Thumbs up for iPad mini
Compare the difference: the iPad mini, left, and the iPad 4. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez
The screen of the iPad mini could be better but early reviewers of the device have generally given it high marks.
The build quality of the device seems to be its biggest differentiator against cheaper tablets such as the Kindle Fire ($US199) and the Google Nexus 7 ($A249).
"It's bedroom cozy," wrote CNET's Scott Stein. "Other full-fledged 7-inch tablets feel heavier and bulging by comparison. This is a new standard for little-tablet design."
Reviewers had no trouble holding the iPad mini in one hand and even found its screen big enough in landscape orientation to churn out an email or two.
App scaling wasn't a problem either, reviewers said, with programs from the iPad working well on the mini's screen. Few had screen input misfires when holding the device in one hand – even when using applications that are sensitive to inputs from the edges of the screens. Reviewers didn't complain about sudden page turns or unplanned turns in racing games because their thumb hit the edge of the screen by accident.
The size, overall, seems to be good for one thing you can't do with an iPad – read for long periods. That means the iPad mini has the basic weight and convenience of an e-reader but with far more capabilities.
Several reviewers assessed Apple's assertion that the mini's 8.75-inch display gave it 35 per cent more screen than its competitors had. In general, they said, that was a good thing but more than one reviewer said it was too wide for some jacket pockets.
"I was not able to stash it in one inside sport jacket pocket but was able to slip it into another," wrote Edward Baig of USA Today. Still, the smaller size makes it good for purses and travelling.
Reviewers said the battery life was the same or better than the 10 hours of the iPad and sound quality on the single stereo speaker was fairly good.
With this design, Apple had addressed some core complaints about the iPad's portability and, in some ways, realised the tablet's potential as an "everywhere" device, reviewers said.
"You could argue that the iPad mini is what the iPad always wanted to be," wrote David Pogue of The New York Times.
But it's not better in all ways.
For one, the mini has the same display as the iPad 2, meaning that while it's a fine display, it doesn't match up to the latest iPads or even the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7. This wasn't a huge problem, reviewers said, but every reviewer commented on it.
"In my tests, video looked just fine but not as good as on the regular iPad," wrote Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal.
But the difference in quality was noticeable, and reviewers warned that those who expected very high-quality display for video might want to pass on the iPad mini.
Then there's the price. While the build quality and Apple ecosystem seemed to justify the price for many reviewers, they acknowledged the price difference between this and its competitors was considerable.
How much is Apple's superiority in software and content worth to you?" asked Rich Jaroslovsky of Bloomberg. "How about $US130?"
Consumers will have to weigh content and screen quality carefully as they decide on the right tablet for them. If what you want is an iPad – meaning, an Apple device that hooks into the ecosystem of iTunes, iBooks, iCloud, etc – than it seems pretty clear that you should give this device a serious look.
"If you just want a tablet that's cheaper than the iPad, however, the lines aren't so clear. And there's no doubt that there is a trade-off, no matter how much you like Apple's smaller tablet.
"Going non-retina is a particularly bitter pill for me but I like the iPad mini's size and weight so much that I'm going to swallow it," wrote John Gruber on Daring Fireball.
One concern analysts had when Apple announced the iPad mini was that there wouldn't really be a use for it that wasn't covered by the iPad. But reviewers seemed to find themselves using it more than they expected. The mini seemed, in many cases, to bridge the gap quite ably between e-reader and computer. In fact, Apple may have to worry that its mini will take away sales from its full-sized iPad.
"I actually used the iPad mini more than my iPad," wrote Jim Dalrymple of The Loop.
The mini received high praise overall, with a couple of reviewers noting it boded well for Apple's tablet line.
"This is, in many ways, Apple's best tablet yet, an incredibly thin, remarkably light, obviously well-constructed device that offers phenomenal battery life," wrote Tim Stevens of Engadget.
The iPad mini starts at $369 for 16GB of storage and wi-fi connectivity. Versions of the mini that connect to mobile data networks are due in a couple of weeks. Those will cost $509 and up. The tablet comes in white or black. Covers are sold separately and cost $45.
The Washington Post