Developer: Apple
Price: $329 for 16G WiFi
Device Reviewed: iPad mini 16G Black

Hardware Design Rating: ★★★★★
Usability Rating: ★★★★½
Graphics/Display Rating: ★★★★☆
Battery Life Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

When I first heard of the iPad mini, I was fairly underwhelmed with its technical specifications, of course, with its A5 processor (same as an iPad 2, now two generations “old”) and its non-retina display (163 pixels per inch? Huh?).

I was underwhelmed by the price, as well. $329 for an underpowered, low-resolution mini tablet in a market that supports $199 as the standard point of entry?

Then I got it into my hands. The feel of the thing, the warmth of the design, and the fact that this is an iPad, through and through, has changed my mind about the iPad mini. I love the way it sits in my hand, I love the cute little smart cover, I dig the fact that I can sit and read comics for an hour or so without really remembering that I’m using a piece of technology. I can download any number of apps that I already own to it, and run them in this new size and format. Simply put, the iPad mini fills a (small) spot in my gadget bag that I hadn’t been able to previously.

Let’s put it in perspective. I have a Macbook Air 11-inch laptop, an iPhone 5, and an iPad 3 in between. I use each device quite a bit, depending on the situation. The iPad, specifically, has become my laptop at home, unless I’m working. It’s fantastic to check news via Flipboard, social networks with Facebook and Twitter, and look through email. I play games on it quite a bit, of course, as the iPhone is just on the small side for me when I want to immerse myself into a game like Order and Chaos, thrill to the retina display on something like Infinity Blade II, or see the screen in better detail in Fieldrunners 2 HD. As a device I never thought I needed, the iPad has quickly found a place in my daily life.

And now, so has the iPad mini. In just a few short days, I find myself grabbing it when moving from room to room more often than I do my iPhone. I can do all of the social networking, game playing, streaming music, voice chatting, and email checking that I previously did on the iPhone around the house, only now I use the iPad mini so as to not deplete my iPhone 5’s battery, leaving it free to be available for phone calls and texts from non-iOS using friends.

This is a delicious device. It begs to be touched, used, played with. Here’s why.

Case Design
The design of this thing is pure Apple. The black version of the iPad mini has the look and feel of the iPhone 5 in terms of the slate aluminum chassis on the back case. The smoothly rounded edges feel good in the hand, and the metal feels good to the touch, grippy, even. There’s not a sharp edge on the iPad mini, which invites it into the hand, welcomes human touch.

The shape of the screen itself is luxurious, allowing an immersive experience that I’ve never felt with other smaller tablets. The length to width ratio feels just right in portrait or landscape mode—it makes typing with two thumbs viable in portrait mode and a more cramped touch typing available in landscape. Games look and feel GOOD on the iPad mini, perhaps due only to the fact that I’m used to them in this ratio.

The weight, or lack thereof, of the iPad mini is mind boggling. I’m hard pressed to tell whether it’s any heavier than my iPhone 5 when holding one in each hand and doing the “pretend scales” thing. It’s light and airy, yet satisfyingly tactile. This is a device that I can hold in my hands for the hours that a good novel or immersive gaming experience calls for. My only nitpick here is the smaller matte area on the sides of the screen when holding the iPad mini in portrait view. Adding a smart case helps, but it’s still awkward to hold on the side of the screen without activating something on the screen at the same time. Rotating the iPad mini to landscape is a decent stopgap, as the matte area on the “top” and “bottom” of the iPad is thick enough to keep my fat thumbs off of the touch screen.

Camera Performance
The camera is pretty good. It takes great photos in good lighting conditions, and decent ones in low light. Facetime and Skype video chats are well served by the front facing camera, though still images and videos suffer a bit in quality when viewed on other, higher resolution devices. For quick snapshots that can be connected to your Photostream, then, the iPad mini’s camera is great. Though, please, don’t take too many photos in public with your iPad mini. It’s only marginally cooler than taking them with a full sized iPad tablet. If you need high-quality, high-resolution pictures, use a real camera, ok?


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