Apple’s latest device, the iPad Mini, is a smaller version of the uber-popular iPad. When the Mini was announced at the end of October many people rejoiced at the idea of a smaller iPad while others didn’t feel the need to upgrade to a more compact device. You may firmly believe that you won’t be enticed to get the iPad Mini, until you get one in your hands.
This weekend I went to the Apple Store with two friends who had no intention of getting a Mini when they walked into the store. In fact, they specifically said that they didn’t want one. By the time they walked out, owning a Mini was propelled to the top of their to do lists.
The iPad Mini has a 7.9″ screen and comes in either black and slate or white and silver. The device starts at $329 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi only model and goes up in price to the $649 64 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. The Mini uses Apple’s new Lightning connector that’s incompatible with the 30 pin connector used in earlier models of iDevices, but is the same connector that is used with the iPhone 5 and the new iPod Touch. The Mini comes with a power adapter for charging from an electrical outlet.
The biggest advantages of the iPad Mini are the design and price. The Mini is more portable and affordable than its bigger sibling, the full-sized iPad.
The design of the iPad Mini is sleek and elegant. The device is whisper-thin with curved edges and enough metal to give it a futuristic look. The Mini is 0.28″ (7.2 mm) thin, which may not seem particularly impressive until you get one in your hands. After you get over the fact that the device seems impossibly thin, the next thing you’ll notice is how amazingly light it is. The Mini weighs 0.68 pounds (308 g), your natural inclination will be to look for a tether to weigh it down so it doesn’t float away when you put it down. But you won’t want to put it down. You will want to hold it.
This video shows the iPad Mini side-by-side with other tablets. The other tablets, not obese by any standards, can’t keep up with the super-model width of the Mini.
The camera specifications of the iPad Mini are the same as for the latest iPad. The Mini sports a 1.2 mega-pixel HD front-facing camera for FaceTime and Skype video chats. The front-facing camera can take pictures and record HD video.
The rear-facing camera is 5 mega-pixels, has auto-focus and a five-element lens. The rear-facing camera can record HD video in better quality than the front-facing camera and has video stabilization.
You may not need to take pictures often with your iPad Mini, but the cameras are there if you need them.
The battery life doesn’t suffer because of the size of the Mini. The Mini has a battery with 10 hours of heavy use, according to Apple.
The iPad Mini runs iOS 6, the latest operating system for Apple’s mobile devices. The Mini is compatible with iPad and iPhone apps, giving users access to 875,000 apps in the iTunes App Store. The Mini also has nifty iOS features such as iMessage, FaceTime, Find My iPhone, Find My Friends and Siri.
The iPad Mini is the lowest price iPad Apple has ever offered. Beginning at $329, the iPad Mini is a more affordable purchase than a full-sized iPad. This lower price may make the Mini a more attractive for parents and schools who were considering providing children with an iPad but hesitated due to the price.
The prices for the iPad Mini are:
$329 – 16 GB
$429 – 32 GB
$529 – 64 GB
Wi-Fi Plus Cellular
$459 – 16 GB
$559 – 32 GB
$659 – 64 GB
Cellular plans are available with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in the US. Carriers around the world that offer cellular service for the iPad Mini can be found at the Apple website.
Speed of the Mini is part Pro and part Con. Speed testing shows that the Mini’s Wi-Fi antennas make Internet browsing extremely fast, as fast as the iPad 4 over high speed Internet service. But the slower processor of the Mini means that you may experience some lag with the most complex apps. My testing did not uncover any lags nor stuttering when using the Mini, but other reviewers have noticed some minor issues.
Check out Mac World’s Review: iPad mini gives you most of an iPad at half the size for in-depth testing of the speed of the iPad Mini.
As with the Kindle Fire HD I reviewed last week, the negatives for the Mini involve what it doesn’t have. In the case of the iPad Mini, if you want more, you can get more, but you’ll have to spend more money to get a full-sized iPad.
The Mini does not have a Retina display screen, which may not matter much to you if you’ve never been spoiled by looking at one. But if you’re accustomed to Retina display, you may be disappointed by the screen of the Mini. The Mini has fewer pixels per inch than the Kindle Fire HD, but you may not find the difference noticeable if you’re surfing the web or using apps that are not optimized for Retina display. But the Mini won’t display HD movies, unlike the iPad 3 or 4 or the Kindle Fire HD.
Giving the Mini a Retina display would have required that Apple charge a higher price and included a more powerful battery, adding heft to the design. Whether future generations of the iPad Mini will have a Retina display remains to be seen. If you can’t do without a Retina display screen, you can either get a full-sized iPad or wait to see if the second generation iPad Mini comes with a Retina display screen.
Before you get too hung up on whether the screen is Retina display or not, head to the store to see if you like the screen of the iPad Mini. Even though I am used to the Retina display screen of my iPad 3, I was not bothered at all by the screen of the iPad Mini.
At $329, the price of the Mini is significantly higher than its 7″ competitors, the Kindle Fire HD and the Google Nexus 7, both starting at $199 for 16 GB. Further, many of the iPad apps have been updated for Retina display so the size of iPad apps can easily fill up a 16 GB Mini. Unless you restrict your iPad activities to mostly surfing the web, checking email and using basic apps, you may find that you need at least a 32 GB Mini for $429. You can’t add a memory card so choose wisely and buy as much space on the Mini as you can afford.
While the iPad Mini is a pleasure to hold, getting your hands on one may be a challenge. Availability of this popular item is limited so finding one to buy in a store may be a challenge. The 64 GB models seem to have the greatest availability. Call stores first to check on their inventory before heading out and wasting time and fuel. Ordering online from Apple currently means a two-week wait for shipping of all models. As the holidays draw closer, expect the wait time to increase so plan ahead if you intend to give a Mini as a gift.
The iPad Mini isn’t the least expensive tablet nor the one with the latest and the greatest technology. The iPad Mini falls right in the middle of the pack of tablets in both price and technology. The design and the fact that it’s the lowest price iPad may be the best reasons to consider getting one.
If you’re someone who wants an iPad with portability and a lower price, the iPad Mini is worth a visit to the Apple Store to hold one in your hands. Walk into the store with an open mind and you may walk out of the store with a Mini, or at least a desire to get one.
Have you held an iPad Mini? Does the idea of a smaller iPad appeal to you? Do you have a Mini on your holiday wish list? Let us know in the Comments section below.
To brighten your day, here’s a parody of the iPad Mini ad:
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