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Apple iPad mini Review

It certainly looks cool, but the Apple iPad mini falls flat in performance.

November 02, 2012
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Introduction

Apple's first foray into the realm of small tablets, the iPad mini brings some interesting things to bear, as well as really strange disappointments. Despite the success of the full-sized version, the mini not only has outdated hardware, but a screen that can't compete with Android's much-cheaper-yet-much-better option, the Nexus7. While iOS users might like the tablet, this is not something for the enthusiast.

Design & Usability

Despite the polish and interesting form factor, the mini just seems like it was rushed more than carefully engineered.

Grabbing the iPad mini, you'll notice right away that the unit is not only thin, but quite light. Due to its smaller size in comparison to larger tablets, it's very easy to hold with only one hand, but in doing so, you'll be liable to put your thumb over part of the screen. Depending on the level of oil in your skin, you may also discover that the back is a little on the slippery side, and doesn't grip well. Be careful with this tablet.

Fans of iOS will love the fact that the control interface for the iPad mini is scaled for a tablet and not a phone, meaning that while things will look smaller in relation to the screen like they would on the iPad, your apps will not be re-scaled phone apps that are inefficient in using the whole screen. Touch controls and gestures are the same as they are on the iPad: You tap icons with your finger to toggle them or open apps, you swipe your finger to move pages or turn them, you can pinch your fingers in or out to zoom where applicable, and a five-finger swipe inward will bring you back to the home screen. This can also be accomplished by tapping the home button on the bottom of the bezel, but gestures tend to be more fun.

The control interface for the iPad mini is scaled for a tablet and not a phone Tweet It

The iPad mini also has many of the same home network sharing features of the fully-sized iPad, which is great: You can push media content to your TV via the AppleTV box that's available for separate purchase, and you can stream media from your computer to your tablet via Wi-Fi and home sharing through iTunes. It may not be crazy-complicated or have the advanced apps of Android, but it works quite well without messing with too much.

Because Apple does not really allow competing media players in its App Store, any file support for music files is limited by what the proprietary system will run. Keep in mind, though, that if you're using the tablet's proprietary store as your main source for media, this will probably never be a problem for you, so don't worry about it too much. You can also convert files on your computer should you need to, though this process can get tedious.

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Performance

The full-sized iPad may have a retina display, but the iPad mini's screen is not as good.

The Apple iPad mini has a screen size of 6.3125 x 4.75 inches, and with a resolution of 1024 x 768, giving the mini a pixel density of 162. For those of you with better vision, you'll be able to see the pixels even at a natural position holding the tablet, and all HD content will have to be rescaled for your tablet. To make matters worse, the color gamut and contrast performance is very poor as well, meaning your content will look worse than it would on a television.

After draining the life force (aka stored charge) out of the iPad mini's battery repeatedly, we've determined its life with a full backlight and no wireless to be 6 hours and 3 minutes reading eBooks, and 7 hours, 20 minutes playing movies with terrible acting. Given that the screen is quite bright, you might be able to squeak out more or less battery life depending how you change the settings. This should last you for a short flight, but don't count on hopping an ocean and seeing continuous use of your tablet.

Apple still has the best app market out there. Tweet It

One of the most notable things that the iPad mini has brought to the table is the fact that the apps available to it are not merely re-scaled phone apps, but actual tablet apps that make the most out of the screen. Additionally, Apple still has the best app market out there, with a huge range of very well-polished apps that get a lot of attention from developers. You should be well-taken care of if media consumption is your aim.

Much like its bigger, badder brother, the iPad (4th generation), the iPad mini has a satisfyingly diverse array of connectivity options. An 802.11n wireless card, Bluetooth 4.0, and wireless streaming options over your home network let you pair external input devices as well as stream content from your tablet to your TV if you have an AppleTV unit. It doesn't have anything fancy like NFC (near field communication), but chances are good that if you don't know what we're talking about, you don't need it.

Conclusion

It's very apparent that this was rushed to production.

After noting the success of smaller form factor tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus7, Apple has followed suit with their own miniaturized tablet, the iPad mini. Overall, despite the polish and interesting form factor, the mini just seems like it was rushed more than carefully engineered. Not only is the tablet under-specced, but it also underperforms in just about every performance measure but battery life.

That's not to say that it's a bad tablet: in fact, the opposite is true. As a media consumption device, it has a very portable and sleek form factor. But it's important to note that its price and hardware shortcomings will definitely surprise and dismay some, and it definitely isn't a great value to those looking for a tablet that will remain up-to-date for a long period of time. Running iOS 6 will help it in the market immensely, but from an enthusiast's perspective, the iPad mini is more of a disappointment.

At the end of the day, it's Apple's first foray into the smaller tablet arena, and it's not surprising that there are some bumps. In time, you may see iterations of the iPad mini with different features, or enhanced specs, though the price is hard to swallow for those looking for a tablet but not willing to pay the full premium.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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