Technically, according to my credit card company, I already own an iPad mini. But that doesn’t mean I have it in my clean little hands yet. In fact, (cue the sad violin) mine isn’t due to arrive until around Thanksgiving since I went ahead and ordered the Cellular capable model. Nonetheless, some of my colleagues have been fortunate enough to have gotten their mitts on an early release of the highly anticipated iPad mini. So without further adieu, here are some of my favorite tidbits from the first crop of reviews of the new Apple iPad mini: As a preface, one of my favorite observations right off the bat, comes from an astute reader at the Endgadget site. In the wake of a rather ironic public outcry for mediocrity, a commenter had this to say in the forum: “Apple is a premium brand. Their products will always come at a premium. That’s why it’s expensive, like any other premium brand. They charge more because their goal isn’t to make the best cheap tablet, it’s to make the best small tablet. And that comes at a premium. It’s for customers who want that. Apple fills that market. So don’t be shocked when their products’ prices don’t compare to their competitors who have lesser build quality and lesser customer service. If you don’t want to pay BMW prices, you can buy a Ford.” Now, with that in mind, let’s move forward. One of the most impressive things I found with these reviews is their consensus that the iPad mini has immediately raised the bar, instantly becoming the best small tablet (despite Apple’s omission of a Retina display) in a category where other companies have had time to make a dent and gain a foothold. Read on for snippets of expert’s hand-on analysis of the game-changing iPad mini.
Jim Dalrymple of The Loop had this to say about his time spent with his new mini: “In addition to using the iPad mini in my normal daily tasks, I also found that I would pick up the mini and use it where I normally wouldn’t use the iPad. For instance, if I’m on a phone call, I would typically use my iPhone to look things up while I walk around or type notes, look at Web sites and things like that. Now, I’m using the iPad mini because it’s compact enough to carry around, but not so large that it’s cumbersome. With the iPad mini in portrait, I can type with two thumbs, much the same way I do with my iPhone. I don’t know if everyone will be able to do this as comfortably as I can, but I suspect they will. My hands are not abnormally large, so it should work fine. If there was one thing I was surprised with, it would be that the iPad mini doesn’t have a Retina display. It surely gives Apple some room to upgrade the device if they want to next year, but that’s the only thing I would really add to the mini. I suppose the decision makes sense if it keeps the cost down. It’s not like you are shocked looking at the existing screen, it is very nice. About those other tablets: I went to a local big box retailer and used every tablet they had in the store, including Microsoft’s new Surface. The difference was immediately clear. The quality of these other tablets is so inferior to what Apple manufactures that they felt like plastic toys in your hands. All of the tablets, all of them, bend when you hold them. They are made of cheap plastic parts and the casing felt like it would snap. Until now, these were the only mid-sized tablets I have ever used and they were awful. That’s what I was basing my opinion on. I tapped on a link four times on the surface before it would do anything. After it finally went to the page, I only had to tap the back arrow three times to get back. I am a firm believer in “you get what you pay for.” The iPad mini is a perfect example of that. If you want to save $50 and buy a cheap-ass tablet, go ahead. If you want quality the iPad mini will be waiting for you when you come to your senses. Bottom Line: I was really surprised with how much I used the iPad mini in my daily routine – more than the 10-inch iPad. There are a couple of things you have to remember with the iPad mini. First, it isn’t just a smaller iPad, but rather it feels like its own device. The second thing is that what seems like a little bit of extra screen real estate on the iPad mini makes a huge difference. Everything just works on the mini – all of your old apps, iCloud, everything. It works.”
While Endgadget’s Tim Stevens had this to say about this revolutionary small tablet: “As we put this one through its paces it quickly became clear that this is far more than a cheaper, smaller iPad. This is a thinner, lighter device that deserves independent consideration. In many ways, it’s actually better than the 10-inch slate from which it was born. The iPad mini looks a lot more like a blown-up iPod touch than a shrunken-down fourth-generation iPad.Apple wanted to be very clear at its product-packed iPad mini launch event that this isn’t just a shrunken-down iPad. And, indeed, that starts with a very different case design. While the second, third and fourth generations of iPads have all been more or less indistinguishable, the iPad mini’s anodized aluminum back looks entirely different. In fact, the whole thing looks a lot more like a blown-up fifth-generation iPod touch than a shrunken-down fourth-generation iPad. This isn’t just an Apple tablet made to a budget. This isn’t just a shrunken-down iPad. This is, in many ways, Apple’s best tablet yet, an incredibly thin, remarkably light, obviously well-constructed device that offers phenomenal battery life. No, the performance doesn’t match Apple’s latest and yes, that display is a little lacking in resolution, but nothing else here will leave you wanting. At $329, this has a lot to offer over even Apple’s more expensive tablets. The iPad mini is well worth considering for anybody currently in the market for a tablet. Its cost is compelling, its design superb and it of course gives access to the best selection of tablet-optimized apps on the market. To consider it just a cheap, tiny iPad is a disservice. This is, simply, a great tablet.”
Scott Stein with CNET gave us this review: “What’s unique about the Mini? Without a doubt, it’s the design. It’s cute, it’s discreet, and it’s very, very light. It feels like a whole new device for Apple. It’s light enough to hold in one hand, something the iPad was never really able to achieve for extended periods of time. It’s bedroom-cozy. Other full-fledged 7-inch tablets feel heavier and bulging by comparison. This is a new standard for little-tablet design. It makes the iPad feel fresh. After a week of using the iPad Mini, it seems to find a way to follow me everywhere. It’s extremely addicting, and fun to use. The Mini truly feels like a large iPod Touch, which is exactly what we used to call the iPad back in 2010. It’s far more apt now. You probably won’t think that, though, because the iPad Mini won’t fit in your pocket, or even your jacket pocket. It’s more of a purse, small bag, or large-jacket pocket device. It’ll fit wherever you’d fit a softcover book. The construction feels solid, stellar, fun to hold. The home button clicks crisply. It doesn’t feel like a lower-priced product in your hands. It might be, in terms of form, the most addictive iOS product in existence. And it’s perfectly sized for kid hands. It’s a far easier car device and travel device.”
John Gruber from Daring Fireball had this praise for the iPad mini: “It’s really light and easy to hold one-handed. The hardware design – chamfered edges, less tapered back, metal rather than plastic buttons – strikes me as better, more elegant, than that of the full-size iPad 3/4. But it’s disappointing to go non-retina after using the retina iPad for the last seven months. All of the accolades and advantages of retina displays work in reverse. I adore the size and form factor of the iPad Mini, but I also adore the retina display on my full-size iPad. My ideal iPad would be a Mini with a retina display. The actual iPad Mini display is not terrible. It’s exactly what you think: it feels like an iPhone 3GS display cut to iPad size, including the fact that the pixels seem deeper from the surface of the glass. (It does seem brighter and more vibrant than a 3GS display, perhaps because it uses an IPS panel.) And after a week of using it as my main iPad, the individually discernible pixels are no longer jarring to my eyes. The non-retina resolution is the one and only significant complaint I have with the iPad Mini, and it’s an issue that is only apparent to those of us who already own a nearly-new iPad. If the Mini had a retina display, I’d switch from the iPad 3 in a heartbeat. As it stands, I’m going to switch anyway. 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. My guess is that this is going to play out much like the iPod and iPod Mini back in 2004: the full-size model will continue to sell strongly, but the Mini is going to become the bestselling model.”
David Pogue at the New York Times put it succinctly:
“Over all, the Mini gives you all the iPad goodness in a more manageable size, and it’s awesome. You could argue that the iPad Mini is what the iPad always wanted to be.”
Walt Mossberg from AllThingsD/The Wall Street Journal had this to share after spending a week with the iPad mini:
“In shrinking the iconic iPad, Apple has pulled off an impressive feat. It has managed to create a tablet that’s notably thinner and lighter than the leading small competitors with 7-inch screens, while squeezing in a significantly roomier 7.9-inch display. And it has shunned the plastic construction used in its smaller rivals to retain the iPad’s sturdier aluminum and glass body. I’ve been testing the iPad mini for several days and found it does exactly what it promises: It brings the iPad experience to a smaller device. Every app that ran on my larger iPad ran perfectly on the mini. I was able to use it one-handed and hold it for long periods of time without tiring. My only complaints were that it’s a tad too wide to fit in most of my pockets, and the screen resolution is a big step backwards from the Retina display on the current large iPad. But it’s about 30 percent thinner than the leading 7-inch competitors, the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire 7. And it’s about 9 percent lighter than the Nexus and about 22 percent lighter than the Fire HD. It’s very slightly narrower across than the Fire HD, but about 11 percent wider than the Nexus. I found it easy to hold with one hand, though the width might be a bit too much for some people with smaller hands. Even though the mini is thinner and lighter than the leading 7-inch tablets, its larger screen provides about 35 percent more room for viewing content like books and Web pages. I found it easy to see and read material on the screen and to tap and swipe.”
And finally, these words from Joshua Topolsky of The Verge: “Moments after I held the iPad mini at Apple’s event in San Jose, I hurriedly wrote that it made other tablets in this class feel like toys. Perhaps I was a bit hard on the competition in the heat of the moment, but I will say that there isn’t a single product in the 7-inch tablet market that comes close to the look, feel, or build quality of the new iPad. It is absolutely gorgeous to see, and in your hand has the reassuring solidness of a product that’s built to last. The iPad mini is an excellent tablet – but it’s not a very cheap one. Whether that’s by design, or due to market forces beyond Apple’s control, I can’t say for sure. I can’t think of another company that cares as much about how its products are designed and built – or one that knows how to maximize a supply chain as skillfully – so something tells me it’s no accident that this tablet isn’t selling for $200. It doesn’t feel like Apple is racing to some lowest-price bottom – rather it seems to be trying to raise the floor. And it does raise the floor here. There’s no tablet in this size range that’s as beautifully constructed, works as flawlessly, or has such an incredible software selection. Would I prefer a higher-res display? Certainly. Would I trade it for the app selection or hardware design? For the consistency and smoothness of its software, or reliability of its battery? Absolutely not. And as someone who’s been living with (and loving) Google’s Nexus 7 tablet for a few months, I don’t say that lightly. The iPad mini hasn’t wrapped up the “cheapest tablet” market by any stretch of the imagination. But the “best small tablet” market? Consider it captured.”
The full reviews are very detailed and informative and if these snippets weren’t enough to satisfy your eager curiosity, I encourage you to follow the links above to their respective sites for the full run downs. And stay tuned; as you might imagine, once my iPad mini arrives I’ll be joining in the fray with my own hands-on reviews, field tests and feedback!