The first time I saw the iPad mini at an Apple Store, I decided to give it a pass. I already had a third-generation iPad with Retina Display and buying a smaller iPad did not make sense. Thankfully, a friend asked me to pick one for him and let me play around with it till I returned to India. That is when I realized how big a mistake I had committed. The iPad mini is not just a smaller iPad but it changes the way one uses the iPad. It makes possible use cases where the full-size iPad was not conducive to use. I have not powered on my iPad with Retina Display since I used the iPad mini. Once you use it, there is simply no going back. Read on for my complete review. Also Read - New iPad Mini expected to launch in the second half of this year
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The iPad mini as a concept of a smaller iPad seems to be borrowed from Android tablet vendors that have sold 7-inch Android tablets soon after the first generation iPad went on sale in 2010. Tim Cook’s reasoning that it is a 7.9-inch tablet and not a 7-inch tablet is lame at best as an explanation as to why Apple went ahead with a smaller tablet when Steve Jobs had said Apple would never make a 7-inch tablet. But that doesn’t really matter because the iPad mini is not a cheaper or stripped down version of the iPad. On the contrary I find it to be a more refined and better designed product than the new iPad with Retina Display. Also Read - Apple AirPods 3 and mini LED iPad may launch in first half of 2021: Report
Apple does not compete on price and to think that the iPad mini would be a cheap product would be foolish. Just seeing the iPad mini and holding it once is good enough to understand that this is a premium product. Jony Ive and his team of designers have gone all out on the iPad mini borrowing liberally from the iPhone 5’s design language. You get the chamfered edges, a thinner bezel and the new color combinations of ‘white and silver’ and ‘black and slate.’ There is also the new speaker grill and the Lightning cable connector to complete the whole new look.
The biggest selling point for the iPad mini is its single-handed usability. The bezel on the side has been thinned down and Apple has even managed to shave its weight by half as compared to the fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display. This ensures that it not only fits well in the palm but the user also does not feel fatigued if having to hold it for a long time. It also means that you would end up using the iPad mini in situations where you’d normally not use the iPad. I had no trouble whatsoever using the iPad mini while I was standing in a queue while boarding a flight. That’s something I could never do with the iPad especially with a bag slung on my shoulder.
The size is just perfect for typing as well. Where I had to sit down to type on the iPad, I could easily thumb my way through the keyboard. This is one of the things I liked on other 7-inch tablets and getting the same experience on the iPad mini means I would end up filing more stories from it rather than having to fire up my MacBook Air.
On the specifications front, it offers everything that the iPad 2 does and then some more. It offers a better 720p FaceTime camera on the front and a 5-megapixel iSight camera on the back with backside illumination just like the fourth-generation iPad. It also has the same display as the iPad 2 but in a smaller size, which gives it a higher pixel density than the iPad 2 but far too low to be branded as a Retina Display. But is that really a big deal?
In my opinion, anyone who has not used an iPad with a Retina Display won’t be able to tell there is anything amiss with the iPad mini’s display. I found the text to be pretty sharp and one really cannot see pixels unless noticed too closely. But then, it was Apple that introduced the concept of pixel density as a differentiator and must now answer questions as to why the iPad mini did not get a Retina Display. The bottom line is that while a Retina Display would have been desirable, its absence is not really felt.
If you are thinking about buying an iPad, it has to be the iPad mini unless you have a specific use case that requires a bigger display and greater horsepower, for which you have the iPad with Retina Display. The iPad 2, in my books is redundant but Apple might continue with it in order to tap the entry-level iPad users who crave for a bigger display. From next year onwards, I believe Apple will sell four different iPad models – iPad mini, iPad mini with Retina Display, iPad and iPad with Retina Display. I definitely see the iPad mini to be the most popular iPad ever.
Check out excerpts of my iPad mini review with the full keyboard experience and size comparison with the third-generation iPad in the video below.
Photo Credit: Eshan Shetty