor
  • Lightning connector
  • 5 MP rear-facing camera
  • 1.2 MP front-facing camera
  • 720p HD video
  • 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage options
  • 10-hour battery life
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
  • 4G LTE availability
Pricing/Availability

The iPad mini starts at $329 for the 16GB version, $429 for the 32GB, and $529 for the 64GB. If you're looking to add 4G LTE to any of these, you can tack on another $130 to the price tag.

Those interested in buying a mini could pre-order starting last Friday. The Wi-Fi versions will ship November 2.

On to the Reviews!

The design of the iPad mini is likely the most popular topic, considering the main point of its existence is to offer a smaller, more mobile tablet. The mini is different from its larger iPad predecessors in that its back is made of anodized aluminum, and according to reviews, it looks and feels much different.

Joshua Topolsky of The Verge says:

If the iPhone 5 is reminiscent of jewelry, the iPad mini is like a solidly made watch.
In fact, the iPhone 5 and the mini have a lot in common. They both share a metal housing (in silver or black) that's lean and smooth, with that reflective, chamfered edge that runs around the border of the display. The iPad mini's paint job is similar to the iPhone's, but smoother, and on the black version I tested has a glint of blue and purple to it in certain light. It looks dangerous, and it feels great.

Tim Stevens from Engadget adds:

Apple wanted to be very clear at its product-packed iPad mini launch event that this isn't just a shrunken-down iPad. And, indeed, that starts with a very different case design. While the second, third and fourth generations of iPads have all been more or less indistinguishable, the iPad mini's anodized aluminum back looks entirely different. In fact, the whole thing looks a lot more like a blown-up fifth-generation iPod touch than a shrunken-down fourth-generation iPad.
 
However, Topolsky did mention that the wide form of the iPad mini feels kind of awkward in your hand (Stevens disagreed, saying it was quite comfortable to hold). Topolsky also didn't seem too keen on the fact that it only has 512MB of RAM and a "two-generations-old A5 CPU." 

Stevens offered benchmark scores and performance figures:

Geekbench averages out at 751 and GLBench shows 24fps on the 2.5 Egypt HD benchmark. The SunSpider JavaScript benchmark completes in 1,426ms. These numbers pale in comparison to the new, fourth-gen iPad but we think that in day-to-day usage the relative lack of performance won't be as noticeable. Apps do load more slowly but most are still up and running within a second or two and when it comes to general web surfing tasks the iPad mini easily kept up with our taps and swipes. So, perhaps not the greatest performance in the Apple lineup.

The iPad mini isn't sporting the Retina display, but it didn't seem to bother reviewers. However, there were mentions of issues like the visibility of pixels. 

Topolsky: 

Well for starters, it's a really good looking display in general terms. Apple is using the same treatment here as it does on the iPhone 5 and iPad, and it makes for a crystal-clear screen that seems to hover just a tiny bit beneath glass. Colors are vibrant and blacks are deep, and games, photos, and video look terrific. That's only half the story, however. There's no question that to the naked eye this screen does look lower in resolution than its nearest competition. Pixels are noticeable, especially in webpages, books, and when viewing email — and that can be distracting sometimes. Since Apple is the company that's gotten our eyes used to the hey-look-no-pixels trick of the Retina display, it's hard to take a step back and not notice.

Stevens: 

No, this isn't Retina, but maintaining the same resolution as a 10-inch display shrunken down to 7.9 means a necessary boost in pixel density: 163ppi. That's a nice increase over the iPad 2's 132ppi, but it still falls short of the 264ppi of the fourth-generation iPad -- not to mention, the iPhone 5's 326dpi. Naturally, this means that text isn't anywhere near as sharp as on the newer iPads, but this is still a very nice-looking display.
 

As for the camera, Stevens notes that the iPad mini's is better than the iPad 2, but not better than the iPhone 5. Topolsky added that the iPad mini offers a better image than most newer smartphones:

As you may know, I'm not a fan of people taking photos with tablets. Just as with previous models I've tested, I find the act to be not only awkward, but embarrassing as well. The slightly more diminutive size of the iPad mini does make the experience slightly better, and its 5 megapixel backside camera is actually not terrible for general shots. In fact, its color tone and low light performance was better than what I've seen on many newer smartphones. It was sometimes difficult to get a clean image due to shakiness, but that has more to do with the odd physicality of taking a photo with a tablet than it does with the actual camera.

The reviewers agreed that the battery life is very competitive with other 7-inch tablets, and that the software is basically the same as a regular 9.7-inch iPad...just smaller. A few changes were made, however, such as the ability to reject unwanted touches near the sides of the screen, which helps keep your thumbs from making accidental touches in apps. 

The verdict?

Stevens:

This isn't just an Apple tablet made to a budget. This isn't just a shrunken-down iPad. This is, in many ways, Apple's best tablet yet, an incredibly thin, remarkably light, obviously well-constructed device that offers phenomenal battery life. No, the performance doesn't match Apple's latest and yes, that display is a little lacking in resolution, but nothing else here will leave you wanting. At $329, this has a lot to offer over even Apple's more expensive tablets.

Topolsky: 

The iPad mini is an excellent tablet — but it's not a very cheap one. Whether that's by design, or due to market forces beyond Apple's control, I can't say for sure. I can't think of another company that cares as much about how its products are designed and built — or one that knows how to maximize a supply chain as skillfully — so something tells me it's no accident that this tablet isn't selling for $200. It doesn't feel like Apple is racing to some lowest-price bottom — rather it seems to be trying to raise the floor.

Sources: Engadget, The Verge



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Better late than never
By lightfoot on 10/31/2012 2:35:05 PM , Rating: 2
This would have been a fantastic tablet last year.

But when compared with modern tablets like the Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7, Microsoft Surface and the iPad 4, this falls short in almost every way.

If you want a small tablet with a huge app library, the Nexus 7 is the one to beat. If you want tons of content and a low price, the Amazon ecosystem is top notch. If you want a large tablet with an unrivaled app library both the iPad 4 and the iPhone5 are much more compelling. And the Microsoft Surface? It's a game changer; a device that is both a very good tablet and a very good ultrabook all in one. I hesitate to put any other device in the same category - especially the iPad Mini.




RE: Better late than never
By xype on 10/31/2012 3:04:12 PM , Rating: 4
Surface is not a game changer, not yet. If Microsoft keeps at it and somehow gets lucky and the people who _don’t_ want an iPad start buying Surface then it might get a fighting chance. Right now it’s just one of many.

Microsoft is in a good position to compete with Apple and Amazon in terms of content availability, at least. They just have to execute it perfectly, otherwise they’ll disgruntle the first movers who would otherwise advertise and show off Surface to their friends and family…


RE: Better late than never
By StevoLincolnite on 10/31/2012 4:53:01 PM , Rating: 2
The thing with Surface though... Is that like Android, they are going to be available from a heap of different manufacturers covering dozens of price points, form factors etc'.

So even if Surface flops, Microsoft still wins thanks to it's OEM partners pushing Windows 8 tablets everywhere.
Then people get locked into an Eco system with similar GUI which includes pretty much everything from Phones to Desktops to Consoles.
And unlike Android, updates and thus compatibility shouldn't be as fragmented either and unlike iOS, you get a multitude of choices for each device category.

I honestly don't see how Windows 8/Surface can flop at this stage, all pre-orders sold out so far and Microsoft spent big on a 2 Billion dollar advertising campaign to get everyone talking about it.


RE: Better late than never
By Tony Swash on 10/31/2012 3:08:51 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
If you want a small tablet with a huge app library, the Nexus 7 is the one to beat.


Except when you want Apps actually designed to run on a tablet rather than a just a blown up phone app.

quote:
If you want tons of content and a low price, the Amazon ecosystem is top notch.


Except if you live in the countries where Amazon doesn't sell music (Apple sells music in 62 countries Amazon sells music in 7) or where Amazon doesn't sell movies (Apple sells movies in 62 countries Amazon sells movies in just 2) or where Amazon doesn't sell TV shows (Apple sells TV shows in 6 countries Amazon sells TV shows in 2) or where Amazon doesn't sell apps (Apple sells apps in 153 countries Amazon sells apps in just 6).


RE: Better late than never
By rsmech on 10/31/2012 3:52:26 PM , Rating: 1
Are you telling me Amazon is an American focused company and not some multinational company?

As for all the other countries the only one that matters is where I am. Do you buy phone service because one has better world coverage or because it works where you live. Comparisons based on how many countries it's available is silly, it's not how many it's if it's mine or not.


RE: Better late than never
By Tony Swash on 10/31/12, Rating: -1
RE: Better late than never
By anactoraaron on 11/1/2012 11:31:37 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Android apps are still mostly just blown up phone apps even in the US.

News flash: iOS on the iPad and OSX (on retina displays) do this also. It's common practice. I would wager most apps now for the iPhone 5 do this too given the odd display res compared to previous models.


RE: Better late than never
By name99 on 11/1/2012 3:26:46 PM , Rating: 2
I'll take that wager.

I just got my iPhone 5 yesterday and haven't tried all my apps yet. But I just tried 6 random ones, and not a single one was letterboxed.


RE: Better late than never
By Rukkian on 11/1/2012 11:51:52 AM , Rating: 2
The difference is that android apps are designed to scale from the beginning since there are so many choices. Also, since many android phones have a much higher resolution than any iphone, the 7" tablets end up looking pretty good. Android do not always need to be made specifically for the a tablet unlike itunes apps. While some still dont look as good on a tablet, there are new apps being optimized everyday.

In the end android tablets are still more in an infant state, but catching up quickly in terms of apps that work (and look good), and imo now ahead in terms of hardware (especially for the money).

Before you respond, I do not care about which company makes more money or which stock is worth more, as I do not own any piece of either company.

My wife is in the apple infrastructure while me (and now my kids thanks to the nexus 7) are in the android infrastructure. I do not ever miss any apps that my wife can get, and most of the time my apps are cheaper, which in the end is good for me.


RE: Better late than never
By RufusM on 11/1/2012 9:36:26 AM , Rating: 2
Android apps can be designed for both phone and tablets in the same application, or separate applications can be released for phone and tablet. It's up to the developers.

The thing is, all iPad apps are built to run on the 9.7 inch version. There are many times where the phone version is preferable on a 7 inch tablet but the tablet version works better on a larger tablet since there's more screen real estate. Not as many Android developers are taking up developing for the larger tablet because there hasn't been great uptake for it in Android. That may or may not change. Time will tell.

Like always both have their strengths and weaknesses. It's an exciting time to have all of these options available though.


RE: Better late than never
By sviola on 11/1/2012 1:55:26 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Except if you live in the countries where Amazon doesn't sell music (Apple sells music in 62 countries Amazon sells music in 7) or where Amazon doesn't sell movies (Apple sells movies in 62 countries Amazon sells movies in just 2) or where Amazon doesn't sell TV shows (Apple sells TV shows in 6 countries Amazon sells TV shows in 2) or where Amazon doesn't sell apps (Apple sells apps in 153 countries Amazon sells apps in just 6).


Well, that is not correct, I don't live in a country served by Amazon, but have been able to buy movies, songs, tv shows, e-books and other digital products they sell from Amazon.com without any issues, using an international credit card.


RE: Better late than never
By sviola on 11/1/2012 2:20:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Except if you live in the countries where Amazon doesn't sell music (Apple sells music in 62 countries Amazon sells music in 7) or where Amazon doesn't sell movies (Apple sells movies in 62 countries Amazon sells movies in just 2) or where Amazon doesn't sell TV shows (Apple sells TV shows in 6 countries Amazon sells TV shows in 2) or where Amazon doesn't sell apps (Apple sells apps in 153 countries Amazon sells apps in just 6).


Well, that is not correct, I don't live in a country served by Amazon, but have been able to buy movies, songs, tv shows, e-books and other digital products they sell from Amazon.com without any issues, using an international credit card.


RE: Better late than never
By Cheesew1z69 on 11/1/2012 2:26:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well, that is not correct
Of course, look who you are responding too.


RE: Better late than never
By Scott66 on 11/1/2012 6:41:07 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately you just broke Amazon's end user agreement.

This likely will not cause a problem but occasionally things happen like to the user in Northern Europe who had all her purchases wiped due to "irregularities" on the UK account she set up to access.


RE: Better late than never
By corduroygt on 11/1/2012 11:29:36 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
If you want a small tablet with a huge app library, the Nexus 7 is the one to beat.

LOL @ pimping Android Tablet app library...which is pathetic. If you want a 7-inch phone that doesn't make phone calls, get the Nexus 7, because the apps will be the same as any Android phone.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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