Apple iPad mini
Issue: 11.1 (November/December 2012)
Author: Marc Zeedar
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Article Length (in bytes): 4,086
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RBD Number: 11103
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IN BRIEF Product iPad mini Manufacturer Apple Price $329-$659 (16GB/32GB/64GB, Wifi or LTE cellular) Contact Info http://www.apple.com/ipadmini Pros Beautiful hardware; thin and tiny and light; runs virtually all iOS apps; much bigger screen than 7" tablets without making the device bigger; can do everything the bigger one can except for the screen size. Cons No Retina display; slower processor; not as much RAM as big brother; prone to scratches and dings; no doubt will be obsoleted by newer model soon. Rating (1.0-5.0): 4.5
Before I'd spent time with an iPad mini, I was skeptical that the smaller size iPad would be as useable as the full-size model. But Apple was genius to go with the 7.9" size, which is big enough for tablet apps and yet small enough to make a big difference in size and weight.
This first version of the mini is a little disappointing in terms of the specifications. It has no Retina display, so text can be fuzzy if you're accustomed to Retina, and the processor and memory aren't the fastest.
In general these aren't fatal problems, though how much of a liability they are depends on how you use your iPad. For instance, web pages in Safari have to reload more frequently than on my iPad 3 which has more memory. If I was doing tons of web surfing on my iPad, that might be a factor. The same goes for reading books without a Retina display—but even there I found that by tweaking a book's visual settings I can make the lack of Retina almost a non-issue (higher contrast settings make the fuzziness of the text more noticeable).
On the positive side, the mini has better battery life than my iPad 3, and the smaller size is better in just about every context. It's more portable—it fits in a camera bag with my Nikon—and is much lighter and easier to hold for one-handed reading. My director cousin bought his because the size made it practical for using on movie shoots; he tried the bigger iPad and it was just too bulky and awkward. There are many such situations where you're just more likely to bring the mini than a 10" iPad and that makes it better for many people.
The iPad mini is also fully compatible with every single app that can run on an iPad 2. Since the mini has all the same basic hardware—cameras, gyroscope, etc.—as the bigger iPads, everything just works. Really the only thing you give up is screen size, so unless you really need the most powerful iPad or a big screen experience (my mom uses her iPad for displaying sheet music on the piano, so she needs a bigger screen), the mini might be the iPad most of us should get.
Pricewise the mini isn't the cheapest tablet, but that shows in building quality as the mini is made of metal and is extremely sturdy (it doesn't flex or feel flimsy). At $329 for an introductory model, the price is not a bad premium considering you're getting access to the full iOS App Store and it's a real iPad, not a cheap clone that requires constant troubleshooting.
No doubt Apple will come out with an upgraded model with a Retina display, but there's no telling when and what the hit on battery life will be. If you'd like a mini now, I'd get it—in the worst case you could sell it in six months or a year and you can think of the $100 loss you'd take as a fair rental fee. And if you're curious, _Real Studio Developer_ looks great on a mini. (Though text is smaller, it's very readable.)
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