Apple has been a force in the tablet world since the introduction of its first iPad. The features and functions have improved steadily through the years, but the basic design has remained largely unchanged. That all changes with the new iPad Mini, where Apple has clearly made another strong move in terms of portability, comfort and ease of use.
Hardware and Features
The exterior layout of the iPad Mini will be largely familiar to those with more than a passing familiarity with Apple devices. As always, the volume rocker is placed on the upper right edge of the device. The rocker is somewhat unique among Apple devices, however, as it doesn’t feature the integrated play button of the iPod Nano nor the one-piece rocker design of the larger iPad. It’s certainly functional, but feels less than polished. The headphone jack is kept on the top of the device rather than the bottom placement, bucking Apple’s recent trend. Instead Apple’s new dock connector called Lightning found already in iPhone 5 is located at the bottom of tablet. The rear of the device sports Apple’s 5-megapixel iSight camera and the 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera resides in its usual top-front location.
The first piece of bad news centers on the display. The iPad Mini does not feature Apple’s Retina display, and as such it can’t quite compete directly with the iPad 4 or iPhone 5. The display is still impressive, though. The resolution is the same as the iPad 2’s 1,024-by-768, but the reduced screen size produces a very respectable 163 pixels per inch. Text and other fine details are simply not as sharp as they are on Retina displays, but the overall display quality still stacks up well against nearly any other device.
Under the hood, the iPad Mini pairs a 1GHz dual-core processor with 512 megabytes of RAM. These specifications, again, are the same as the iPad 2. The specs and benchmarking performance aren’t quite up to par with Apple’s newest devices, but in real-world testing the difference is minimal. All but the most CPU-intensive apps boot and run briskly, and multitasking isn’t much of a problem for the hardware. The slight drop in processing power is a boon to battery life, however, and the iPad Mini consistently outpaces all competitors.
Comparison: iPad Mini vs. iPad 4
On paper, the iPad Mini appears to be a significant step backward as compared to the iPad 4. The Mini loses out in terms of processing power, memory, resolution and pixel density. However, these compromises mean surprisingly little in real-world use. Those who primarily use their tablet to read or browse the internet may benefit from the iPad 4’s sharper Retina display, and some especially hardware-intensive apps may perform noticeably better with its beefier hardware.
What Customers are Saying
As with any other tablet, user experiences depend largely on the way a tablet is used. The lower resolution of the iPad Mini is a common complaint among those who often read text or use applications which require precisely detailed images. Likewise, the reduced performance can be a hindrance while buffering streaming video and doing other tasks which demand high performance. The overall form factor, ease and comfort of use and impressive battery life are often mentioned as the biggest strengths of the Mini. While opinion is divided, the consensus is that the iPad Mini does exactly what it’s intended to do, and it does it extremely well.