Like many Apple fans I was intrigued to see what Apple had up their sleeve for the fabled iPad Mini. I had no intentions of buying one prior to its unveiling and that didn’t change much until I actually got my hands on one.
Then I was like a rabid dog looking for one. I sold my iPad 2 and an old iPhone 4 to fund my new purchase: 32GB iPad Mini with cellular in black. I’ve had it for just over a month now and decided to finally put my thoughts down in writing; which will no doubt echo what everyone else has said. Here’s my one month with the iPad Mini review.
Form factor and design
Taking design cues from the iPhone 5; with its matching coloured aluminium back, chamfered edges, aluminium buttons and thin profile the Mini looks like no other iPad. Apple also decreased the bezel on the sides of the screen, although occasionally my fat fingers do get in the way; Apple re-wrote some of the software to distinguish when the user is merely resting their fingers on the screen and when the user is interacting with the device, the results have (so far) been impressive.
It is truly a remarkable device to hold, I’ve played with a few “mini” tablets and whilst they are great devices in their own right, I don’t think any of them can quite hold a candle to the iPad Mini. It feels incredible in the hand, light, thin, yet robust. Many of the other 7″ tablets on the market simply feel cheap and somewhat bulky in comparison.
Whilst the iPad Mini has a larger screen than other small tablets it isn’t intrusively large; in part thanks to the thin and light profile. It fits comfortably in my jacket pocket well and even my jeans pocket if it needed to (albeit not very comfortably). I can easily and comfortably hold it in one hand making it perfect for consuming books, movies, magazines, you name it.
Every day use
It’s not just great for content consumption; I find writing on the Mini to be much more pleasurable than on my iPad 2. This is in part thanks to the form factor the split keyboard is now the perfect size for me in portrait mode whereas on the full size iPad I had to stretch to reach some of the keys. The same goes for landscape mode, I was pretty proficient at typing on the full size iPad in landscape and that hasn’t changed with the Mini.
Apple were smart enough to not add yet another resolution size and thanks to this, all iPad apps in the App store run very well on the device. Even with the ageing architecture in the device (it’s essentially a smaller iPad 2) intensive games and apps run smoothly.
Battery life feels a like a double-edged sword. It lasts well over 12 hours of use on a single charge even when using the cellular data, but because I seem to be picking it up more than I did with my iPad 2 it feels like I’m charging it more. The reality is I’m just using it more.
The biggest topic for debate around the iPad Mini is the screen. Apple released a product without a retina screen and to some people, that just didn’t make sense. To me it does; we would never have a device that is as portable, thin, or a device where the battery lasts for 12 hours of use if they stuffed a retina screen into it. For me the screen is not that big of a deal, in fact over my iPad 2 it’s a step up. As long as Apple doesn’t pull a iPad 1 on us (I.e. stop supporting less capable hardware after just 2 years) we may even see the non-retina Mini take a price drop and fill another price point a la the iPad 2.
All in all the iPad Mini is probably the perfect tablet for me, it enables me to be focused and productive whilst being extremely portable. I’ve no doubt that we’re looking at the future of the iPad in terms of design, light and portable whilst fully functioning. My only worry is that Apple will stop supporting the less capable hardware as they did with the iPad 1 but I guess time will tell.