This article was first Published on: Nov 15, 2012
It’s been three weeks since the iPad Mini was released, and we’ve had the chance to compare it with other mini tablets in the market. Now that we’ve gotten our hands on an actual iPad Mini, it’s time to examine the claims made about it.
Did Steve Jobs have a point when he said that 7-inch tablets were impractical, suggesting that users would need to “sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size”? Is the 7.9-inch iPad Mini truly in a class of its own compared to other 7-inch tablets?
There’s no better way to find out than through a comprehensive review and some hands-on testing.
In this review, we’ll explore the iPad Mini’s design, portability, hardware, gaming performance, ease of setup, and cost relative to its competitors.
Refined Design: The Quintessential Apple Experience
The iPad Mini may seem like a miniaturized iPad 2 on paper, featuring the older A5 processor and lacking the Retina display found in newer iPad models. However, it retains the sleek and stylish design that is synonymous with Apple products.
Unboxing the iPad Mini is an exhilarating experience, thanks to its minimalist packaging. Upon first look, the glossy, smooth bezel effortlessly merges the front glass and the rear aluminum casing into a unified design.
The back of the device features a smooth curvature that feels comfortable to hold and offers a secure grip. Despite its lightweight and slim profile, the iPad Mini does not compromise on build quality and durability.
The rear casing is made of anodized aluminum and is available in black as well. It sports the iconic Apple logo, and unlike other iPads, its side buttons match the color of the back casing.
As for connectivity, Apple has opted for the Lightning dock connector, which is also found in the iPhone 5. Positioned between the built-in speakers, this new connector is not only durable but also eliminates the need for guesswork when plugging in the charging cable.
Optimized Gaming Experience on iOS
When Apple introduced the Retina display, app developers had to update their apps to meet the new high-resolution requirements. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue with the iPad Mini. Any app that works on the standard iPad will work on the iPad Mini, making it a great device for gaming.
The iPad Mini excels in this area due to its lighter weight and smaller size. It’s comfortable to hold for users with hands of all sizes.
If you’re concerned about accidental screen touches, Apple has designed the iPad Mini’s display to be smart. It can distinguish between intentional and accidental touches.
Compact Size for Enhanced Portability
The iPad Mini is significantly smaller and about twice as light as its predecessor. This makes it easy to carry, whether in a pocket, handbag, or small zip compartment.
You won’t feel burdened while carrying it around, and it fits comfortably in one hand.
Its compact size not only makes it easy to hold but also provides a sense of security that you won’t easily drop it. The small form factor is also perfect for photography, although whether you’d want to use it for that purpose is another question.
Battery Life: An In-depth Analysis
Battery life is a crucial aspect of any mobile device. The iPad Mini, with its compact size, intrigued us regarding its battery performance.
We conducted a series of tests to simulate both typical and extreme usage of the iPad Mini. Our objective was to determine the device’s battery endurance. Here’s a summary of our findings:
Experiment #1: Regular Usage Simulation
We utilized the AirVideo app, which enables streaming of video files from a desktop PC. We streamed a video for 20 minutes over Wi-Fi, maintaining 50% brightness and 50% volume.
Result: The iPad Mini’s battery remained consistent without any noticeable decline.
Experiment #2: Extreme Usage Simulation
For a more rigorous test, we compared the iPad Mini’s performance against several other devices under the following conditions:
- 100% brightness
- 100% volume
- 20 minutes of video playback
|iPad with Retina display
While the iPhone’s battery consumption was minimal, it’s essential to note its smaller Retina display and less powerful speakers. On the other hand, the iPad with Retina has a larger battery to support its high-resolution display and more potent speakers.
Under conditions of 100% brightness, increased volume, and continuous Wi-Fi streaming, the iPad Mini performed admirably in our tests, with only a 3% battery drop. This reinforces our belief in the device’s 10-hour battery life claim.
Seamless Integration with the Apple Ecosystem
If you’re already part of the Apple family, owning a MacBook, iPad, or iPhone, adding the iPad Mini to your collection is a breeze, thanks to iCloud. The setup is straightforward, and after logging in with your iCloud account, all your contacts, mail, calendar, reminders, Safari bookmarks, and notes will sync to your iPad Mini.
For those with an Android device, the setup process may take a bit longer. This gives the iPad Mini an advantage in terms of ease of setup.
The iPad Mini also offers LTE connectivity, providing it with a mobile edge over other mini-sized tablets that rely solely on Wi-Fi.
Hardware: A Blast from the Past
Setting aside its compact size, the iPad Mini’s hardware is somewhat dated. It runs on a 1GHz A5 processor, which is also found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. However, the iPhone 4S features a Retina display.
When compared to other devices, both the Kindle Fire HD and the Android-powered Nexus 7 outperform the iPad Mini. They offer higher resolution, better processors, and more RAM, all while being more than $100 cheaper.
Lack of Retina Display: A Deal-Breaker?
Apple’s Retina display is a game-changer. Once you’ve experienced it, there’s no going back. That’s why we were disappointed to find that the iPad Mini lacks this feature, making reading a less enjoyable experience.
Although the iPad Mini has a slightly higher PPI than the iPad 2, it falls short when compared to the iPhone 4 and newer iPad models. This raises questions about Apple’s decision to not include a higher PPI display in the iPad Mini.
If the rumors are true about an upcoming iPad Mini 2 with a Retina display, it could be a game-changer. However, with the recent launch of the Android-powered Nexus 10 featuring a 300-PPI display on a 10-inch screen, one has to wonder if a Retina display on the iPad Mini would still make a difference.
Is the iPad Mini the Answer to Mobile Photography?
It’s a common sight to see people taking photos with their iPads, and let’s be honestÃ¢ÂÂit looks awkward. While the tech industry focuses on making digital cameras more compact and DSLRs more powerful, some iPad owners are content to use their large tablets for photography.
The iPad Mini, with its smaller form factor, could make this practice slightly less cumbersome.
Comparing the iPad Mini and iPhone 5 Cameras
So, how does the iPad Mini fare in terms of photo quality? It comes equipped with an iSight back camera, touted for its ability to capture “amazing photos and HD video.”
However, the reality is a bit different. The camera features a 5-megapixel sensor with autofocus, but the resulting photos are merely satisfactory.
In terms of quality, the iPad Mini is comparable to its larger counterpart, the iPad with Retina display, and the iPhone 4S. It outperforms the iPhone 4. However, the iPhone 5, with its 8-megapixel iSight camera, is the clear winner in this comparison.
Not Ideal for Navigation: A Closer Look
The iPad Mini comes in two variants: one with Wi-Fi only and another with Cellular 3G/LTE support. If your primary use is reading or gaming, the Wi-Fi-only version should suffice.
However, if you’re considering using the iPad Mini for navigation, you might be in for a disappointment. The device could have been a strong contender in this area if Apple hadn’t removed Google Maps from iOS 6, which the iPad Mini runs on.
Apple Maps has faced criticism for its outdated and inaccurate data. Although there are alternatives available, it’s telling that this feature was conspicuously absent when the iPad Mini was compared to other tablets.
Starting at $329: A Steep Price Point
Perhaps the most significant drawback is the iPad Mini’s price. Despite the availability of more affordable and powerful ‘mini’ tablets, Apple has boldly priced the 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad Mini at $329, and the 16GB LTE model at $459.
While the price tag raised eyebrows, reports soon emerged that the iPad Mini sold out quickly, although specific numbers were not disclosed.
The competition intensified when Google announced a 32GB Nexus 7 with HSPA+ for $299, just a week after the iPad Mini’s launch. The 16GB Wi-Fi-only Nexus 7 was also reduced to a mere $199.
It’s worth noting that Apple also released a new, faster iPad with Retina display the same week, priced at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model.
Here’s a quick rundown of the iPad Mini’s strengths and weaknesses:
- Comfortable size for both big and small hands.
- Excellent for gaming due to easy reach.
- Lightweight, making it convenient for on-the-go use.
- Impressive battery life that lasts an entire day.
- Absence of Retina display is disappointing.
- Inferior photo quality compared to the iPhone 5.
- Outdated processor.
- High price tag for what is essentially a smaller iPad 2.