Look and feel
By shrinking the iPad’s sleek design into a more portable form, Apple has created a gorgeous mini tablet and a fantastic accessory for road hogs everywhere.
Ease of Use
The iPad Mini’s light, slender frame is easy to clutch one-handed despite the narrow screen border, while iOS is as simple and intuitive to use as ever.
iOS 6 might be looking a little outdated these days, but the App Store is still the best right now, especially for games and creative apps. The excellent front and rear-facing cameras are easy to use and effective. The lack of a memory card slot means media fans should plump for a model with more storage (at a cost).
Although sporting a processor that’s almost two years old, the iPad Mini still coped admirably with our full range of apps, games and media. However, it doesn’t offer the same future-proofing as its bigger brother.
You can safely expect around ten hours of standard use from each charge, or seven to eight hours of video streaming.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,11/16/2012 12:49:04 PM
Ease of use
Compact and light;
Great battery life;
Bright, colourful screen;
Excellent App Store
Rival screens are sharper;
No expandable storage
Check out our full comparison with Apple's iPad (fourth generation)!
As much as we love Apple’s iPad, the original tablet that sparked a slew of imitators, it isn’t a very traveller-friendly device. At 652g, the iPad is a heavy little beast. Not only will it weigh down your bag, it’s also a chore to clutch one-handed and use on a crammed train or bus. Factor in the thick body, and it’s not as portable as you’d expect.
When Steve Jobs bashed 7-inch tablets back in 2010, we wondered if we’d ever see a smaller version of the iPad for lugging around every day. Thankfully the Apple iPad Mini is finally a reality, a compact 7.9-inch version of the original iPad, apparently 23 percent thinner and 53 percent lighter than its bigger brother. But is it the ideal travel companion?
Small is sexy
The difference over the existing iPad is immediately apparent, even without holding one in each hand. The iPad Mini is less than half the weight of the original, a measly 308g, and also significantly thinner at just 7.2mm. Sizing the two up shows just how much mass the iPad Mini has shook off.
While the original made your arm ache after half an hour of clutching, we could happily use the iPad Mini one-handed all day. It’s comfortable to rest in your palm and easier to securely hold, which is a massive relief when you’re being jostled from every angle on a commuter train. That reduction in size also makes it much easier to slip into a bag or case. You can even wedge it into a good-sized handbag.
Despite the reduced size, this tablet is still unmistakeably an iPad. From the pearl-white front to the sleek silver rear, the iPad Mini is almost a miniature replica of its big brother. Only the slimmer side borders set it apart. We were worried that our thumbs might intrude on the screen, and if we gripped the iPad Mini on one side then this was indeed the case, but thankfully the tablet’s slender enough to hold around the back, with your thumb and fingers gripping at opposite ends, which is both comfortable and secure. It’s also comfortable to clutch two-handed and use your thumbs for typing, if you’re bashing out emails while standing up.
The iPad Mini (top in both pictures) is a great deal narrower and shorter than its big bro
The rear of the iPad Mini is brushed silver metal (a black version is also available) and looks as slick as ever. We were worried about it getting scratched up, especially when carrying it unprotected in our bag, but every scuff it picked up rubbed off easily. On the edges you have the usual power and volume buttons, but of course no memory card slot – you’re stuck with the built-in memory, either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB, depending on which model you opt for. You’ll also find Apple’s new Lightning port on the bottom, so you’ll need adapters if you’re hoping to use your old accessories.
A happy medium
Despite its reduced size, the iPad Mini is a wee bit larger than most other compact tablets, which usually opt for a seven-inch screen. In contrast, the iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch display, which Apple claims makes for 35 percent more screen area. That’s more or less correct when compared to the likes of the Nexus 7 Asus, but we honestly didn’t notice any difference in comfort levels or quality when watching movies or playing with apps. If you’re not sold on a seven-inch tablet to begin with, we don’t think that extra .9 inches will convince you to downgrade from a full 10.1-incher.
More importantly, the iPad Mini rocks a more square display than many of its rectangular rivals, which lends itself to a more natural web browsing experience. You’ll be scrolling up and down less as more content can fit on the screen at once, which is particularly gratifying if you’re browsing a busy website.
There’s been a fair bit of fuss over the iPad Mini’s lower screen resolution. While the standard iPad rocks a supremely sharp Retina display, boasting 264 pixels-per-inch (ppi), the iPad Mini has downgraded to a 163 ppi resolution. That’s lower even than cheaper rivals such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 by Asus, which pack 216 ppi displays.
The iPad Mini (bottom in both shots) still produces lifelike images whether streaming HD movies (left) or checking out 1920p pics of fuzzy kitties (right)
So, does that low-resolution screen make a difference? Well, while the difference is noticeable if you squint at the iPad Mini and original iPad side-by-side, the iPad Mini’s display is far from blocky or ugly. Colours are vibrantly reproduced and don’t fade as you tilt the tablet, and we found HD movies, photos and games still looked fantastic. It’s also impressively bright, so can be comfortably used in all but the harshest glare.
Aside from the lower resolution, our only issue with the dinkier screen concerns sensitivity and button sizes. Occasionally we tried to tap a compact button or link (for instance in the App Store when trying to make a purchase or download something), only to get no response. Sometimes it took several prods to register, something we never experienced with the larger iPads. Thankfully this problem rarely affected us when messing around with apps or games, so was never anything more than a minor irritation.
When we first tried out iOS 6 on the last three iPhones and the iPad third generation, we felt it was a mixed bag at best. Siri finally received some much-needed functionality such as the ability to search the local area for services, while the likes of Passbook show great potential for the future, if it’s well supported. On the flipside, the new Maps feature was poorly implemented and we discovered lots of little quirks, particularly when using the iPad and iPhone 4S.
One example of Maps going a little bit 'funky'
Thankfully we didn’t notice any such bugs when playing around with the iPad Mini. The Maps app is just the same and just as clunky, but replacements will hopefully be hitting the App Store very soon to remedy that. Of course, iOS is five years old now and starting to look a little outdated now. It’d be great to see a proper refresh soon, introducing something similar to Android’s widgets or Windows’ live tiles to jazz up our desktops. Until then, at least iOS is still clean and simple to use.
Bring the A5 power
The iPad Mini packs in the same A5 processor as the iPad 2, and proves more than capable for running apps and games, as well as streaming media and anything else you’re gonna want to do. We only noticed a few rare, tiny bouts of stuttering, lag, or other performance issues during our week of testing, even when enjoying HD movies and games. Of course, with two subsequent iPads emerging since the iPad 2, both boasting more powerful processors, the iPad Mini will likely soon be dated for gamers. If you’re a big fan of fast-paced action games and aren’t planning on upgrading for a while, you might want to consider the full-sized iPad instead.
Apple told us to expect ten hours of battery life from the iPad Mini, no matter what we were doing. Usually these predictions are based on having the screen dimmed and all of the features turned off, but we were impressed to see the iPad Mini survive for close to eight straight hours of video streaming, even with the screen turned up to maximum brightness. With a mix of web browsing, app play and movies/music, you’ll get the full ten hours just fine.
Face to FaceTime
Impressively, the iPad Mini sports the exact same cameras as the full-sized iPad: that’s a 5MP ‘iSight’ snapper on the back, and a 1.2MP front-facer for portrait shots and FaceTime chats with your buddies.
Taking photos with the original iPad is a chore thanks to its weight and size, but the dinkier build of the iPad Mini makes it a much friendlier device for snapping random events when you’re out and about. Our shots on the whole came out bright with realistic colours, as good as you’re likely to get on a tablet camera.
You can edit your photos on the fly, cropping them, removing red eye and using the auto-enhance feature to sort out any lighting or exposure issues. With that done, you can then quickly and easily share with friends and family in all kinds of ways, from standard email to social networking. You can also capture HD video, which again looks sharp and can be quickly shared to YouTube.
We were also impressed by the FaceTime camera, which captured us in a painfully crisp fashion. Make sure you stick on some make-up or at least wipe the BBQ sauce from your chin before video chatting with a loved one...
If you’ve still got some cash in the bank after stumping up for the iPad Mini, there are plenty of accessories you can buy for your new portable pal. The fantastic Smart Cover makes a miniature return, operating exactly the same as its larger counterpart: simply snap it into place with the built-in magnets and it holds firm, to protect your screen from bumps and scratches. You can also get a Smart Case that protects the rear as well, plus a Wireless Keyboard if you plan on bashing out emails and documents. Finally there’s the new EarPods, which are thankfully less leaky than the older earphones but also not very noise-insulating.
A question of cost
As ever, Apple has nailed the aesthetics and created a highly desirable product which boasts the best app store out there. But of course, that sexy exterior and excellent support comes at a price. The iPad Mini starts at £269 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, climbing to a terrifyingly high £529 for the 64GB Wi-Fi and cellular version.
So, if you’re after a tablet to take with you wherever you go, which should you go for? If you’ve already invested in Apple’s iTunes and App Store, it’s pretty much a no-brainer, while tablet newbies are more likely to make their decision based on cost. If you’re simply looking for a machine to browse the web and enjoy some books, movies or TV shows, the Nexus 7 by Asus and Amazon Kindle Fire will do the job just as well at half the price. However, although Google’s Play store is fast catching up to Apple’s App Store in terms of quality and selection, the App Store still bags plenty of fantastic exclusives and tends to get some big apps before Android. Gamers and creative maestros in particular will benefit from Apple’s tablet.
If you want an iPad for the daily commute, Apple’s iPad Mini is going to be your new best friend. That lighter, thinner, compact body is a joy to travel with, and the 7.9-inch screen is still excellent for web browsing, media and apps, despite its lower resolution. Of course, if that premium price tag puts you off, there are now some fantastic value 7-inch rivals available.