The runaway success of the original iPad Mini might have surprised Steve Jobs, who famously declared that small screen tablets were “dead on arrival” and that Apple would never make one.
The first iPad Mini succeeded because of its lower cost and size, despite lacking the Retina display of other Apple tablets and smartphones and despite having an older, slower processor. Now the second generation iPad Mini is here, and with a Retina display and the new ultrafast A7 processor, it sounds like the perfect tablet. Should you buy one?
On the face of it, the new iPad Mini is a less expensive, more portable version of the iPad Air that costs $100 less. It has a 7.9 inch screen instead of 9.7 inches – about a third smaller – but it has the same number of pixels (2048 x 1536) giving it an astonishingly high pixel density of 326 ppi (pixels per inch). These headline figures don’t tell the full story however, because the iPad Mini’s screen isn’t as refined as that of the iPad Air. In particular, colour reproduction is less accurate, with the iPad Mini being unable to reproduce the full colour spectrum. This probably isn’t going to be a deal breaker for most users.
It has the 64-bit A7 processor and M7 motion coprocessor that first appeared in the iPhone 5s, making it just as fast and powerful as the iPad Air. And of course it has the same perfect build quality as the iPad Air, but being smaller is lighter and more portable. It measures a wafer-thin 0.29 inches and weighs in at just 0.73 pounds. That’s not quite as light as the Google Nexus 7, but it’s pretty close.
The iPad Mini runs the superb new iOS 7 and comes with a wealth of pre-installed apps plus more than a million apps available to download from the App Store. It’s ideal for playing games, watching movies, viewing photos or even playing music. Social networking is all taken care of. And with dual-channel Wi-Fi it has fast internet access. For most people, it can replace a laptop for all but the most demanding applications.
The iPad Mini has two cameras, like the iPad Air. A 5 megapixel rear-facing camera is nice to have for occasional use, and the front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera can record 720p HD video and can be used for FaceTime calls.
The battery is much larger than the one used for the first-gen iPad Mini. It’s a 23.8-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery that can deliver 10 hours of continuous use with Wi-Fi on.
The iPad mini Retina comes in either a Wi-Fi version or a Wi-Fi plus 4G LTE version, which enables true mobility. The 4G version is the same size and weighs hardly any more, but it does cost an additional $120.
The basic 16GB Wi-Fi version costs $399 which already makes it more expensive than any other compact tablet. Choose the 32GB version and you’ll be spending $499. Add in more memory and LTE connectivity and the price shoots up to an incredible $829. That’s a lot to pay for a mini tablet! By contrast, the 32GB 4G LTE version of Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX costs $369 and the entry-level model just $229 – and it’s almost as fast, has a similar resolution display with 100% colour accuracy. So while the iPad Mini is a simply superb tablet, ask yourself how much you’re paying for the Apple logo on the back. And remember that for $100 more you can buy the full-size iPad Air.