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11/9/2012
11:10 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Apple iPad Mini: One Week In

Now that I've spent a full week using the iPad Mini, here are some thoughts on its strengths and weaknesses.

iPad Mini Tablet: Visual Tour
iPad Mini Tablet: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
I want to love the iPad Mini, but I'm afraid it's going to have to settle for something a little bit less. I've used the iPad Mini every day for the last week, jumping back and forth to a full-sized iPad and Google Nexus 7 to see how its usability compares day in and day out. Here's what I found.

Like the Nexus 7, the smaller, thinner, lighter frame of the iPad Mini makes it much more comfortable for couch surfing. On any given night, I settle in to watch TV at around 10 PM, with tablet in tow. The full-sized iPad can be fatiguing to use for the one or two hours that I surf while catching up on my favorite shows. The iPad Mini is perfect for this.

As with the full-sized iPad, I hold the iPad Mini in landscape orientation (horizontal) most of the time. It feels more natural o me that way, and it negates the on-screen navigation problems caused by the thinner frame around the iPad Mini's screen.

[ iPad 4 or Mini? Read Apple iPad Mini Vs. iPad 4: Which To Buy. ]

Despite the Mini's smaller dimensions, it's just a wee bit too wide to use one-handed for very long. I have large hands and still have to stretch my hand a bit, which causes muscle fatigue after about 10 minutes. The Nexus 7, which has a smaller, narrow display and build, is more comfortable to use in the portrait orientation and to hold one-handed.

After further testing how well apps run on the iPad Mini, I can say with confidence that my initial fears about the processor being underpowered can be put to rest. I loaded some heavy-duty 3D games on the iPad Mini, as well as RAM-intensive music creation apps. They all worked flawlessly and ran without issues. iMovie and GarageBand, for example, were just as quick to use for pasting together movies and recording some sample chord progressions.

Infinity Blade II, one of my all-time favorite iPad games, worked very well -- but definitely loses the impressive visuals thanks to the iPad Mini's inferior screen. Where Infinity Blade II looks absolutely stunning on the Retina Display of the third-generation iPad, it looks merely OK on the iPad Mini.

The screen remains my biggest gripe with the device. If you haven't used another high-resolution screen for several days, you don't notice it much. But if you switch back and forth between a Retina Display iPad or even the Nexus 7, the iPad Mini's display is a big let-down.

I picked up one of the iPad Mini Smart Covers with the device and have used it all week, too. I'm not as impressed with it as with the Smart Cover for full-sized iPads. The iPad Mini's Smart Cover has three segments instead of four. With four segments, the full-sized Smart Covers have one segment that overlaps and magnetically connects to form a strong, supportive triangle under the iPad. This isn't the case with the iPad Mini's Smart Cover. There's no overlap, so the triangular stand is not nearly as strong. Since it is smaller, it also presents a lower viewing angle, which makes the iPad Mini harder to see and interact with. The Smart Cover for full-sized iPads provides a bit more tilt.

I have yet to find any good third-party cases that work well with the iPad Mini. Accessory makers have yet to really ramp up production. I assume by the end of the year there will be plenty to from which to choose.

Battery life is quite good. The iPad Mini easily bests the Nexus 7 and Motorola XyBoard 8.2 by several hours when browsing via Wi-Fi and listening to music. In fact, I've had a hard time running the battery down completely.

At this point, I like the iPad Mini a lot, but I don't love it. The display alone really detracts from the overall experience -- at least if you're coming from a device with a Retina Display. If the iPad Mini is your first-ever tablet, though, you're probably not going to worry about the display too much.

I'd still recommend the iPad Mini over most Android tablets, with the exception of the Nexus 7 or Nexus 10. The iPad Mini's app ecosystem and compatibility with Apple's iTunes music and movie stores gives the iPad Mini a real leg up on the competition.

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ppirtle752
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ppirtle752,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/10/2012 | 4:57:17 PM
re: Apple iPad Mini: One Week In
I actually bought the Nexus 7 first. While I liked it, it didn't work with my banking app because they skimped on the camera. Only 1.2MP, while my banking app needed 2MP. Since I don't use a smartphone, I was going to use my tablet for my banking app. Since the Nexus 7 won't work with the banking app, I returned it and got an iPad mini instead.

I liked the Nexus 7 and would have kept it if they had put a decent camera on it. I do like the iPad mini, but I really hate the price. And it is a tad too wide as the reviewer said. It's overpriced by about $100. And except for the camera, I actually prefer the Nexus 7 over the Mini. Mainly because of price.

I'm happy with the iPad mini. I just wish I had an extra $100 in my pocket.
eyehawk
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eyehawk,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/10/2012 | 4:50:49 PM
re: Apple iPad Mini: One Week In
If you went back to a 19" 720p TV from your 55" 1080p would you expect the same clarity and definition?
Well then.. what WERE you expecting?

To think you get paid for such silliness in this writing
Ampman
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Ampman,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/10/2012 | 4:36:50 PM
re: Apple iPad Mini: One Week In
I don't play games anymore (I was crazy about Atari games back in the 80's, when my kids were not interested at all). My Motorola Q phone is a good phone. I'll stick with it. LOL. OTOH I use 21" display in my bed laptop (with a broken display) for internet. I don't need iPad. I have computer in virtually every room, linked by Dropbox. No need for carrying one around. iPad etc...can't do Autodesk's Inventor and other CAE programs. I refuse to put earbuds in my audiophile ears. I want to FEEL the bass, the details, the soundstage only a high-end audio system can provide (>$3K per channel, and expensive tower speakers). It's just me.
ANON1252187963717
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ANON1252187963717,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/10/2012 | 4:35:23 PM
re: Apple iPad Mini: One Week In
I've had mine for about a week as well, and it has pretty much replaced my Retina iPad. The form factor makes it much more mobile, and I've been surprised at how little I miss the larger iPad. The Mini does everything the larger one can do, only smaller. The quality difference between the two displays is a non-issue for me, since the quality of the Mini is so good. The advantages of the smaller size far outweigh the negligible difference in display quality, in my opinion. I'm lovin' it.
Patrick Hill
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Patrick Hill,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/10/2012 | 4:15:59 PM
re: Apple iPad Mini: One Week In
I went to buy iPad mini yesterday. It felt fantastic in hand. It feels so much lighter than the iPad, but one shortcoming killed it for me. Small print text on the screen is not readable. Try it for yourself. Go to the browser, select the home page for CNN (www.cnn.com). Look at the lower left where the blue jump links are. The characters are fuzzy and not readable. Then try the same in the iPad. I believe anyone who intends to browse the Internet occasionally on the mini should should avoid purchasing it, until it gets a retina display. This problem is so bad that I am amazed that this product was released! I am not sure if Jobs would have allowed this.
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