Tech Talk: Hands-on with the iPad Mini

Posted on November 9, 2012
The new Apple iPad Mini from the side, front and back

Photo – Apple: The new Apple iPad Mini from the side, front and back

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked about the new iPad Mini since it was first announced a little while ago. It’s also amazing to me how the announcement of the iPad Mini has eclipsed that of significant upgrades to the iPad itself.

Murray Hill Tech TalkAs soon as I got my hands on an iPad Mini, I realized that this is the iPad I’ve always wanted. I love the full sized iPad, but the Mini was an instant connect for me.

I use iPads for many things, but the vast majority of the time I spend using an iPad is processing e-mail, reading books, listening to music, surfing and watching movies when I travel or am away from home. I’m not a gamer at all, and I never really got into watching movies on iPods or iPhones, so those devices really are for e-mail and music mostly, although I use a lot of Apps on my iPhone to do other things.

I love the feel and balance of the Mini. The 7.9” diagonal screen size is perfect for me. It’s not too heavy, so extended periods of use don’t require me to hold it in two hands or have to set it down. The screen, although not a Retina display, is clear and bright, the colour is saturated and accurate, and I can read or see it clearly from the side without problems. It’s solidly constructed and obviously a well-made device.

Apple's iPad Mini - every inch an iPad in the palm of your hand

Photo – Apple: Apple’s iPad Mini – every inch an iPad in the palm of your hand

The iPad Mini weighs 308 grams and is 7.2mm deep – thinner than the iPhone 5 and about the same thickness as a standard HB pencil. It’s thin, light and a pleasure to use.

The lack of a Retina display isn’t an issue for me. When I look at or show people pictures on the screen, it’s the picture I’m showing them, not the fact it doesn’t have a Retina display. It’s really only a discussion point it I have an iPad with Retina display and show the same picture on both – not something to likely happen.

I don’t enlarge type while reading most websites, and when I do enlarge parts of a website, the type is clear – unless I blow it way up so there’s one word on the screen. But really, it’s not something most people would do other than critics anyway.

I love to read, and found using a full-sized iPad to get tiresome after a while, but I can read on this iPad Mini for hours and not experience any fatigue. The screen is just the right size for reading and whether it’s in bright or low light, I’ve found the whole experience to be great. I really appreciate the new technology Apple has built into the iPad Mini that determines the difference between a touch to turn a page, for instance, or whether the side of my hand is happening to touch the screen. It’s very cool.

The 5-megapixel camera is great for taking those quick shots of something, and the HD FaceTime camera, small size and decent speakers make a FaceTime session a really fun experience.

I use the iPad Mini for surfing all the time, and the faster Wi-Fi is a real bonus. I actually probably spend more time surfing on iPads than I do on my computer because the new ones are just as fast and the portability of the devices makes it more convenient. The onboard A5 processor, although not as fast as the newest full-sized iPad’s A6x processor, is still plenty fast. You wouldn’t notice it was slower unless you had the two devices side-by-side and had them performing the same task – again, not something likely to happen in real world use.

The iPad Mini has a ten-hour battery life, and although I’ve not used it for ten hours straight, I’ve used the device for as long as I want every day for a week and it still hasn’t needed to be charged.

The iPad Mini is a fully functioning iPad in every way – as Apple says “every inch an iPad”. Apps that are designed for the full-sized iPad appear on the screen perfectly on the Mini, and even double-sized iPhone native Apps look decent.

I think Apple has hit a sweet spot with the iPad Mini, and sales of three million in the first few days would seem to bear that out.

There are many tablets for consumers to buy on the market right now, but you don’t see people lining up for anything other then Apple products. There’s a reason for that with this iPad Mini. Simply put, I think it’s an extremely well-made, high quality, perfectly-sized tablet that offers everything you can get in a full-sized iPad in a smaller package for less money. Apple’s website offers consumers a quick glance comparison of all their iPad options, and it’s worth a look if you’re in the market. As in all Apple iOS devices, having your data and files available at all times on all devices is a snap because of iCloud, so, along with the hundreds of thousands of Apps available for iOS devices, iCloud and iOS6 just make everything work together seamlessly.

Apple iPad Mini with the cover

Photo – Apple: The Apple iPad Mini with the cover

The iPad Mini is initially shipping initially as a Wi-Fi version, with the Wi-Fi plus cell versions imminent. Available in Black and Slate, or White and Silver, prices start at  $329 CAD for the 16GB Wi-Fi version and go all the way up to $659 for the 64GB Wi-Fi plus cell version (which also requires you to have a dedicated monthly data plan with carriers like Bell, SaskTel, Telus, Rogers etc.

PROS: Great size; fit and finish that’s second to none; faster Wi-Fi; fantastic for reading books; I think it’s pretty much the bomb.

CONS: No Retina display; A5 chipset isn’t as fast as the A6x on iPad, a little more expensive than the competition – but the caveat is that you get what you pay for.

TO SUM IT UP: If you’re looking for a tablet that has all the functionality and features of a full-sized iPad, but the smaller size like a Kindle, then the iPad Mini is a great choice.

Murray Hill is lead tech writer at communicatto.com. You can reach Murray by email at murray@communicatto.com or on Twitter at @MurrayDHill

About Murray Hill

Murray Hill has been a freelance columnist appearing regularly in some of the most prominent Canadian newspapers since 1974. He began writing about technology over twenty-four years ago and he still maintains the belief that there's a gadget or gizmo for every situation and application. His fascination with technology and gadgets has endured for over fifty years, and has led to many familial discussions about the the difference between the words "need" and "want" when referring to tech. Based in Saskatoon, connect with Murray at: murray@communicatto.com

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