Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Apple’s iPad mini isn’t the first 7.9-inch tablet to come to market but it already is the most recognizable.
An extension of Apple’s vast app and services ecosystem, the iPad mini serves to give users yet another mobile device option and opens up the market for users who find the 9.7-inch iPad too big or feel it it is priced out of their budget.
Other users who have been looking for something bigger than an iPhone but with similar capabilities will delight in the many of the iPad mini’s features specially its ability to use iMessage, Facetime and iCloud features.
Available in both Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi-LTE versions, the iPad mini can be had in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities. There's definitely a model for every user provided they're okay with the pricing.
Apple’s really done something impressive here by shrinking the iPad 2 and improving some of the aspects that matter to users the most. In just one year, it has managed to shrink the iPad, make it 23 percent thinner, 53 percent lighter and offer something new in the 7.9-inch tablet space.
The iPad mini is definitely a more portable tablet and one that (barely) fits in one hand. Clad in a very solid brushed stainless steel unibody casing and a Gorilla Glass screen, it is deceptively slim, light yet solid.
The iPad mini is thinner than an iPhone 5 yet it feels reassuringly robust, there’s no flex to it and the body is finished with a jewel-like precision. None of the other tablets of this size even come close to the level of fit and finish and most will feel heavy by comparison.
My review unit had fallen off the bed and I inadvertently stepped on it with the full weight of one leg the next morning (I wasn’t aware it had fallen) and I feared I might have damaged the device but it was completely fine.
Apple says that the iPad mini is a concentration and not a reduction of the iPad 2 and this is completely true. The iPad mini matches last year’s flagship iPad feature for feature and even surpasses the larger iPad by offering a better front and rear facing cameras now capable of recording 1080p HD video.
The iPad mini also trumps the iPad 2 by offering a newer standard of Bluetooth (4.0 vs. 2.1 + EDR technology).
The iPad mini shares the iPad 2’s screen resolution of 1024-by-768 resolution but has a larger 163 pixels per inch (ppi) than the iPad 2’s 132 ppi.
This is not Apple’s famed Retina Display but it still is bright clear and relatively easy on the eyes with very good viewing angles.
Apps are automatically rendered smaller to suit the 7.9 inch screen which isn’t a problem for the most part. As of this writing, most apps I have tried worked almost perfectly. Some elements were noticeably smaller as is expected so a more precise touch was needed to select certain items. This is likely only an issue when you are used to larger iPad moving to the iPad mini.
The iPad mini’s performance was identical to the iPad 2 and felt even faster at times since there is less screen real estate to cover.
We tested the sword-fantasy game Infinity Blade as well as the relentless mutant-shooter Rage HD and we were stunned by the seamless game playback and framerates.
These games on the iPad mini were simply stunning to play and behold. Infinity Blade was just impressive overall, from the cut-scenes to the in-game fighting action.
The quality and power of the graphics of the iPad mini on some of these games can be compared to that of gaming consoles and clearly leapfrogs what exists in today's portable gaming devices like the PSP and the Nintendo DSi.
To think that something this thin and small can crunch thousands of polygons with relative ease is simply mind boggling.
Gaming isn't the only area that the iPad mini dominates, some of Apple's new content creation apps like GarageBand and iMovie require substantial processing power. It is simply great to have all this creative power in a smaller, thinner package.
The iPad mini has a certain effect on people who see it for the first time and play with it. Friends and family that I’ve shown it too couldn’t put it down. Those who were familiar with or owned larger iPad truly marveled at the size and weight.
Many who had not owned a tablet before, said they liked the iPad mini enough to consider getting one. This is exactly why Apple has created a smaller, cheaper iPad, to bring in a new market of people who may now be ready for a tablet in their lives, albeit a smaller, more compact and intimate one.
The magnetic Smart Cover has been redesigned to fit the iPad Mni's design and it serves the purpose of protecting the screen as well as doubling as a stand when needed. I am just concerned that the finish on the back of the black in iPad mini will be more susceptible to scratches in the long term.
Did I miss my larger iPad after spending time with the iPad mini? I missed the Retina Display for looking and photos, the LTE connectivity as well as the larger keyboard as well as the accessories but that’s about it.
The iPad mini was more than enough tablet specially since it ran all my apps, had stellar battery life and was compact and lightweight. Pricing is still premium but once you touch and feel the iPad mini, it’s easy to see you get what you are paying for in terms of build quality.
The iPad mini could very well be just the perfect little tablet for most users, especially those already heavily invested in Apple, iOS and the app ecosystem.
Rating: 4 out of 5