iPad Mini review

For as long as there has been an iPad on the market, rumors of a smaller, lighter iPad Mini have been en vogue. And well before the regular iPad became a reality, rumors of its existence were just as rampant — such is the world of consumer technology. Fast forward about two and a half years since the release of the first iPad, and the iPad Mini is finally a tangible product with the starting price tag of $329. It’s smaller, lighter, and cheaper than its larger sibling. But how does it stack up?

In short, the iPad Mini is a great tablet. I would even go as far as saying that it’s a better product than the larger iPad, and that, frankly, it’s the best iPad on the market.

While watching the announcement, it was hard not to think the $329 price tag rather steep. Especially for a tablet this small. But within a few seconds of it

In short, the iPad Mini is a great tablet.”

being in my hand, the price felt slightly more justified — I wasn’t all that happy with the idea of $329 iPad Mini, but the price made sense. It isn’t trying to be the cheapest tablet. This is a premium product that isn’t chasing the “race to the bottom.”

And after a week with the iPad Mini, I’ve realized that this is what the iPad always wanted to be but couldn’t. I don’t think it was possible for Apple to make this particular iPad until now. That’s the weird thing about electronic components: smaller does not always equal cheaper.

All things considered, its diminutive physique is the biggest thing about it. The iPad Mini is significantly more portable than the larger iPad 2 or fourth-generation iPad. Compared to the Mini, there’s no way to describe the iPad 2 but as plump or hefty. At one point in time, the iPad 2 was as slender as tablets came, but it might as well have been a brick with icons Sharpied onto it.

One-handed use is a dream. I primarily use it for reading, and flipping through the pages of The New Yorker couldn’t feel any better. It weighs less than half that of the bigger iPads, and that makes all of the difference in the world in usability.

It isn’t trying to be the cheapest tablet. This is a premium product that isn’t chasing the “race to the bottom.””

When held vertically, thumb typing is comfortable enough for anyone to be competent at the very least, which is helped by the reduced bezel on the left and right of the screen. And don’t worry about resting a finger on the screen if you need to — the software is good enough about recognizing that and ignoring the touch.

As far as the screen goes, it’s great — colors look good and the text is crisp. It’s not iPad 4-crisp, but easy on the eyes, nevertheless. That screen, unfortunately, isn’t the same retina display as the one on the third- or fourth-generation iPad. The gadget aficionado in me would love to have this pastiche of features (retina display with this form factor), but I know that this’ll make the price tag prohibitively expensive at the moment. I’m sure it’ll come down the line.

With Android leading the charge, 7-inch tablets have recently become de rigueur with notable contenders being the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7. Considering that Steve Jobs famously said Apple would never make a 7-inch tablet, it’s curious that the iPad Mini even became a product. But if we’re splitting hairs here, the iPad Mini is way closer to 8-inches than it is to 7-inches. And that’s an important distinction to note. Having that extra 0.9-inches diagonally adds a significant amount of screen real estate — 35 percent more, to be exact.

Like I said before, this feels like what the iPad probably wanted to be. It isn’t there yet, for what I’m assuming are price reasons, but it’s still a great tablet. Do I want a retina display on it? Absolutely. But would I want to give up the app, book, and magazine ecosystem? Absolutely not. As of this writing, I have subscribed to five magazines, opting out of a physical copy whenever possible.

If you’re looking for a smaller tablet and can afford to swallow the $329 price of entry, do it. The iPad Mini feels a lot like a supplemental device, whether be reading, watching video, or browsing the web. However, for most, this will do the trick. If not, there’s a reason why Apple sells more than one version.

Photos by Sonia Matos.