The reviews are in. It’s time for another review roundup, this time it’s for the iPad mini. Let’s see what the critics say about Apple’s new, smaller-sized tablet.
Mossberg: (This was mentioned as one of two downsides when compared to rival 7-inch tablets) Second, it has a lower screen resolution—1024×768, versus 1280×800 for the other two.
Gruber: But it’s disappointing to go non-retina after using the retina iPad for the last seven months. 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.
Topolsky: There’s no question that to the naked eye this screen does look lower in resolution than its nearest competition.
CNET: I wanted that display to be as good as the one on the iPhone 5, iPod Touch, and Retina iPad. It isn’t, not now. It mars the product for me, because otherwise, the screen size and its aspect ratio is perfect for handling comics, magazines, and reading apps.
Engadget: No, this isn’t Retina, but maintaining the same resolution as a 10-inch display shrunken down to 7.9 means a necessary boost in pixel density: 163ppi. That’s a nice increase over the iPad 2’s 132ppi, but it still falls short of the 264ppi of the fourth-generation iPad — not to mention, the iPhone 5’s 326dpi. Naturally, this means that text isn’t anywhere near as sharp as on the newer iPads, but this is still a very nice-looking display.
iSmashPhone’s take: It seems that the screen is okay, but the fact that it’s not a Retina display, or even comparable to the competition, makes it tough to fully enjoy.
Mossberg: Unlike its two top small tablet competitors, the Mini has a rear camera. And unlike the Kindle Fire HD, it offers optional cellular data connectivity to supplement Wi-Fi. It has very good battery life. exceeded Apple’s battery life claim of 10 hours and lasted 10 hours and 27 minutes.
Gruber: No direct mention.
Topolsky: Battery life was — not surprisingly — everything Apple claimed it would be.
CNET: They say they are still running full tests with battery life, etc.
Engadget: In our standard battery run-down test, which entails looping a video with WiFi enabled and a fixed display brightness, the iPad mini managed an astounding 12 hours and 43 minutes. This gives it the longest battery life of any tablet we’ve ever tested, besting even the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 by 42 minutes.
iSmashPhone’s take: As always with Apple, the battery life is as advertised.
Mossberg: But it’s about 30% thinner than the leading 7-inch competitors, the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire 7. And it’s about 9% lighter than the Nexus and about 22% lighter than the Fire HD. It’s very slightly narrower across than the Fire HD, but about 11% 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.
Gruber: It’s really light and easy to hold one-handed. The Mini weighs less than half a full-size iPad 3 or 4, and the difference that makes is tremendous. The Mini with the Smart Cover on is almost exactly as thick (or as thin, if you prefer) as an iPad 3 or 4 without a cover. Combine that with the weight and it’s just plain fun to hold.
Topolsky: The biggest change in the software on the iPad mini that you need to be aware of is… everything is smaller. 99 out of 100 times while using it, this wasn’t an issue, but it did take some getting used to in places. For instance, because the screen real estate is so much larger than an iPhone but icons are now roughly iPhone size, apps with lots of navigational elements can be a little less intuitive to navigate.
CNET: The iPad Mini is an extremely easy-to-hold tablet that, despite its wider form, feels as light as a Kindle. Not a Kindle Fire, but a Kindle.
Engadget: (This was more about how comfortable it was to hold, but is still relevant) The profile itself is more rounded than the full-size iPad, lacking the sharp taper at the edges. This, we presume, gives a little more room for the battery inside, but it also makes this a more comfortable slate to carry around. The edges on the 10-inch iPad can cut into your hand if you’re the sort who carries yours wherever you go. Not so with the mini.
iSmashPhone’s take: Everyone likes the mini size of the tablet. They say it’s easier to carry around, and easier to fit in one hand. The one drawback, if any, is the smaller keyboard, but that’s expected. Topolsky did go into the software, and mentioned that navigation can be a bit of a pain.
Mossberg: My only complaint was that the keyboard, in portrait mode, felt a bit cramped, though it was fine in landscape mode. (I found that, unlike with the big iPad, it was more common for me to hold the Mini in portrait mode.)
Gruber: Typing is interesting. In portrait, I actually find it easier to type on the Mini than a full-size iPad. All thumbs, with less distance to travel between keys, it feels more like typing on an iPhone. In landscape, though, typing is decidedly worse.
Topolsky: Furthermore, the keyboard size feels altered — most notably in portrait — and the keys don’t seem tall enough for my fingers. On the other hand, the mini makes landscape typing a lot easier.
CNET: The 7.9-inch display certainly isn’t as wide as the average laptop keyboard, and the virtual keys, while well-sized, require a bit of adjustment to use.
Engadget: No direct mention.
iSmashPhone’s take: The keyboard is much smaller. That’s the downside to a smaller tablet. Depending on the person, and how they hold the iPad mini, it’s easier or harder to type than on the iPad. For instance, Gruber used his thumbs, it was more like a phone. Perhaps the problem here was that some tried to use it like a traditional keyboard while Gruber typed on it like it was a smartphone.
Mossberg: I found the cameras did a very good job. I conducted several clear video chats using the 1.2 megapixel front camera, and the 5-megapixel rear camera produced very good photos and videos.
Gruber: No direct mention.
Topolsky: …its 5 megapixel backside camera is actually not terrible for general shots. In fact, its color tone and low light performance was better than what I’ve seen on many newer smartphones. It was sometimes difficult to get a clean image due to shakiness, but that has more to do with the odd physicality of taking a photo with a tablet than it does with the actual camera.
CNET: No direct mention, but it is touched on in the “Good” section of the review as something that brings the full iPad experience.
Engadget: No, they don’t quite pop like the 8-megapixel shooter on the iPhone 5, nor does this tablet manage low-light shooting as well as Apple’s latest round of CPUs, but in our opinion tablets should only be used to take pictures in a pinch, and as such the iPad mini does just fine.
iSmashPhone’s take: Surprisingly, (or not, if you expected a good camera) the camera was nice. It’s better than that of the iPad 2, and comparable to the iPad 3. It’s no iPhone 4S or iPhone 5, however.
Mossberg: If you love the iPad, or want one, but just found it too large or heavy, the iPad Mini is the perfect solution.
Gruber: 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.
Topolsky: 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.
CNET: If you want the full, polished Apple tablet experience in a smaller package, the iPad Mini is worth the premium price. Otherwise, good alternatives are available for less money.
Engadget: Regardless, the iPad mini is well worth considering for anybody currently in the market for a tablet…To consider it just a cheap, tiny iPad is a disservice. This is, simply, a great tablet.
iSmashPhone’s take: The reviewers liked it. No surprise there. We think the fairest assessment is what CNET said: If you must make it an iPad, this is the way to go. That said, there are good mini tablets out there that will cost you less.