Pros : Small and light; Good battery life; Bright, colourful display; impressive App Store.
Cons : Expensive; Rival displays are sharper; No way to expand storage.
Verdict: The Apple iPad Mini offers great entertainment in a portable device, making it the perfect choice for anyone who travels a lot and wants to enjoy apps, games and movies while on the move
The Apple iPad has plenty of admirers, but for anyone who is out and about a lot it is quite a heavy weight to carry – coming in at 652g. It’s also hard to hold in one hand, should you be rammed into a bus or train with a load of other harassed commuters.
Back in 2010, Steve Jobs was less than complimentary about 7in tablets, so we didn’t expect to see a smaller version of the iPad – but now it has happened in the shape of the Apple iPad Mini, which measures a neat 7.9 inches and, so we are told, 53 per cent lighter and 23 per cent slimmer than its older sibling. But can it measure up to its big brother to make the perfect travelling companion?
Small is beautiful
At first glance, it’s obvious that this is the Mini – it weighs just 308g and is 7.2mm thick. Holding the original in one hand for long would give you aching muscles, but the Mini is light enough to hold all day. You can rest it in your palm and it will feel secure – great if you’re getting jostled on a packed train. It’s also easier to slide into a case or bag – even a decent sized handbag should do the job.
The Mini may well be smaller than its big brother but there’s no mistaking that it’s still an iPad – just witness that white front and silver reverse side. The only thing that’s different are the thinner side borders. We did think our thumbs might get in the way of the screen – and if you hold the device on one side that it the case. But the good news is that the device is thin enough for you to be able to hold it around the back, with your fingers holding one end, your thumb the other. If you want to hold it with two hands, that’s also comfortable, and makes for easy typing.
The back of the device is made from brushed silver metal (you can also get a black model). It looks as if it may get scuffed and scratched easily, if tossed in a bag unprotected, but any scuffs were easily rubbed off. The edges sport volume and power buttons – but don’t expect a memory card slot – onboard storage is all that you have, so choosing between the 16, 32 and 64GB models is an important decision. It also features the new Lightning port at the base, so if you’re using any old Apple accessories you’ll need to use an adapter.
Even though it’s smaller than its big brother, the Mini is still bigger than most other compact tablets, as it has a 7.9in display. Apple says this give you 35 per cent more display area than the other compact tablets. However, we didn’t think it actually made that much difference in practice when playing apps or viewing films.
However, what is important is that the screen is more square than many of the rectangular device screens – it makes for a more comfortable experience when browsing the web. More content fits onto the screen at the same time, which means you don’t have to scroll down so much – particularly useful on a complex site.
There’s been a lot of talk about the lower resolution of the Mini’s screen. The iPad has a crisp retina screen with a ppi of 264, but the iPad Mini has a 163 ppi resolution. That’s less than cheaper devices such as the Asus Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD. So how does it fare in practice? If you put the iPad and iPad Mini next to each other it is noticeable, but the Mini still manages to produce colours well, and they don’t fade as you tilt the device. Games, photos and films looked great. The display is also really bright, so is fine to use even in harsh light,
Apart from the resolution, the screen also wasn’t always as sensitive as we’d have liked. Sometimes we’d tap a link or button and get no response. It occasionally took several prods to get a result – this was never an issue on the bigger iPads. However, it was never an issue in apps or games, so wasn’t a major problem.
I’ve got the power
The Mini has the same A5 chip as the iPad 2, so has no problem running games and apps and streaming media. There was the odd lag or stuttering during our testing, but hardly anything to talk about. However, bear in mind that two more iPads have come out since the iPad 2, so the iPad Mini is going to be dated pretty soon, especially for any games fans. If you play a lot of fast action games, or are just looking to upgrade, it may be worth looking at one of the bigger iPads.
If you’re playing apps, watching films, listening to music and surfing the net, you’ll get a good 10 hours of the battery, while if you’re streaming video you can expect near-on eight hours.
We have already tried out iOS 6 on the last three iPhones as well as the third-generation iPad and it was a mixed blessing. The virtual assistant Siri gained far more functionality thanks to its ability to search local areas for services, but the Maps offering was poor, and there were some odd quirks generally. However, Passbook has some great potential, if it gets well supported.
Happily, we didn’t notice any glitches while testing out the iPad Mini. The Maps app is still as disappointing, but hopefully there will be replacements appearing in the App Store in the near future. But iOS is actually now rather outdated and could do with a proper update. Wed like to see something like the Windows live tiles or Android widgets to give it a new lease of life.
There are lots of extras available once you’ve bought your iPad mini. The Smart Cover for instance, which snaps onto the device using magnets, and protects the display from knocks or scratches. There is a Smart Cover that protects the back of the device too, as well as a wireless keyboard if you spend a lot of time typing up documents and emails. Plus there are the new EarPods, which leak less noise than their predecessors, but fail to do a good job of noise insulation.
Face to Face
Camera-wise, the Mini has the same models as its bigger stablemate. On the back is the five-megapixel ‘iSight’ model, while on the front is a 1.2-megapixel lens for taking self-portraits and having FaceTime chats. Taking photos is much easier with this more portable device, and we were impressed with the bright, realistically coloured shots that we took.
It is possible to edit pictures as you take them, cropping, getting rid of redeye and using auto-enhance to sort out any exposure or lighting issues They can be easily shared with friends and family, whether using social networking or by email.
The camera also grabs HD video, which proved sharp and was easily shared on YouTube. The front-facing camera, meanwhile, is crisp – sometimes too crisp – check in the mirror before sitting down to have a chat with a friend over FaceTime.
Apple has yet again produced a very desirable device with the backup of the best choice of apps available at the moment – but it does all come at a cost. Prices start at £269 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, while a 64GB Wi-Fi and cellular model comes in at an eye-watering £529.
So, if you’re on the lookout for a highly portable tablet, is this the one to go for? If you’ve already invested in the App Store and iTunes the choice is obvious. But new tablet owners will be guided by price. If you want to surf the net, watch some TV programmes and films or read books, take a look at the Amazon Kindle Fire or Asus Nexus 7, which you can pick up for half the price. Bear in mind though, that while the Google Play store is catching up with Apple’s offering, the lasts big apps and exclusives still come to the App Store first, so keen gamers will get a lot from the Apple tablet.
NB: The cellular version of the iPad Mini which supports both 3G and 4G will be launching in the UK in the next couple of weeks.
If you want a light portable iPad for your daily commute, then the Apple iPad Mini is it. It’s lighter, slimmer and more compact and its squarer 7.9in display makes surfing the net a joy, and is also suited to viewing media and playing with apps. If it’s too pricey for you, though, there are plenty of cheaper 7 inch devices out there.
|Type of device||Tablet|
|Operating System||Apple iOS 5|
|Dimensions||200 x 135 x 7.2mm|
|CPU||Apple A5 processor|
|Screen size||7.9 inches|
|Resolution||1024 x 768|
|Display type||16 million colours|
|Internal storage||16GB to 64GB|
|Memory card slot|
|Secondary camera||1.3 megapixels|
|Special camera features|
|Music player||AAC, HE-AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible AAX and AAX+, AIFF and WAV|
|FM Radio description|
|Video player||H.264, .m4v, .mp4, .mov, MPEG-4, Motion JPEG (M-JPEG), .avi|
|Colours (Standard)||Black, White|
|Handsfree speaker phone|
|What's in the box||Charger|
|Battery life multimedia||8 hours|
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