iPad mini first look

A hands-on look at Apple's new iPad mini 7.9 inch tablet.
 
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01.Apple iPad mini

iPad_mini_lead

Price: WiFi only - 16GB, $369; 32GB, $479; 64GB, $589. WiFi + Cellular - 16GB, $509; 32GB, $619; 64GB, $729.
4 stars out of 5

Apple's new iPad mini hit stores today. We snapped one up so we could see for ourselves what this new mini tablet has to offer.

iPad_Mini002What we found was, largely, as we expected – the iPad mini looks and works like a scaled-down iPad. What was surprising, however, is how much more mobile this thinner and lighter tablet actually feels when you have it in your hands. It’s easy to carry around so taking it everywhere is not something you have to think twice about.  

The 7.9-inch iPad mini bridges the gadget gap between Apple’s 4-inch iPod Touch, and the 9.7-inch iPad 2 and third-generation iPad models. It also provides a more affordable alternative to the larger iPad, though it’s not as inexpensive as its main small-tablet rivals, the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire tablet, both of which run on the Android operating system.

Google’s new Nexus 7, available only from the online Google Play Store, starts at $249 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only version. The Kindle Fire HD is priced similarly, while the 16GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi-only costs $369. It’s not price alone that sells tablets however. Buyers tend to fall into one of two camps, depending on whether they prefer to be part of the Android or iOS content eco-systems of apps, music, movies, TV shows and books.

iPad Vs miniiPad_Mini001

For many people with a foot in the Apple camp the iPad mini will be high on the shopping list this Christmas, with its biggest real competitor likely to be the full-sized iPad itself, now in a fourth generation model, announced at the same time as the iPad mini.

The advantages of the larger iPad are that it not only has Apple’s super high-resolution retina display screen and faster wireless networking (including 4G support in Australia), it is also around twice as fast as the third-generation iPad and the iPad 2 – and thus the iPad mini itself.

The new large iPad’s speed boost comes from a faster new processor called the A6X, which is claimed to be double the speed of the third-gen model. The fourth-generation iPad also gets the new super-small lightning connector that debuted recently on the iPhone 5. This new connector is also on the mini.

Lightweight?

The iPad mini, however, could be the lightweight alternative that many are looking for. At 7.2mm thick, it’s 23 per cent thinner than the third-generation iPad. At 308-312 grams (depending on model) it’s also less than half the weight of the third-generation iPad (652-662g). So, for certain uses the iPad mini makes more sense – reading in bed, for example. (The mini is light enough to easily hold one-handed for in-bed reading, which can be a little awkward for the full-sized iPad.) The screen gives about 35% more visible area than a 7-inch screen, so it’s also still reasonably sized for reading electronic magazines.  

iPad_Mini003

Superficially, the iPad mini looks similar to the larger iPads, like it’s been scaled-down, though quite a few design features have been reworked. The iPad mini has the same dual-core A5 processor as the iPad 2 and the same screen resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels. Because they are packed onto the smaller 7.9 inch screen, this gives the iPad mini a higher pixel density — 163 pixels per inch (ppi) — than the iPad 2’s 132ppi.

The iPad mini screen looks crisp and colourful, but still can’t quite match the  retina display of the third- and fourth-generation iPad, which has a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels (264ppi).   

The iPad mini also has the new lightning connector and FaceTime HD camera with video stabilisation and face detection, plus rear 5Mp camera. It also boasts the same 10-hour battery life as the other iPad models.

Tell 'em the price, son

Pricing for the iPad mini starts at $369 for the base 16GB Wi-Fi only model; $479 for 32GB and $589 for 64GB. Wi-Fi + Cellular models start at $509 for 16GB; with 32GB costing $619 and 64GB models at $729. The fourth-generation iPad starts with Wi-Fi only models at $539 for 16GB, with 32GB at $649 and 64GB at $759. Wi-Fi + cellular models are $679 for 16GB; $789 for 32GB and $899 for 64GB.

For anybody who wants to stay in the seemingly all-encompassing Apple content ecosystem, but for whom the iPad is too large, heavy or expensive, the lighter, thinner and - let’s face it, cuter — iPad mini will be an attractive alternative.

See our reviews of the iPad (third-generation) and iPad 2.

For more information about tablets, see our Mobile computers section.

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