Let’s talk about the iPad mini

Nestled inside my moderately giant-sized hand.

There may be some who question the iPad mini’s place in the market. A smaller iPad? A giant iPod Touch? Yet another display to add to the collection? Whatever your take on the matter, its pretty clear the iPad mini is a very sleek 7.9 inch tablet, that can easily be operated with one hand and brings the best of Apple to this intermediate form factor. Having myself made the trek to France in order to obtain the first generation iPad when it launched here in Europe, I’ve been very pleased with my original iPad. The only complaints that could be leveled against it were the weight and to a lesser degree the size. It was just plain hard to use one-handed and trying to read a book on it for any period of time usually meant you eventually had to prop up it up against something. Having used an Amazon Kindlebefore switching mostly to an iPad made this even clearer. You could tell this was a first generation product where Apple tried to squeeze as much hardware as possible in the most acceptable form factor at the time. The iPad mini fixes those issues. It’s light but still manages to somehow maintain that feeling of heft and quality all Apple devices generally have. All while still providing the same screen resolution as an original iPad or iPad 2

(l. to r.) Original iPad, iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPhone 3GS

Let’s talk about that display. Yes, it’s not that vaunted Retina display found in the iPhone 5 or iPad 4. Having a Retina would be great and I’m sure the second generation iPad mini will address this. Yet coming from an original iPad, which in itself had a pretty wonderful display, I don’t have an issue with it. It’s a smaller version of that great 1024×768 display everyone went nuts for two years ago. Because of this, all iPad Apps will run on it without modification, negating the need for a rewrite. Performance wise, the iPad mini is basically an iPad 2 squeezed into a smaller form factor. It doesn’t have the faster processors of other recent iOS devices but the experience is fluid nonetheless. iOS, like any other operation system, does slow down over time. As the OS updates kept being layered on top of one another and apps became more demanding, my original iPad (and iPhone 3GSfor that matter) started feeling just a tad sluggish. Compared to those two devices, the iPad mini feels very speedy.

iPad mini versus original iPad size comparison.

On the whole the iPad mini is a great device and a great tablet. There are however some issues that you should keep in mind. One of them is the Lightning connector. While it’s a fine upgrade from the previous 30-pin dock connector, it does force me to buy a Lightning-to-30 pin adapter to get my iOS devices to work in the car. While this is more of an iPhone or iPod issue, it does bear mentioning. My old Universal dock is currently almost completely useless. With the convertor being priced at an almost outrageous price-level, this is a problem for anyone with a heavy investment in iOS device accessories.

The other issue is iOS 6. This is my first full experience using the latest version of iOS. My original iPad was denied the upgrade and is stuck on the most recent flavor of iOS 5, while my iPhone 3GS didn’t qualify for enough features of the most recent operating system to be truly called iOS 6. In general, iOS 6 is a very decent upgrade with lots of fixes and new features. It does fall short in two areas. First of all, it does away with the Youtube app. Google has released an app of its own but only of the very basic iPhone variety. It’s a big loss, especially since Youtube viewing took up a big portion of my time on the original iPad. Then there’s Apple’s maps. The maps app is decent enough, but compared to the Google Maps it replaced, it’s unmistakably a downgrade. When you compare it to the implementation of Google Maps on a top of the line Android device like the Samsung Galaxy SIII, the difference is almost staggering. Thankfully, things are changing at Apple, so we should expect the situation to improve in the near future

The iPad mini above.

So should you buy the iPad mini? Like anything in life, it depends. If you’re looking into buying your first tablet, I’d recommend checking out one of Google’s Nexus tablets. They’re inexpensive enough for them to be the perfect dip in the water when it comes to tablets. If you’re somehow already invested in the Apple ecosystem and are looking for your first tablet, the iPad mini is a great choice. It’s the cheapest iPad Apple has ever made while still providing great performance. It also gives you access to a gigantic collection of free and paid apps. You could get a bigger display and maximum performance out of Apple’s 10-inch models but if all you need is a simple tablet to do web browsing, checking e-mail, watching video and connecting via your favorite social networks, the iPad mini is a great fit. Like Apple says, it’s still “every inch an iPad”.

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