EFTM Review: iPad mini

Apple last week broadened its new iPad offering and EFTM has been putting the iPad mini through its paces before it goes on sale later this week. Some say...
iPad mini with smart cover

iPad 4th Generation and iPad Mini

Apple last week broadened its new iPad offering and EFTM has been putting the iPad mini through its paces before it goes on sale later this week.


Some say Apple are just playing catch up by releasing a smaller tablet to rival those already on the market. Others argue the smaller tablet market doesn’t really exist and that Apple’s entry here will open up a new horizon for all manufacturers.

Either way, it’s impossible to question the success of the iPad, with over 100,000,000 sold in just over two years. For any new product category that’s astounding. During those same years other top notch electronics companies like Samsung, Sony, Asus and even Google have been thrashing away at their own tablet devices with varied levels of success.

Exactly what makes the Apple tablet so successful is impossible to put a single finger on. For some it’s the look. For others it’s the broadly simplistic operating system (iOS), and for many it’s the vast array of applications that are available to download onto the device.

iPad mini vs iPad 4th Generation

Apple state that over 275,000 apps are now specifically built for the iPad with over 700,000 in total on iOS (most of which will work in some way on your iPad). It’s likely this app ecosystem – which not only fosters new owners but perhaps more importantly keeps existing users hooked to the iOS environment – makes it an uphill battle to convert people to Android.

Enter the iPad mini. With millions and millions of iPhone users in the market, with time and money invested into learning the device and buying the apps – the iPad mini offers a cheaper way to enjoy even more of the iOS experience.

There’s nothing at all wrong with the iPad. It’s the world’s leading tablet, in both usability and sales. However with more smaller tablets hitting the market, it was only a matter of time before Apple had to be part of that sector.

Held in the hand

Apple iPad Mini

The iPad mini will surprise you when you first hold it. Given it has all the hallmarks of an iPad and can do everything existing iPads can, you’ll be blown away by the 308gram weight. It’s hard to imagine anything lighter at that size.

You can grip the iPad mini from one side to the other in one hand (in portrait mode) allowing a single handed operation of the device.

If two handed grip with thumb typing is your style you will also find that the iPad mini is quite possibly easier to use than its large sibling. With every key in reach from both sides you’ll be tapping away at emails in no time.

In landscape mode the keyboard is still quite usable, but you’re not going to tap and type as fast as you might on the larger iPad. Of course Bluetooth keyboards are still an option here, although I don’t see the iPad mini being as widely used in meetings as a business machine.

Without a cover, the iPad mini can feel a little slippery. That smooth metal back resting in one hand does feel quite insecure, although adding Apple’s own iPad mini smart cover, let alone one of the many after-market cases, gives a much better hold on things when sitting on the train reading the news of the day.

Because the frame around the screen is narrow on the longer edges, your thumbs are much more likely to touch the screen when you’re doing nothing more than holding the device. Thanks to Apple’s iOS upgrades, those accidental touches won’t prevent normal use. You can still swipe away with your other hand while your thumb sits on the touch screen.

Design

iPad mini rear logo

The iPad mini is a merger of design cues from both the iPad itself and the recently announced iPhone 5.

Around the edges, the iPad mini doesn’t have the hard square sides like the iPhone 4, 4S and 5. Instead, like the most recent iPad models, the back side tapers on a curve around to the screen edge.

On the front, the subtle difference lies on the edges of the glass, where Apple has applied the crystalline diamond cutting technique we saw on the iPhone 5. Somehow this technique adds a tick of quality to that screen edge.

The colour schemes also hint at a future direction for the iPad. As with the iPhone 5, iPad mini will come in black or white, with each having a different style and colour backing.

The black framed iPad mini will have the dark grey ‘slate’ metal on the back with a black Apple logo, while the white framed iPad mini will be silver backed (like previous iPads) with a silver logo.

Size & Weight

At 20cm tall and 13.4cm wide (in portrait mode) the iPad mini isn’t the smallest tablet out there, but it’s also not the biggest of the mid-range. What Apple has done is fit more into a smaller package.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7 was, in my view, the best of the bunch when it came to design and form factor in the mid range tablet market. The iPad mini is just millimetres bigger than the Galaxy 7.7, but packs a larger screen thanks to the narrow frame on the longer edges around the screen.

And at 308 grams for the Wi-Fi only model, this is one light-weight device. It’s lighter than both the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and the Google Nexus 7 tablet by 30 grams or more.

iPad 4th Generation and iPad Mini – EFTM

Capabilities

There is no question that one key selling point of the iPad mini is the fact that, in Apple’s own words, it is “every inch an iPad”. There is nothing this device can’t do that a full-sized iPad can. The iPad mini is in fact more feature packed than the iPad 2.

Still on sale at $429, the iPad 2 is slightly more expensive than the iPad mini, but lacks the option of 4G (LTE) data.

Controversially not available in the “new iPad” (3rd generation) released in March, Apple has now released a 4th generation iPad which has global LTE, giving Australians access to 4G on Telstra and Optus (and Vodafone in 2013).

That same technology has been added to the iPad mini as well, so if you choose the “cellular” version you can connect direct to the mobile networks at 4G speeds if available.

So with over 275,000 iPad specific apps and 700,000 iOS apps available, there is a whole lot of possibilities with the iPad mini.

Cover

Smart cover iPad vs iPad mini

The smart cover was a simple but effective way to keep your iPad screen safe, clean and your iPad switched off when not in use.
iPad mini has that same cover in a smaller form.

The smart cover for iPad mini has done away with the metal hinges on its big brother and features one less folding panel because of the smaller size. The mini version clips onto itself at the very tip of the cover, a design element that is hard to trust, but actually works very well.

Should you buy it?

The million dollar question. Or billion dollar if you’re Apple.

iPad mini vs iPad 4th Generation

When you walk into an Apple store and hold both the iPad mini and iPad in each hand, you will be blown away by what the iPad mini feels like. Side by side it’s hard to argue with the pure value of the iPad mini.

However if the iPad is going to be a crucial part of your day, for things like note taking in meetings, or as a device for demonstrations, the 10-inch iPad will still be your best option.

The iPad mini makes tablet computing personal. It’s not a device to share when using it. It’s for your own personal browsing, email or gaming.

Gaming will likely be the game changer here. Kids will be wanting an iPad mini to experience the thrill of flight simulators, racing games or simple Angry Birds style games.

I think we can expect an increase in gaming applications and promotions over the coming months – the iPad mini will be top of the list for a lot of people this Christmas.

Price: From $369
Web: Apple

EFTM’s Complete iPad mini launch coverage:
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Trev produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He hosts a nightly radio show on Talking Lifestyle, 8pm Monday to Friday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
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