The Bottom Line
Nov 5 2012 - Apple's iPad Mini may have to overcome pricing issues for a 7-inch tablet but it still offers an amazing option for those looking at a smaller or more affordable iPad. The tablet may not have the screen resolution or pricing of its competition but it makes up for this by having some of the best running times out of any tablet along with good cameras in an amazing thin and light package. In addition, those invested in older Apple peripherals may find the new Lightning connector annoying due to its expensive adapter cost.
- Long Running Times
- Incredibly Thin and Light
- High Quality Front and Rear Cameras
- New Dock Connector Not Comptible With Older Cables Without Expensive Adapter
- Display Bezel A Bit Too Thin
- Priced A Good Deal Higher Than Other 7-inch Tablets
- 1GHz Apple A5 (Cortex-A9) Dual Core Processor
- 512MB Memory
- 16GB Storage
- 7.9" XGA (1024x768) Multitouch Display
- 1.2 Megapixel Front Camera, 5.0 Megapixel Rear Webcam
- Power VR SGX 543 Graphics
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
- Lightning, 3.5mm Audio Jack
- 7.9" x 5.3" x .28" @ .68 lbs.
- iOS 6
Review - Apple iPad Mini
Nov 5 2012 - Take much of what made the Apple iPad 2 and shrink it down and you get what is in essence the new iPad Mini. Of course shrinking it is an incredible achievement when you consider that the tablet ends up being just over a quarter inch thick. This gives it the thinnest profile yet of any tablet on the market but it doesn't sacrifice any of the feel that one would find in any of Apple's other products. It shares much of the same overall look but with a bit more rounded feel compared to the other iPad designs. Weight is also incredibly light at just .68 pounds which is less than half the weight of the iPad 4 which also makes it the lightest.
Powering the iPad Mini is the Apple A5 processor that is pretty much identical to the 1GHz dual core Cortex-A9 based processor of the iPad 2. The result is performance that is pretty much identical to what would be found in that older tablet. Side by side, the most noticeable difference to the newer iPad 4 is the speed at which the apps load. Once loaded, the experience is pretty much identical in the standard apps but will be most apparent in things like games.
The display for the iPad Mini of course is going to get a lot of scrutiny when compared to the other 7-inch tablets. At 7.9-inches, it is larger than its competitors but it has a lower 1024x768 resolution than either the Kindle Fire HD or the Nexus 7 both of which have 1280x800. Apple's reason for this resolution has to do with compatibility with the older iPad devices. Changing the resolution would require developers to adjust apps or result in either black bars or stretched images similar to what happens with the iPhone 5. The result is a display that isn't quite as sharp when it comes to details as its competitors but the color and brightness levels are very good and certainly better than the iPad 2. One downside though is that the side bezels in portrait mode are very thin such that many people will end up with their fingers covering part of the screen when holding it in a single hand. Thankfully this doesn't impact the touchscreen performance but it can be distracting at times when reading or using some apps.
Cameras have not been typically useful or functional for many tablets. The larger 10-inch screens have high resolution cameras but are difficult to hold and use. 7-inch tablets tend to drop the rear facing camera to help reduce costs. Apple has done an amazing job here by including both a 5 megapixel sensor on the back and a 1.2 megapixel camera on the front. The front camera is better than what the iPad 2 or even most of its competitors currently have with just VGA resolution. This allows for high resolution web video. The rear camera is also impressive as it appears to offer the same level of quality as the iPhone 4S in terms of resolution and color. This is certainly one of the better cameras on a tablet even if it still struggles with low light. The only other 7-inch tablet to come close to this is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.0 7 with its 3 megapixel sensor which still falls short of what the iPad Mini can achieve.
With the smaller overall size of the iPad Mini, one would assume that the battery life would be much lower because of the limited space for a battery. The battery is indeed smaller in capacity at just 16.3WHr which is roughly two thirds of the iPad 2's 25WHr capacity. Apple claims that this smaller battery can achieve up to ten hours of running time. In digital video playback testing, the tablet ran for an amazing twelve and a quarter hours before shutting down. This is an incredible amount of time that is even greater than Apple's iPad 4 with its gigantic 42.5WHr capacity and it even achieves nearly three quarters of the time of an ASUS Transformer Prime with its keyboard dock at sixteen hours.
One addition thing to consider with the Apple iPad Mini is the new Lightning connector and other accessories. In terms of the connector, it is certainly smaller and more convenient to plug in as it works either way but it lacks compatibility with the older 30-pin dock connector used by the plethora or cables, docks and accessories for past Apple devices. They can still be used, but it is necessary to purchase a $29 adapter. In addition, the smart cover which is smaller than the one for the larger iPad 4 still costs the same at $39.
Pricing of the iPad Mini is going to be an issue for many people. With the 16GB version starting at $329, it is a good deal more expensive than the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7, both of which start at $199. Each of these gives the user a higher resolution display with the same amount of storage space but are bigger, have shorter running times and lack the diversity of applications that the Apple iOS environment provide. At least it is safe to say that the iPad Mini provides a better experience in every way than the iPad 2 which costs $70 more.