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Review: iPad Mini is affordable, effective

It only takes a few minutes playing with the iPad Mini to realize the scaled-down tablet computer will be a sure-fire hit with longtime Apple disciples and potential converts who've been looking for a more affordable entree into the mobile computing market.

tech reviews Updated: Oct 25, 2012 11:35 IST

Apple's iPad Mini will bring a lot more excitement and a little more confusion to the holiday shopping season.

It only takes a few minutes playing with the iPad Mini to realize the scaled-down tablet computer will be a sure-fire hit with longtime Apple disciples and potential converts who've been looking for a more affordable entree into the mobile computing market.

With a 7.9-inch screen, the iPad Mini is perfectly sized to be stuffed in Christmas stockings. Recipients who will discover the pleasure and convenience of being able to take pictures, surf the Web, watch video, read books and listen to music on an exquisitely designed device that's pancake thin.

As enticing as that all sounds, the iPad Mini also causes a dilemma, albeit a pleasant one.

The new option will make it even more difficult for holiday shoppers to figure out which mobile device to buy for their loved ones -or for themselves.

I felt the pangs of indecision within a few minutes of picking up the iPad Mini for the first time.

Apple's newly introduced iPad Mini and 4th generation iPad are seen during Apple's special event at the California Theatre in San Jose. AFP Photo

As the company usually does at its product unveilings, Apple Inc. only provided reporters with limited, strictly supervised access to the iPad Mini on Tuesday.

That meant I could only experiment with it for about 15 minutes, but as an experienced user of the iPad 2, I could quickly see that the smaller tablet does just about everything its bigger brethren does.

Even though the Mini's screen is 1.8 inches smaller than the standard iPad, the movie The Avengers looked lush, even in a side-by-side comparison with the larger tablet.

When I pulled up the latest issue of the New Yorker, I didn't have to strain to see the text or pictures on the smaller screen. A quick check of other websites verified that the Mini's screen isn't so tiny that it's going to cause a lot of squinting.

After I took a very crisp picture of another reporter testing out a Mini, I decided to email it to her to test how easy it was to use the keyboard on the smaller screen. No problem there. Best of all, the iPad Mini can be held in one hand and is about half the weight of the larger iPad.

The Mini worked so much like my standard iPad that it immediately caused me to have second thoughts about a decision I thought I had already made.

I like my iPad 2 a lot, but it's just too big to carry with me wherever I am. But there have been times I really wish I had it with me, like when I spot something that would make a great picture or when I've needed to check something on the Web.

For various reasons, I didn't want a smartphone that would require a data plan, so I had my mind set on buying the latest iPod Touch, which has an iPhone-size screen and superb camera.

Now, the iPad Mini has me vacillating. Apple isn't making it easier with its pricing strategy. The latest iPod Touch with 32 gigabytes sells for $299. An iPad Mini with 16 gigabytes of storage sells for $329. I'm tempted.

Like others who will no doubt be weighing the same decision, I'll have to make up my mind. Do I want something that can fit in my one of pant pockets like the Touch? For starters, it comes in more colors than the black-or-white Mini and offers more storage capacity for a cheaper price.

Or do I want to pay a little more for another tablet computer that can slip into a coat pocket and offer a richer experience with a screen nearly two times larger than the new Touch?

The iPad Mini is so mighty that I can't believe the iPad 2 will be on the market too much longer. The iPad 2's $399 price now looks like too much, given that the iPad Mini can do just about everything it does on a slightly smaller screen. The iPad 2 still may have some appeal for people who want a larger tablet at a lower price the newest iPads, but I can't see too many consumers buying Apple's second-generation tablet now that the Mini is available.

Presenting Apple's new pies!

Consumers who aren't set on buying one of Apple's devices will have even more choices to make. The iPad Mini is clearly aimed at siphoning sales away from the Nexus 7 tablet that Google Inc. began selling four months ago and the longer-established Kindle Fire from Inc. Figuring out which one is best-suited for you (or that special someone on your shopping list) will likely come down to weighing price against performance.

Amazon is sells a Kindle Fire HD with 16 gigabytes of storage and 7-inch screen for $199 and a similarly sized Nexus 7 goes for $249. That means an iPad Mini will cost $80 to $130 more, a price that Apple believes is justified because it boasts more features, such as front and back cameras. The Mini's reliance on aluminum instead of plastic for its exterior also makes it look more stylish and more enjoyable to hold.

If the speculation on technology blogs pans out, Google might make things even more interesting - and dizzying for holiday shoppers - by introducing a $99 version of the Nexus 7 in the coming weeks.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, displays the prices of the company's various iPad products in San Jose. AP Photo

Christina Bonnington for Wired
Apple said that you can operate the iPad mini using just one hand, but I found it to be a bit too big for that. Even though it’s definitely light enough to comfortably hold in one hand, I couldn’t do that and comfortably operate things without using both hands. Weighing a mere 0.68 pounds, it puts other 7-inch tablets to shame and makes the fourth-generation iPad, also light for its size, feel hefty in comparison. Read more...

CNET Editors' Take on iPad Mini
Apple has finally officially unveiled its iPad Mini and it is, indeed, extremely light. The iPad Mini sports a 7.9-inch screen and it feels as airy as the iPhone 5, though maybe a tad wide for some jacket pockets. Nonetheless, the iPad Mini feels solid for reading with one hand -- it's lighter than most books you own. It's also relatively expensive at $329. Read more...

Joshua Topolsky for The Verge
Like most Apple products, the build of the smaller tablet is excellent, easily surpassing the competition on the market. By comparison, the Nexus 7 and Fire HD feel like toys. Other manufacturers are going to have to up their game with this product in town. It's just a striking difference in materials and solidness. So in short, the $329 iPad mini seems a lot like an iPad... just smaller. Read more...

The new iPad Mini is projected on a screen at an Apple event in San Jose. Reuters Photo

Charles Arthur in San Jose and Ben Quinn for The Guardian

Apple made its play to dominate the fast-growing tablet market on Tuesday by unveiling an iPad mini - a new tablet half the size of its existing iPad - to compete with Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire. Read more...

Susie Ochs for techradar
Getting hands-on with the iPad mini could just as easily be called a "hand-on" since it's so easy to hold one-handed, and tap with the other. The first thing you notice when you pick it up is just how thin and light it is. With a smooth aluminum back, you feel like you could flip it like a coin, or spin it on your palm. It's as thin as a pencil and as light as a legal-size pad of paper - both nearly insignificant feeling objects. Read more...

Karsten Strauss for Forbes
Almost two months ago, when we’d heard rumors that Apple’s iPad Mini was in production, we scanned what those with their fingers on the pulse of gadgetry thought the new product would offer. Now that the Mini has arrived, let’s see what it has up its sleeve. Read more...

Stuff Magazine
Pulling a Google device out at an Apple event is like taking a cat to Crufts, so a direct comparison between the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini wasn’t possible in the minutes we had. However, we know it well, and have no doubt that the Mini feels the more premium device. While the iPad Mini’s screen is noticeably lower-res – Retina Display fans will baulk at the Mini’s visible pixels – it beats the Nexus 7’s for brightness and vibrancy, and seems a good deal bigger to boot. Read more...