For a company who claimed that “…the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps“, the iPad Mini seems slightly off the mark.
Was it an attempted bait-and-switch? Or perhaps they genuinely missed something, but don’t want to fully admit it? Or is the iPad Mini in a class of its own? Read on to find out.
Design and build quality
The iPad Mini is incredibly light and thin (312g and 7.2mm), but at the same time it feels solid and well-built.
The casing is smooth metal, which is good and bad. It’s good because it gives it a level of durability that few manufacturers have been able to give their tablets, but it’s bad because it’s simply not as easy to hold onto as a textured plastic.
The edges of the iPad Mini have a slight angle to them, which makes it easier to hold and are almost a necessity thanks the tiny bezel.
Buttons and toggles are exactly where you’d expect them. On the top right is the power/wake button, while the right side has the mute/rotation lock toggle, and volume buttons. The left side is bare, while the bottom has the new Lightning connector and speaker grille.
On the front, in the top middle, sits the front-facing camera, while the Home button is in it’s familiar location down below. Around back is the 5 megapixel camera.
The iPad Mini isn’t a big departure from the iPad in terms of design, but more of a refinement. It’s solidly built, though it lacks some of the comfort of other devices in its class.
Internals and performance
Inside the iPad Mini is the older A5 SoC, with a dual-core 1GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM. As with other iDevices, the iPad Mini comes with either 16, 32, or 64GB of storage.
There’s also WiFi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. If you so desire, you can purchase an HSPA+ model.
We wouldn’t say everything was blisteringly fast – in fact, there were more than a few stutters and apps did sometimes take a little too long to open – but things were generally smooth enough. There’s no doubt that the iPad 3 offers a smoother experience.
While the specs are nothing to scoff at, they do present a problem: how long will the iPad Mini be supported? Apple generally supports the current and previous generation of a device, but the next iteration of the iPad Mini may be too big of a departure for that trend to hold. It’s not a deal breaker now, but it is something worth considering for current potential buyers.
Screen and responsiveness
Apple products have some of the best displays, and the iPad Mini doesn’t disappoint.
Images were clear with vibrant colours, though blacks, understandably, weren’t quite as deep as S-AMOLED competitors. Text was also found to be crisp, though noticeably not as good as on the iPad 3.
Essentially, what this means is that iPad 2 owners will probably find the display on the iPad Mini better, but iPad 3 owners won’t feel the same.
Swipes, taps, and other gestures were typically as responsive as we’ve come to expect them to be, though there were a few occasions where we had to repeat actions. This is probably due to the technology which is used to reject unwanted touches getting a little over-zealous.
All-in-all, the iPad Mini has a decent screen. It won’t blow you away, but it’s definitely above average.
Sound and Cameras
The speaker on the iPad Mini is better than most tablets we’ve tested. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with earphones, so you’ll have to provide your own.
It’s no secret that taking photos with a tablet is awkward and looks ridiculous. With that said, the iPad Mini has a 5 megapixel camera on the back, which capable of taking 2592×1944 pixel still shots and 1080p video.
All things considered, the iPad Mini produced some decent shots, with good colour reproduction and detail. If you have absolutely nothing else to use, it will suffice.
Similarly, the front-facing camera is more than good enough for the odd video call.
It’s a good day when a reviewer can complain that a device lasts too long on a charge. The iPad Mini is one of those devices that make us wonder if we need to revisit our tests.
In our usual video looping test (65% brightness, WiFi on and connected), the iPad Mini lasted between 10 and 11 hours. It went for 2 days fairly easily in more general day-to-day use (browsing, reading, checking and posting on social networks, some video), and 3 days if you squeezed every bit out of it.
The only thing worth noting of the software on the iPad Mini is that everything is smaller. It takes a little getting used to, but after that initial period it’s very easy to use.
In terms of app selection – the iPad Mini gives you access to the entire iPad library of apps. What this means is that you probably won’t have any trouble finding the app to do what you want.
The iPad Mini is exactly what its name suggests it is – a smaller iPad. With a good build, decent screen and specs, and a solid ecosystem behind it, there’s no doubt that it’s a compelling device.
Price will, undoubtedly, be a factor for many. If international pricing is an indication, odds are that it will be more expensive than other small tablets, but it’ll be less than a full-grown iPad.
Is it the absolute best small tablet? No. But then again, there is no such thing. The iPad Mini is a solid contender in the space, though, and worth a look. I think that the market for this iDevice will be those who want a smaller iPad, and that’s exactly who I’d recommend it to.