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Monday
Nov182013

Review: iPad mini with Retina Display

Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Apple's iPad mini with Retina Display is finally here and it looks like it was worth the wait. While it maintains the same shape and generally the same dimensions as last year's mini, it now matches the power, performance and resolution of the iPad Air but in a smaller and even more portable from factor.

While many expected to see an iPad mini with Retina Display this year, few expected Apple to go all out and offer the same A7 processor with M7 co-processor featured in the iPad Air in the iPad mini. In fact, much of the performance and the best features of the iPad mini with Retina are very similar to the review I did of the iPad Air, so that's worth checking out as well.

As impressive and stunning as the iPad Air is as a 9.7-inch tablet, the mini with Retina is an even more impressive feat of engineering since they replicated many of the specs and features of the bigger tablet in a more constrained space/

The result is that the mini with Retina is three generations of hardware more advanced than last year's model (which famously has the innards of an iPad 2). The mini with Retina also gets the new 64 bit desktop architecture, which is tremendous for something you can grasp in one hand. 

The iPad mini with Retina feels exceptional in terms of design and build quality. Apple has found the sweet spot in terms of screen size, weight and the right dimensions. While slightly larger and heavier than its closest competitor, the Google Nexus 7, the iPad Air feels like a far more premium device.

While the iPad Air feels remarkably light, the iPad mini with Retina Display feels reassuringly dense. It is a solid and precisely constructed unibody tablet and arguably the best put together 7-inch tablet in the market today.

It is slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad mini from last year but this is understandable considering it has a processor and a co-processor, additional multiple MIMO WiFi antennas and space for the LTE radios (open to the most number of LTE radios), the difference in thickness and weight is negligible and I was able to use an older leather iPad mini case without any problem (except that the new rear microphone was covered). Some tighter or more exact snap on cases from the older mini would not fit perfectly.

Apple didn't even pull any punches in terms of capacities as the mini with Retina Display has identical 16 GB, 32 GB, 64GB and 128GB versions of the WiFi and WiFi plus Cellular variants.

The retina display is everything we expected and more. Featuring four times the pixel count than its predecessor with 2048-by-1536 resolution and a dense 326 pixels per inch pixel density.

The Retina Display is splendid and surprisingly bright. Looking at photos as well as HD videos is just breathtaking. So much so, that when comparing it to the non Retina iPad, the older model just seems murkier. Or you feel like you suddenly need glasses.

Since all iPad apps will work on the iPad mini with retina, it is dead easy for developer to provide an optimal app experience for the smaller slate.

I connected the iPad mini with Retina wirelessly to my Sony RX100 MK II point and shoot camera and was very impressed with being able to spot check and edit high resolution pictures on the mini's screen using Apple's iPhoto iOS app.

Apps are very much a big part of the iPad Air and iPad mini equation. Apple's made its iWork (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) and Garageband and iPhoto available for free with every new iPad purchase. This transforms the iconic tablets from casual content consumption devices to potential productivity powerhouses that are also extremely portable.

In fact, the WiFi + Cellular variants of the iPad Air and mini with Retina Display really elevate the tablet as a viable and useful connected post-PC device ideal for getting work on the go. I found the 10 hour battery life for the iPad mini

I'm currently due for a new work notebook and having looked at what is available as well as weighed the costs, I'm leaning towards a WiFi plus cellular  version of the iPad Air or even a mini with Retina Display instead of a full featured notebook.

Since most of what I do, writing, editing photos and working on blogging software can now be handled effectively by these tablets (in tandem with the right apps and keyboard accessories).

Conclusion

An iPad mini in name and size only, the new iPad mini with Retina Display is every inch an iPad and brings all the features and advantages of the larger device to a smaller and even more portable form factor.

It was hard to consider the original iPad mini as the best of class 7-inch tablet. The lack of a Retina Display and the iPad 2 specs and features dampened that device's appeal, specially against competition. With the iPad mini with retina, that's all in the past. This is now the most impressive 7-inch tablet in the market.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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