iPad Mini

If you want the full, polished Apple tablet experience in a smaller package, then the iPad Mini is worth the premium price. Otherwise, good alternatives are available for less money.


8.3
CNET Rating
9.0
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Design

Regardless of your feelings about the iPad Mini's price and its A5 processor and non-Retina 7.9-inch display, here's what you'll notice when you pick it up: it's really shockingly nice to hold.

The iPad Mini is a design shift from the iPad, and perhaps the biggest one in the iPad's entire history. Despite how popular the tablet has been, it's not really a device that's very comfortable to use when you're not sitting down or at a desk. It's a use-when-you-get-there device, or use-when-comfortably-seated. An iPhone or iPod Touch is truly mobile, and the iPad is only halfway there.

That's not the case with the Mini. It's an extremely easy-to-hold tablet that, despite its wider form, feels as light as a Kindle. At 7.2mm thin and 308 grams, it's the slimmest and lightest 7-inch-range tablet around, although it has a larger footprint (7.87x5.3 inches). It's thinner than an iPhone 5, and seems proportionally as razor thin as the new iPod Touch.

It's the first thing you notice: the Mini feels great to hold.
(Credit: CNET)

In fact, the iPad Mini feels very much like the new Touch, even down to the curved wraparound aluminium shell and flat back. It lies down far more flatly than the fourth-gen iPad; more like a wafer. The headphone jack at the top and Lightning connector and speakers at the bottom are carved into less tapered, more curved side edges. Around the front glass is an angled aluminium bezel like on the iPhone 5.

The iPad Mini's extremely whittled-down side bezels are much less conspicuous than the larger iPad's bezels, which always made it resemble a MacBook screen that had floated away from its keyboard. The Mini truly feels like a large iPod Touch, which is exactly what we used to call the iPad back in 2010. It's far more apt now.

You probably won't think that, though, because the iPad Mini won't easily fit in your pocket, or even your jacket pocket. It's more of a purse, small-bag or large-coat-pocket device. It'll fit wherever you'd fit a soft-cover book.

The construction feels solid, stellar and fun to hold. The home button clicks crisply. It doesn't feel like a lower-priced product in your hands. It might be, in terms of form, the most addictive iOS product in existence. And it's perfectly sized for kid hands. It's far more suited for use in cars and when travelling.

But the Mini shouldn't be a surprising product. A device smaller than the iPad that can run apps? That's always existed. It's called the iPhone. The really impressive feat of the iPad Mini, the surprise, is that it seems to handle all of the iPad's normal duties while being shrunken down. All except effortless on-screen typing, although it comes close.

Gripping, swiping, and typing: thumbs and fingers

So, what about that smaller bezel? Holding it suddenly becomes a delicate-seeming proposition. We worried that we'd accidentally start an app with my big palms, or turn a page by accident. That didn't happen to us. Apple has worked finger-rejection technology into the hardware and software of the iPad Mini that's context dependent. All we know is that when reading books on the Kindle app or iBooks, we found that holding on the side wasn't a problem. When we typed, the entire edge-to-edge surface became sensitive to the entire hand.

In landscape mode, the longer and thicker top and bottom bezel come in handy, offering more of a grip when viewing videos, and we found that it also helped make the iPad Mini comfier when playing games.

The 'tweener size of the Mini means that you can hold it in portrait mode and thumb type like on an iPhone or iPod. It works pretty well, for the most part. We were even able to thumb type in landscape mode, with a little stretching. Typing more traditionally works better than we expected, although we became finger hunt and peckers more than spread-finger typists. The 7.9-inch display certainly isn't as wide as the average laptop keyboard, and the virtual keys, while well sized, require a bit of adjustment to use.

The Retina-free screen

Your feelings about the iPad Mini's screen will all depend on how much time you've spent with Retina displays or high-pixel-count devices. If you own a recent iPhone or the last iPad, you'll feel that this screen is blurry. Text isn't as sharp. The iPad Mini has a 1024x768-pixel display, just like the iPad 2's, but smaller with a denser pixel count per inch. However, the smaller-screened Kindle Fire HD has a 1280x800-pixel display. So does the Google Nexus 7.

All three cost considerably less than the iPad Mini, and all three have much higher, denser pixel counts. The iPad Mini's 7.9-inch screen has more physical real estate in terms of square inches (let's just call it an 8-inch screen, because it very nearly is), but fewer pixels per inch. You're trading size for high-res crispness.

So, the iPad Mini not only has a lower-resolution screen than much of the competition, it's also probably the least-impressive screen of Apple's 2012 stable of iOS devices. The iPod Touch, iPhone 5 and fourth-gen iPad all seem brighter, more vibrant and far higher definition.

Even if for all of the incredible design that the iPad Mini has going for it otherwise the screen still feels like a comparative letdown, there's a big ace in the iPad Mini's hole. A huge one, actually. It has to do with aspect ratio.

This 7.9-inch display isn't 16:9 like the iPhone 5 or most Android tablets. This means that the screen width is wider, more like a page of a book. It's the same as on the iPad, but on this smaller screen, with the iPad Mini's shrunken-down side bezels like an iPod Touch, it feels extra-wide. Web pages fit more across the screen, allowing the text to be bigger. More importantly, digital magazines and illustrated books can be rendered without squishing down too much.

The screen could be crisper, but its aspect ratio has advantages.
(Credit: CNET)

iPad Mini as video player

That 4:3 aspect ratio has a drawback, of course, and that's video playing. Movies and HDTV shows will inevitably be more letterboxed than on a 16:9 tablet, like the Nexus 7. On a Retina display iPad, you at least have enough pixels to make for sharp video viewing in the space provided. On a 1024x768-pixel display, it means the letterboxed video has an even lower resolution.

Most shows still look very watchable, no worse than on the iPad 2 (and a little better since the pixels are smaller), and there are plenty of apps and services that the iPad Mini is compatible with, from subscription-based streaming to cable accessory TV apps to video stores like iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand. The iPad Mini has the greatest flexibility for apps and services among competing tablets, which is its huge edge.

Two speakers tucked on either side of the Lightning connector on the bottom edge pump out decent volume for such a small device. They're good enough to listen to music and videos with. Two aluminium volume buttons on the right edge are flat like on the iPhone 5, but longer, and not tapered like the plastic iPad's volume button. They're easy to feel for and press.

Hardware features: nothing really left out

Many of the more affordable tablets out there have missing features that are more common in higher-priced alternatives: expandable storage, HDMI video out, rear-facing cameras. That's the case on the Google Nexus 7. The iPad Mini has essentially all the same features as are found in the larger iPad: Bluetooth 4.0, front- and rear-facing cameras, video out and SD card (for loading photos) via the Lightning connector, AirPlay compatibility and optional 3G models. As always, storage isn't expandable, but the same storage options are offered as on the fourth-gen iPad: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.

Performance: welcome back, A5

The venerable dual-core A5 processor has been around since 2011, and has been seen in everything from the iPad 2 to the iPhone 4S, fifth-gen iPod Touch and Apple TV. The version in the Mini most closely matches the iPad 2's, with the same 512MB of RAM. The non-Retina screen has the same iPad 2 resolution: 1024x768 pixels. The iPad Mini is really a smaller, redesigned, enhanced iPad 2. Or, it's a bigger fifth-gen iPod Touch, which has very similar components and actually costs AU$30 less for twice the base storage (32GB). However, keep in mind that the iPod Touch's 4-inch screen, even in Retina display, isn't the same as the new iPad Mini's. It's more cramped, it's not as ideal for reading and you certainly can't access larger documents and media-editing apps as easily.

What does that mean in terms of performance? We loaded up a bunch of games and apps, ranging from GarageBand to graphics-intensive games like Gameloft's N.O.V.A. 3, Real Racing 2 HD and The Room, as well as standard apps like Ticket to Ride, Tweetbot, Pages, iMovie and Flipboard.

Apps loaded and played at the same speeds as on the iPad 2: good, but not blazingly fast. Apps tended to load a few seconds slower on average than on the fourth-gen iPad, with its generation-and-a-half-faster A6X processor. Web pages loaded on our home Fios network a few seconds behind the third- and fourth-gen iPads. Booting up the iPad Mini straight from full shut-down took 31 seconds.

On Geekbench, a popular benchmarking app on iOS, the iPad Mini got a score of 752 versus the iPad 2's 755. Comparatively, we found the iPhone 5 got up to 1461, while the fourth-gen iPad hit 1761 (higher is better). That type of score doesn't really reflect the feel of average app performance, and the iPad Mini is definitely not a speed demon compared with the iPhone 5 and fourth-gen iPad. It does, however, show that the Mini is nearly as fast as the third-gen iPad at many tasks, and is at least at the iPad 2's level at everything else. Using the SunSpider JavaScript 0.9.1 benchmarking test, the iPad Mini ran the test at an average of 1503 milliseconds (lower is better), compared with the Google Nexus 7, which ran the same test at an average of 1705 milliseconds. By comparison, the fourth-generation Retina display iPad ran the same test at a blazing 876 milliseconds.

Definitely decent performance for the price.
(Credit: CNET)

The iPad Mini's Wi-Fi connection speeds are, on the whole, better. Dual-band 2.5GHz and 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi bring an improvement in speed over previous iOS devices. The iPhone 5 and fourth-gen iPad both have dual band.

Battery life

Apple claims 10 hours of battery life for the iPad Mini, and nine hours when using 3G. That's equivalent to the claims for the larger, fourth-gen iPad, and iPads in general going back to 2010.

Our battery test told an even better story: the iPad Mini held up through 12.1 hours of video playback, which is remarkable for such a small tablet. The Nexus 7, comparatively, only lasted 8.4 hours on the same test. Over a week of use, the Mini seemed to last well more than a full day of use, and then some. After playing games, streaming videos, downloading large files and using the tablet for everything we could think of, we had a hard time fully depleting its battery over the course of a single day. The new fourth-gen iPad lasted an hour longer, at 13.1 hours, but you'd expect it to.

Conclusion

The iPad Mini is one of the few new product lines that Apple has unveiled this year, yet it's really just an incredibly shrunken-down redesign of the iPad 2. It's a perfect size and weight, and works exactly as advertised: it's a truly portable iPad with excellent battery life and nearly no compromises, except for lacking the most cutting-edge Retina display technology and fastest processors.

We're not sure who the iPad Mini is for. The budget minded, perhaps, or kids, or those who want a second iPad. Businesses that want a more portable on-site iPad. People who want to mount an iPad in their vehicles. Actually, we suppose we know exactly who the iPad Mini is for. With iOS having such reach, this is another way to use it, another form. It's as simple as that. The iPad Mini probably isn't for everyone, and that's exactly the point. Like the iPod and the iPod Nano, it's another style for another crowd. We will say this: when you see it, you'll desire it. Just remind yourself that you may not need it.

Via CNET.com

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LiamD2 Facebook
9
Rating
 

"apple ipad mini"

LiamD2 posted a review   

The Good:ios 6, good portable screen size, app store, great for school, siri, icloud

The Bad:just that little bit too expensive, no retina display

I have been looking at the ipad mini for some time now. Should I get it or should I wait until the ipad mini 2 comes out. (maybe with retina display). I love just about everything about it except the price. I was looking on the apple store at the prices and it is $350-$389 for the 16GB wifi only model.
There are plenty of good alternitives out there but nothing does a better job than the ipad.

 

PopescuG posted a comment   

WTF? battery life, who is lying?
"Asus includes a 4325mAh battery pack in the Nexus 7 and delivers Energizer Bunny-like results, with 10 hours of 720p video playback in our tests, over five hours of web browsing and approximately five days of standby between charges. As with the display, it is great that battery life is not one of the areas sacrificed to keep the price low."
This is from a cnet review http://www.cnet.com.au/google-nexus-7-339340904.htm
and now you say "The Nexus 7, comparatively, only lasted 8.4 hours on the same test." - cut the bullshit, cnet!!!!!

 

Geoffff posted a comment   
Australia

This isn't a review, its an update. You didn't review anything about it other that the size, its sitting next to an ipad, we get the picture. And when the better one comes out it will be awesome will it? Thanks. Not helpful

Kostie100
9
Rating
 

"Best 7-8 inch tablet on the market."

Kostie100 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:It is very light weight and is very comfortable to hold and use. The weigh really surprised me. It's also very smooth despite the A5 chip and low RAM. Also has a very nice camera and access to over 200K+ apps.

The Bad:No retina :(

It is very light weight and is very comfortable to hold and use. The weigh really surprised me. It's also very smooth despite the A5 chip and low RAM. Also has a very nice camera and access to over 200K+ apps. Can hold in one hand and use while walking to search the web etc.

 

Pining posted a comment   
Australia

Can I read a review about an apple product that is not full of politicaly correct apple speak sraight from the makers marketing?

It offers nothing new.

Retina display.....Can you put in wordshow much better the display is better than the next cab off the rank or am I just supposed to believe it because you say 'retina.'
I'm not sure I can count 8 pixels ppi with my naked eye!

......and most importantly, can you get around the screen with just one hand?

 

Mental Anarchist posted a reply   
Australia

Can I read a comment on an Apple product that is not full of spewed bile from some anti-Apple fanboi?

We get it, you don't like Apple. Can I suggest you stop reading reviews on Apple products and especially stop posting comments on them as your immaturity and ignorance will convert no-one.

 

StuartT posted a comment   
Australia

Well done apple for copying yet again. Can't you do anything original. Would rather get a nexus 7 that does more for less

 

Mental Anarchist posted a reply   
Australia

Thats right because Google had many tablets in the market prior to the iPad.

 

zi ggy posted a comment   
Australia

this is just too expensive with last years specs, this won't challenge the nexus, as it is way cheaper. the only thing this will challenge is itself, presenting a cheaper way to have the apple experience, but most people will just buy the bigger variant. really don't see this going anywhere unless it is $100 cheaper, and even then, the nexus has better internals running on it.

 

Mental Anarchist posted a reply   
Australia

Have you seen one in person? Held it, used it? I would be happy to bet that you have not.

If you had you would not be so sure of your opinion.

 

Spartan Jack 17 posted a comment   
Australia

The nexus 7 has much better specs than this.
The only problem is the storage, Google really needs to bring out the 32gb Nexus!
Also, it would suck if you already brought the ipad3, because its already been fazed out by crapple

 

Mental Anarchist posted a reply   
Australia

So no other manufacturer updates their products regularly? Imagine complaining about a company that keeps improving their product.

Do you really care about people who buy Apple products because after all aren't we all just stupid fanboi's? Or does it just feel good to dump on something?

 

pinkninjat posted a reply   
Australia

Good lord - you really dont like other people having an opinion do you? Yikes.

 

evil_emma posted a comment   
Australia

Finally - an iPad I'd be interested in! Could replace my iPod touch too.

 

Mental Anarchist posted a reply   
Australia

Agreed. Held one, used one and it really is a great product that will capture a big chunk of the mini tablet market. Especially that segment of the market that likes a product that works and is easy to use and live with.




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User Reviews / Comments  iPad Mini

  • LiamD2

    LiamD2

    Rating9

    "I have been looking at the ipad mini for some time now. Should I get it or should I wait until the ipad mini 2 comes out. (maybe with retina display). I love just about everything about it except t..."

  • PopescuG

    PopescuG

    "WTF? battery life, who is lying?
    "Asus includes a 4325mAh battery pack in the Nexus 7 and delivers Energizer Bunny-like results, with 10 hours of 720p video playback in our tests, over five h..."

  • Geoffff

    Geoffff

    "This isn't a review, its an update. You didn't review anything about it other that the size, its sitting next to an ipad, we get the picture. And when the better one comes out it will be awesome wi..."

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