Apple’s iPad mini is entering a new playing field, which until now Apple wasn’t in. Many smaller tablets have been released in the last couple of years, with tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire dominating the smaller tablet market.
Rumours for this device started months before Apple officially announced the product. Rumours close to the launch were pointing to an A5 processor, 503MB of RAM and a Lightning port. All those late rumours ended up being true.
It made a lot of sense for Apple to try to enter into the 7-inch tablet range, with a research firm saying that there would be 34 million smaller tablets sold this year (2012), which was up 100% from 2011. The question is though, does the iPad mini deserve to stay at the shop, or become your next tablet?
The iPad mini comes in two colours, Black & Slate and White & Silver. I reviewed the Black & Slate version and I found that it was amazing to look at. The black version of the iPad mini comes with the same slate colour you see on the iPod Touch 5G. Personally I found the Black & Slate looked better, but the iPad mini was getting very dirty quickly with fingerprints all over it.
When you first pick up the iPad mini, you will notice how light it is. The iPad mini weighs 308 grams, but when you pick it up you feel as though you are almost holding nothing. This is the first thing I noticed when picking the tablet up, because it is under half the weight of the fourth generation iPad which weighs 652 grams.
Apple didn’t just take the full sized iPad and just make it smaller, they actually redesigned it. The bezel around the screen has been made much thinner, allowing the tablet to be thinner in the width.
The iPad mini also now has a Lightning connector, which I found was a large improvement from the old 30-pin connector on older iPhone and iPad models. The Lightning connector allows you to put the cord in either way and is also much smaller.
The way Apple have designed the iPad mini allows you to hold it in one hand. While you can also hold the full-sized iPad in one hand, you can’t hold it portrait in one hand like you can with the iPad mini. Apple have made this iPad the perfect size for doing this because even you reading this will be able to hold the iPad mini in one hand (provided you’re not a child!).
On the right hand side of the tablet, you have two volume buttons and then a little switch which you can configure to prevent you from turning the screen from portrait to landscape or vice versa, or you can configure it up to mute the volume on your iPad mini instead.
On the top of the iPad mini is a switch which allows you to turn the screen on and lock your iPad. I found this switch seemed a little too far back, probably because I’m used to the squarer edge of the iPad 1.
The iPad mini comes with an A5 processor, last seen in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. Many felt quite disappointed that the iPad mini didn’t have an A6 processor, Apple’s latest processor, but I actually found performance when playing games and general use of the tablet was smooth and didn’t lag.
Applications loaded much faster than the iPad 1 and the device also turned on much quicker than the iPad 1. This does mean there’s quite a dramatic improvement from the A4 processor found in the iPad 1, to the A5 found in the iPad mini – but you would expect that.
The iPad mini handled playing games with ease, there was sometimes a little bit of lag in some games with a lot of graphics, but other than that you could use this device as a gaming tablet.
In Geekbench (a benchmarking application) the iPad mini received a score of 760. The iPad 2 does tend to get around the same score, which is due to them being very close to each other with the same processor and resolution. In most of the Geekbench tests, the iPad 2 did get a slightly higher score, but the two devices are very similar in performance. The iPad 1 with an A4 processor received a 473 score in the same test, so those with an iPad 1 will see quite a jump in performance. In the same test the iPad 4 gets 1767 and the iPad 3 gets around 800.
The iPad mini is quite often compared to the Nexus 7, you’re most likely to get one or the other. Comparing the performance is quite easy with these two devices. The Nexus 7 blows the iPad mini out of the park. In the same Geekbench test the Nexus 7 receives 1480 (higher is always better) compared to the iPad mini’s 760.
The iPad mini also comes with “advanced Wi-Fi technology” allowing Wi-Fi to be twice as fast as previous iPad’s, this is also the same feature on the iPad 4. This is done by dual-band 802.11 Wi-Fi support, with Apple claiming that download speeds can reach up to 150 Mbps.
If you choose the LTE version you will also get 4G LTE, allowing you to surf the web via cellular data much quicker than 3G.
Here’s the iPad 1 vs the iPad mini, just to show how much faster the A5 chip is than the A4:
|Processor||Apple A5 @ 1.00GHz – 1 processor 2 cores||Apple A4 @ 1.00GHz – 1 processor|
|Floating Point Score||902||469|
The iPad mini doesn’t have Retina display, having a resolution of 1024×768 pixels. This means you have 163 pixels per inch, which is fairly low number. The iPad 4 has a 2048×1536 pixel resolution with 264 pixels per inch.
The screen on the iPad mini is still good though. Text is clear and readable, images and games are very clear and colourful too. The iPad mini may not have Retina Display, but putting the same resolution of the iPad 2 onto a smaller screen does mean you have more pixels per inch, which means the iPad mini does have a better picture than the iPad 2.
Comparing the iPad mini to other 7-inch tablets: The Nook HD has 243 pixels per inch, the Kindle Fire HD has 216 pixels per inch and the Nexus 7 has 216 pixels per inch.
If you’re coming from a device which has had Retina Display or quite a high resolution you will probably see quite a large difference. For me, I had come from an iPad 1 so the display on the iPad mini looks much better than the display on the iPad 1.
Zooming in on text is fine, it doesn’t go fuzzy at all, but if you plan on zooming into a lot of images to see fine details, this screen just isn’t going to be for you, with the display getting very pixelated when you zoom in.
The iPad mini has a 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back of the device, capable of recording 1080p HD video. The front-facing FaceTime camera can take 1.2 megapixel photos and record in 720p HD video.
The iPad mini is lacking some features, which is quite a shame. You miss out on Panorama and LED flash. The iPad mini does feature the same camera as the iPad 4, with the same specifications.
The iPad mini does really struggle when you try to take photos in the dark. The picture ends up having a lot of noise and colours can appear un-natural. A basic LED flash could’ve helped this device with those photos where the lighting is quite dark. The front camera does struggle much more than the back camera with dark lighting, with the picture very unclear.
It would be good to see on the iPad mini 2 an LED flash because the iPad mini is at a size where you could possibly use it as a camera, but would probably serve more for a camera when another one isn’t around. It would be good to see Apple bump up the camera to an 8 megapixel camera which is on the iPhone 5 and also give the camera panorama. I could see myself picking up an iPad mini to take a photo over the iPad 4 mainly because of size and Apple should take advantage of this.
The photo above was taken using the back camera. The photo is quite blurry, not allowing you to get the texture of the leaves. The colours look quite washed out too, but the camera on the iPad mini is a great backup camera.
Apple has made their devices quite gaming focused. The iPod Touch line up are used a lot for gaming and most importantly the iPad line-up has turned into quite a gaming family.
Whenever I think of gaming on a tablet, phone or any device I will straight away think of the iOS App Store.
Off the bat, the iPad 4 will serve as a better gaming device with its Retina Display and its A6X processor. But when you pick up the iPad mini and begin to play a game you end up being unable to put it down. Playing a game on the device is easy. The device is a comfortable size, light and the game plays with little performance issues.
I only suffered an application crashing two times while having the iPad mini for over a week, but had no performance issues even when other applications where open at the same time.
The iPad mini has internal stereo speakers which do actually pump out a lot of sound. You can get the music up very loud, but you lose quite a lot of quality the more you turn up the speakers.
The iPad mini comes with dual-speakers, something which even the iPad 4 doesn’t come with. Sound is still good from the iPad 4 with the one speaker though.
The speakers don’t pump out much bass, but the music and lyrics are clear. If you’re wanting to do a lot of music listening I would recommend you get a pair of EarPods (review coming next) or use headphones you already have.
Reading books on a tablet is becoming quite popular. The iPad mini is also at quite a good size for this now because of its 7.9 inch screen. While you can get cheap e-readers, you won’t get the same iOS App Store which you get with the iPad mini.
Reading a book is easy on this screen, because you can also make the text larger using iBooks. Reading is better in portrait mode, not only because it feels like a proper book, but the text is much easier to read.
If you’re into reading, but also want a device which allows you to browse the internet, play games and watch videos you will probably find this tablet is very useful.
Apple says you will get 10 hours of video playback from the iPad mini. Surprisingly in tests the tablet almost lasted a whole 12 hours with 50 percent battery and 50 percent screen brightness.
Using the tablet for a week I only had to charge it every couple of days. I didn’t use it constantly, but used it for surfing the internet, watching videos, listening to music and taking photos. I would say you could get up to three days if you don’t use the tablet constantly. Unless you get up at 9am and watch a video till 9pm, you shouldn’t feel the need to charge the tablet every day.
The battery on the iPad mini is actually very thin. Apple designed the battery to be as thin as possible. This allowed Apple to make the iPad mini extremely thin. Battery life wasn’t compromised when making this iPad mini, with around 12 hours a very good number.
Having never used a Smart cover before, I found it actually a very useful tool. You can use it to prop up your iPad mini and can use it to unlock and lock your iPad mini by just putting the Smart cover over the screen, or taking it off.
The Smart cover is very strong, you can hold the Smart cover and the iPad mini can dangle below it. It has very strong magnets in it and Apple has built it really well.
The Smart cover on the iPad mini has one less fold than the full-sized iPad Smart Cover. I’ve seen many people on the internet complaining that the iPad mini Smart cover is a lot harder to use, but I had no problems with it at all.
Sadly this is an accessory, would’ve been nice to see it come as part of the iPad mini package. That will cost you $39.00USD and comes in pink, grey, dark grey, green, blue and red. I would suggest you try to get a Smart case, to protect the back of your iPad.
Mini vs Full Sized
If you’re in the market for an iPad, you will be looking at the iPad 4, iPad 2 or iPad mini. I feel that the iPad mini is a very female friendly tablet. It’s a good size allowing you to put it in your hand-bag to use when you’re out shopping or on the move. Those who have a full-sized iPad will find it harder to move around because of its size. You can’t put one in a hand-bag (with ease) and might not fit in most small bags.
The iPad 4 is probably best suited as a hard-core gaming tablet and the iPad mini as a tablet you use when out and about because of its small profile. The iPad mini though is still useable and you can play games, surf the internet and read your emails as easily as you can on the full-sized iPads.
You will most likely be attracted to the iPad mini by its price. $329USD compared to $499 for the iPad 4 is a much affordable price for someone wanting to buy an iPad.
As said above, the iPad mini starts at $329USD compared to $499USD for the iPad 4. Full pricing details are below:
16GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi: $329.00
32GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi: $429
64GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi $529
16GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi and Cellular: $459
32GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi and Cellular: $559
64GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi and Cellular: $659
With the cellular iPad mini you will have to get it on a plan in some countries.
I do feel as though those prices are quite high, but as they say, you do get what you pay for and the iPad mini is an amazing tablet crafted with a lot of detail.
Overall Conclusion of the iPad mini
After spending almost two weeks with the iPad mini I can see how it can fit into someone’s life. For me, I have a full-sized iPad and then had this iPad mini for the two weeks. Both have different uses and places you could use them. Someone who actually wanted to could own the iPhone 5, iPad 4 and the iPad mini and find themselves actually using all of them during the day.
The iPad mini serves as a great out-and-about device and also a great overall tablet. The iPad mini is the cheapest iPad money can buy, looks good and has been designed to make sure you can use it with ease.
While the performance and the screen aren’t as good as the competition, you still get a fine piece of art, allowing you to hold the iPad in one hand, take photos, FaceTime and read a book before going to bed.
Compared to the competition though, the iPad mini ticks all the boxes for design. Most other tablets on the market are made up of a lot of plastic. If you put a Nexus 7 and the iPad mini next to each other, the iPad mini would look like it’s made out of gold compared to the plastic the Nexus 7 is made out of. I’ve never been a fan of plastic products because of durability and most of them look very cheap.
If you’re wanting a new tablet, which has a small screen, is the most affordable iPad and allows you to be very portable with it, I recommend this tablet these Christmas holidays as a great gift.
If you’re someone who is wanting the iPad mini as a hard-core gaming tablet you might want to wait and see what the iPad mini 2 has, which will most likely come out sometime next year. It is thought that the iPad mini 2 could have Retina Display and a faster CPU, but nothing is yet confirmed or announced.
Overall I’d highly recommend you go and try this product out at your local store, you might even find yourself leaving the store with a brand new iPad mini.