With all the rumors that have been floating around ever since the first generation iPad was released, the iPad mini is finally a reality. In this review, I will be covering the design, screen, cameras, apps & iOS 6, accessories, price aspects of the iPad mini. I will also be giving you my detailed analysis of my full thoughts and opinions as to what I think about the product overall, and whether you should go ahead and spend your money on it or not.
The design of the iPad mini really isn’t much of a surprise after seeing all the leaked images of the screen bezel. However, when you really hold one with your hands, it is pretty impressive. The iPad mini is just thin as a pencil, and weighs only 0.68 pounds, which is 53% lighter than the Retina Display iPad. That is really, really impressive, and this was done by designing the motherboard and battery to be even thinner, and also making the glass display itself thinner.
When I purchased the first generation iPad, my first impression was that it is a beautiful device, but it is just simply heavy at 1.5 pounds. Surely it is lighter than netbooks (remember those?), but it was not something I was comfortable holding with one hand for even 5 minutes. Then, the iPad 2 was announced in 2011, which made the design even thinner and lighter. It was 1.3 pounds and when I held one in hand (before purchasing), I was really surprised with how much lighter it felt. I was all for lightness so I made an impulse buy right on the spot.
So, weight is a big deal for me, and that is why the iPad mini is a big deal for me. Weighing at less than a pound (0.68 pounds), it is a joy to hold with one hand, and does not make me feel tired at any point. I can easily hold it with one hand, with my thumb slightly covering the screen. However, that is not an issue because Apple has included some software in iOS 6 that will ignore unintentional touches. And this does in fact work. I feel comfortable holding it with one hand and scrolling through websites with my thumb. Or, I can also hold it by simply “grabbing” on to the iPad with my whole hand, and operate touches with my other hand. Although this is slightly larger than the Nexus 7 (which I have also played around with), it actually does not feel too big. It is a capable, and cope-able size to hold with one hand.
In terms of build quality, it is fantastic. Made from aluminum and glass, it just feels like a high quality product, just like any other Apple product. However, the aluminum back does sometimes make it feel slippery to hold, and also catches some fingerprints. The color comes in black & slate and white & silver, both of which look beautiful. I did find that the Apple logo on the white model looked odd simply because I am used to the black Apple logo on the back of every other iPad.
The screen resolution is nothing surprising. At 1024 by 768 pixels, in a 7.9 inch screen size, it is definitely not as sharp as a Nexus 7, nor the Retina Display iPads, but does look much better than the iPad 2. Actually, because of the better colors on the iPad mini compared to the iPad 2 and Nexus 7, I don’t actually mind too much. And since I have never owned a Retina Display iPad before, I do not feel disappointed. Because I do naturally have bad eye sight, the pixels actually haven’t even disturbed me at all.
The display is also an IPS display, which means viewing angles are wide and great. This is true, and has been true since the first iPad. The viewing angle quality is much better on the iPad mini compared to the iPad 2.
Screen size is a major factor of the iPad mini. The screen comes in at 7.9 inches, compared to the 9.7 inches on the larger iPad. Because the screen pixel density is the same as the iPad 2, all the apps can run perfectly fine on the iPad mini. However, everything will look much smaller. Text, icons, buttons will all look smaller and initially I was not used to it. However, after playing with the mini for a day, I gradually got used to the smaller screen size with smaller icons. Now, it is actually odd for me to move back to the larger iPad, simply because I am not used to the larger icons anymore. Everything seems blown up and looks weird.
The 5 megapixel iSight camera
The iPad mini sports 2 cameras. The front FaceTime HD camera, and the rear iSight camera. These are both better than the iPad 2, but pretty much the same as the 4th generation iPad. Let’s being with the FaceTime HD camera. This camera is now able to shot 720p HD quality videos, which would look extremely sharp and clear, and equally great over a FaceTime call (if you have a good internet connection). The built-in A5 processor is also able to detect faces, and adjust the saturation and exposure automatically. This is the same for the rear camera.
Taken with the FaceTime HD camera
The rear iSight camera has a 5 megapixel sensor, and is able to shoot video at full 1080p HD quality. Thanks to the A5 chip, it is also able to do auto-stabalization, which is a nice touch. Image quality looks good, similar to the 5th generation iPod touch and the iPhone 4. But could be much better with a flash. I did not find that the photos were dull in any way, and it could possibly replace my on-the-go camera, if I happen to have my iPad with me at all times.
Taken with the rear iSight camera (although not the best weather to capture a photo)
Apps & iOS 6
Because the iPad mini has the exact same resolution as the iPad 2, all the apps that were designed for the iPad will work perfectly fine without any work on the developer end. This is great because once you purchase your new iPad mini, all the apps you had will just work fine without any new downloads or upgrades. It’s just that the apps look slightly smaller. That’s it! In terms of the speed of these apps, the A5 chip is extremely capable of coping with opening apps, playing graphic intensive games and so on. I never felt that the A5 chip was slow in any way, therefore the performance in combination with the apps will definitely not disappoint.
Siri on the iPad mini
iOS 6 also brings a lot of new features to the iPad, and we will not go through the main features in this review. However, one thing that the iPad mini has over the iPad 2 is Siri. Apple touts that Siri is your intelligent assistant and your best friend. This can be questionable, but having Siri on the mini can be handy at some times. In addition to all the things Siri was able to do ever since the launch of Siri in 2011, Siri is now also able to tell you more about restaurants, movies and sports with iOS 6. In my tests, Siri responded well, however, the speeds were nothing compared to the Google Search app. This is not really a fair test as Siri is a built-in feature, and Google Search is just an app. And, Siri actually does more. As I have mentioned, Siri does all the stuff it did since the launch, such as set reminders, alarms, appointments and so on. And all of this is great to have on a mobile device. The only problem I had when using Siri on the mini is that when I’m holding the mini in portrait, with my thumb on the screen, sometimes I can accidentally dismiss Siri. Siri on the iPad is just a small window just right beside the home button, and once you tap elsewhere, it will just go away. So when I’m waiting for search results, and accidentally tap the screen, it’s all gone and I have to ask again.
Just like with the full size iPads, the iPad mini comes with (actually a separate purchase) the cute little Smart Cover. These Smart Covers are slightly different compared to the larger ones. First, it only comes in polyurethane, no leather. There also is no option for the Smart Case, that also protects the back of the iPad. Secondly, the hinge of the cover is not longer a piece of metal, but now it’s a micro-fiber material that does not scratch up the side. With the previous Smart Covers, it had completely scratched up the side of my iPad 2. Thirdly, the Smart Cover still folds and bends, but now only has 3 major parts to it, one less than the previous one. I found that this was sometimes annoying because it is not stable, and sometimes it just collapses by itself. The things that are the same compared to the larger one is that the flip-open-to-wake function still works (as well as close-to-sleep). And, the price is the same. At AU$45, it is still quite pricey for an accessory like this, but it is still a must-have accessory for the most of us.
iPad mini with Smart Cover in video-watching mode
iPad mini with Smart Cover in typing mode
The iPad mini comes in a variety of models and prices. The base line with 16GB WiFi-only starts at AU$369 (US329), and you will have to add an extra whopping Au$110 to step up to the 32GB model, and another AU$110 up to the 64GB (in the US, its an extra $100 increase for every step up). With the WiFi + Cellular models, it starts at AU$509 and adds an extra AU$110 for every step up (In the US, its an extra $130 from the WiFi-only models for each capacity respectively). There has been a of talk of how the iPad mini is simply overpriced compared to the competition where they are selling their 7-inch tablets at just US$199. If you just consider the US prices, yes it is expensive to start off at US$329, and pay more to step up. I am living in Australia, where the currency between the two countries are almost a 1:1 ratio, however, I would have to pay an extra, ridiculous amount, just to purchase the baseline iPad mini. Even worse, I have to pay an extra AU$110 to step up to higher models. That is just unacceptable in my opinion. However, if we consider this as an alternative to the larger iPad, yes, it’s a great option. If you compare this with competing tablets, nah, not a great comparison.
So overall, I really love the iPad mini. It has completely replaced my iPad 2 in every way. The cameras are great, apps work great, Siri is fine and iOS 6 runs smooth. The major factor that made me want to replace the iPad 2, though, is the size. The 7.9-inch screen with its smaller form factor is what it is all about. I am able to carry it around and hold it for longer periods with just one hand. I can type comfortably in portrait and landscape with the on-screen keyboard. And it is just simply much more portable. I am really loving the iPad mini, and i do not regret buying it. So, who is this for? Well, if you are coming into the iPad ecosystem for the first time, its a great buy. It is much cheaper than the baseline full size iPad. Even if you are already in the iPad ecosystem, it’s still a great buy, as long as you have the original iPad, or an iPad 2, simply because all of the new and existing features just makes it a better iPad. If you already own the third generation iPad with Retina Display, this might be a tough move, since you have just purchased the iPad this year, and it might be difficult for you to move back to a non-Retina screen. Nor would you want to upgrade to the 4th generation iPad too. So you guys are simply just stuck. But if you love your iPads, that’s great. If you really, really want the smaller form factor, then the iPad mini is a great buy, and will not disappoint you.
Plomonet rating: 10/10
Full video review will be up soon. Stay tuned!