iPad Mini 1

The last little thing I spent my time with in the Apple store was one of Apple’s most fabled products. The iPad Mini.

Being one of the people who were there for stores opening on the launch day of the first iPad, I have been surprised at how much the iPad has changed my life. The iPhone gave me the web in my pocket. The iPad gave me the world in my hands. The iPad (and tablets by association) are the future of computing. Don’t believe me? Give a 5 year old and iPad and watch them zoom though it quicker and easier than any adult. The intuitive operating system is the key to this and will drive future developments.

Not long after the iPad came out, the blogosphere kicked in with talk of an iPad Mini. Killed off by Jobs publicly, the rumour never died. Then this year, it became a reality.

The iPad Mini is what I called it, a very large iPod touch. That said, the iPod Touch’s design changed with the iPhone 5. The unibody aluminium matches them. The curves and details are all interchangeable between the iPad Mini and the iPod Touch. This is continuation of design synergy. The chromed, tapered back of the older iPod touches matched the look of the larger iPads over it’s generations.

The first thing you notice when picking up the iPad Mini is a startling feeling that you may not have actually picked it up. It’s more like it’s floating in your hand. It is that light. It’s madness! It’s, like the iPhone 5 in that regard. This effortlessness is compounded by the fact that the iPad Mini is so damn thin. It’s like the pads that were in Star Trek The Next Generation. All of this makes the Mini great to hold in either one hand or two. One hand is enough, comfortably for the vast majority of tasks.iPad Mini 2

The screen. The first generation screen. It feels some what cruel to hit this device with criticism, not because of bias (I’m not and I’ll go in to that in a different post) but because I know the answer to the question.

‘Why did the iPad Mini not come with a Retina Display?’

The answer is simply that they haven’t made them viable yet. Sharp are working on it with Apple and Foxcon keeping them afloat to do so. Make no bones about it, there will be a Retina iPad Mini. Most likely in 2013 with the refresh where the rest of the hardware will get bumped up a generation.

If the hardware on the outside is very iPod Touch, the inside is the iPad 2. Almost literally. The A5 processor is tried and tested as a system-on-a-chip and the rest of the device is built around the iPad 2’s structure. Performance still feels snappy for what is essentially a processor from 2 years ago. Apple must have updated the manufacturing process and most likely the RAM, but a lot of this can be given over to how polished iOS 6 is.

Popping in and out of apps, web browsing, watching video, it all swung along like an iPad should. Web browsing is an interesting thing. There was a concern that bay bringing a smaller screen, that Apple would be adding another screen resolution that needed to be tailored for. Well, that whole, being an iPad2, thing came in again. The screen is the same resolution as the iPad 2 and thus when viewing pages in Safari, render exactly the same. This move means that pages don’t need to be adapted for new break points and apps don’t need to be rewritten. In that true Apple way, they just work.

There are a lot more similarities to the iPhone 5 that I won’t go in to detail here, such as the lighting connector and the scuffing issues. You can read more about those here.

As an owner of the 3rd generation iPad, I’m not jealous of this device. Instead, what I see is the future. Apple’s next full size iPad will have this same industrial design and that will make for a very tasty device. The next generation iPad Mini will come with a Retina display and most likely, the A6 processor. When that device lands, I would be more torn on what to pick up as my new digital companion.iPad Mini 3

Consider the iPad Mini recommended though. If you have the budget. It’s £110 more expensive than the closest competitor, the Google Nexus 7. If you are moving from an Original iPad, then the Mini is for you. All your apps will work and you’ll be immediately impressed with it. If this is your first tablet purchase, the Nexus 7 is a great option. Yes, the screen is smaller, the App selection is no where near as good as Apple’s and Android devices are susceptible to malicious software. When you consider those points, that price gap starts to make a little more sense.