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Monday, 5 November 2012

Apple iPad mini Review : A smaller i (Our Rating 8.5/10))


Apple iPad mini Review


Introduction:

Broadening its depth, it surely took Apple a long time to steer into new territory with its much-vaunted iPhone, but nevertheless, they introduced the world an unfamiliar iPhone with a larger 4-inch display. Strangely enough, they’re doing the same thing now with the iPad, as the aptly named iPad mini is set to appease those who have a flare for compact tablets that are easier to travel around with. And to tell you the truth, the timing couldn’t have come any sooner, seeing that we’ve been witnessing such fierce competition in the sub 8-inch category.

By now, we’re fairly familiar with what entails the iPad mini, but upon looking at its $330 starting price point, it’s still somewhat rather difficult to swallow after quickly peeking at its specs sheet. Still, beauty as we all know is more than simply skin deep – so let’s explore everything and see if there’s something more grand beneath it all.

Apple iPad mini Review
Apple iPad mini Review
The package contains:

  • Lightning cable
  • Wall charger
  • Start Guide
  • Apple decals



Design:

One quick look at its name justifies what you can expect with the design of the iPad mini. See that word attached to iPad? You guessed it folks, this baby is merely a shrunken down or “mini” version of Apple’s popular 9.7-inch tablet. Although there’s nothing fresh with the design of the iPad mini, there are a couple of noticeable differences – like how it employs the same chamfered beveled edge of the iPhone 5 around its trim. Above all, though, it stands out primarily for its impeccable construction, something that’s notably unmatched! In fact, not only does it instill a sense of durability and strength thanks to its aluminum chassis, but it’s incredible to see how skinny this thing is at 0.27-inches thin – making it skinnier than even the iPhone 5!

Of course, it’s wider to hold in the hand over other 7-inch tablets on the market, which is attributed to its larger screen size and its choice of employing a 4:3 aspect ratio. Regardless of that, we’re still able to grasp it with a single hand – albeit, we’re stretching it to the limit. Having its weight (11.01 oz) evenly distributed, we find it to complement the overall sturdiness of the tablet. The more we think about it, there’s nothing else out there within the same size category that comes close to the premium nature of the iPad mini.

We're able to grasp the Apple iPad mini with a single hand - Apple iPad mini Review
We're able to grasp the Apple iPad mini with a single hand - Apple iPad mini Review
We're able to grasp the Apple iPad mini with a single hand - Apple iPad mini Review
We're able to grasp the Apple iPad mini with a single hand

Apple iPad mini Review


Distinctively an Apple device, it sports a recessed physical home button beneath its display. Naturally, accidental presses are non-existent with it, since it requires a firm push to activate. Meanwhile, on the opposite edge above the display, there’s a 1.2-megapixel iSight camera for all your self-portrait and video chatting need, which also has the ability to shoot videos in 720p.

Apple iPad mini Review
The physical home button - Apple iPad mini Review
Front camera - Apple iPad mini Review
The physical home button
Front camera
Along the trim of the iPad mini, there’s nothing out of the ordinary, since it employs all the same set of buttons, ports, and switches found with its bigger sibling. Yet again, there are no problems activating its power button and separated volume control, seeing that they’re both pronounced in feel and springy in response. Next to the volume control, there’s the mute switch that places the tablet into silent mode.

On the top trim of the tablet, we find its 3.5mm headset jack and microphone – so there’s nothing different here. However, there’s a major shakeup found along the bottom edge of the tablet! Specifically, gone is the typical Apple 30-pin port from yesterday, and instead, it’s now flaunting Apple’s new and proprietary Lightning docking port. Also, the iPad mini has chosen to sport two speakers, as opposed to the single one from before, as they’re surrounding both sides of the tablet’s Lightning port.

Lastly, Apple is nice enough to bless this with a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera, which features an F2.4 lens and 1080p video recording – but there’s no flash. For a moment there, we thought Apple would merely outfit it with some paltry offering, since it was expected to be compete against some of the cheaper Android tablets on the market. So yeah, we’re glad they decided to give it some love in this category.

The left side - The sides of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Power button and a headphone jack on the top - The sides of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Volume keys and Mute switch on the right - The sides of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
The left side
Power button and a headphone jack on the top
Volume keys and Mute switch on the right
The lightning docking port on the bottom - The sides of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Back - The sides of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Rear camera - The sides of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
The lightning docking port on the bottom
Back
Rear camera
The sides of the Apple iPad mini
Display:

In this day and age, high definition displays are surprisingly abundant in super-affordable tablet category as well! Knowing that, we’re disappointed the most to find out that the iPad mini isn’t following suit, but rather, it decides on sporting a low resolution of 1024 x 768 with its 7.9-inch IPS LCD display. When Apple has been talking a lot of talk about its various Retina Displays (iPhone and iPad), they really would’ve made a statement by following suit with the iPad mini, but that’s sadly not the case here.

Indeed, it’s not as sharp looking when compared to other tablet HD displays, even more when its 162 ppi pixel density is a far outcry from the 264 ppi figure attached to the third and fourth generation iPads.

Beyond that, however, it’s still one pleasant looking display thanks to its neutral color production, wide viewing angles, and high brightness output – making it the ideal candidate for outdoor usage. However, we do notice that it’s not as vibrant looking as the iPhone 5’s display. No doubt, we would’ve love to see this sporting something higher in resolution, but it’s still tolerable to use with most things.

Viewing angles - Color production of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Viewing angles - Color production of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Viewing angles - Color production of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Viewing angles
Color production of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Color production of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Color production of the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
Color production of the Apple iPad mini

Interface:

Following in form, this latest iPad is running the same iOS 6.0 experience we’ve been seeing of late, so there’s nothing particularly new here. Rather than detailing all the specifics surrounding it, we’ll just mention that it’s simple, easy to learn, and intuitive – making it the platform of choice to introduce tablet newbies to. As much as we appreciate the static and simple nature of the platform, it’s still clearly lagging behind the competition when it comes to personalization, as it lacks the dynamic and visual allure of what Android and Windows RT has to offer. Then again, we still adore its choice of employing the iPad’s practical gestures – like its 5-finger pinch gesture to get back to the homescreen and the four-fingered swipe one to quickly switch cycle/switch between all the opened apps.

Of course, all of the iOS specialties are intact with the iPad mini experience – such as giving us access to posting social networking statuses via the notifications panel. Additionally, Siri’s service is available as well on the iPad mini, giving us our very own personal digital assistant to keep us up to snuff with our schedule. As a whole people, there’s nothing relatively different about the experience on this when looking at other iPads running the iOS 6.0 software. Even though it’s packing a smaller display, we don’t find it handicapped in the very bit when it comes to running all the same tasks with its bigger siblings.

The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0 - Apple iPad mini Review
The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0 - Apple iPad mini Review
The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0 - Apple iPad mini Review
The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0 - Apple iPad mini Review
The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0 - Apple iPad mini Review
The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0 - Apple iPad mini Review
The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0 - Apple iPad mini Review
The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0 - Apple iPad mini Review
The iPad mini is running the iOS 6.0


Functionality:

By now, it’s quite evident that Apple didn’t do anything new with the iPad mini’s experience, since it delivers the same set of functions and presentation with its core organizer apps. In fact, as we take a peek at some of them, like the calendar, clock, and reminders, we’re able to quickly adapt since they’re identical to past offerings. Can we say that we’re not surprised by this revelation?

Downsizing this time around, as opposed to sizing up with the iPhone 5, it’s more challenging to actually use the landscape keyboard option on the iPad mini. Whereas before, we didn’t have any issues using it on the 9.7-inch iPad, but with this, the tighter confines of its layout reduces our rapid rate of input. Interestingly enough, we actually find ourselves faster with the portrait option, seeing that our fingers encompass its entire layout without the need to stretch out our digits to hit something.

The keyboard options found on the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
The keyboard options found on the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
The keyboard options found on the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
The keyboard options found on the Apple iPad mini - Apple iPad mini Review
The keyboard options found on the Apple iPad mini

Finally, the email experience is characteristically iPad – meaning, we’re presented with an ideal interface that keeps us productive. Relying on that familiar two-panel layout we’re accustomed to seeing, one showing us our various accounts and the other showing the contents of the selected email, we’re able to juggle around our emails with relative ease. Obviously, it also helps that the setup process is a painless one.

The email experience is characteristically iPad - Apple iPad mini Review
The email experience is characteristically iPad - Apple iPad mini Review
The email experience is characteristically iPad


Processor and Memory:

After a cursory look at its specs sheet, some might scratch their chins and wonder why this seems all too familiar. Well, this might come to some people as a shock, but this “mini” iPad is sporting hardware similar to what’s found on the iPad 2! Yes folks, you read that right! Truthfully, the iPad mini is packing a 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 processor with 512MB of RAM, which isn’t all that spectacular on paper when compared to other things out there. Frankly, it might not turn heads, but when it comes to real-world performance, it has enough processing power to get by with most tasks – especially with more processor intensive ones like gaming, as it’s able to exhibit instantaneous and fluid executions with nearly everything we threw at it. Although it rears its ugly head every now and then, its performance isn’t diminished by any consistent levels of slowdown or lag.

Following in form, the iPad mini is available in a variety of storage capacities – 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions. As usual, you’ll want to choose wisely, since there’s no other storage expandability seen with it.


Internet and Connectivity:

For what it’s worth, we really can’t complain about the web browsing experience on the iPad mini. Delivering smooth navigational controls, fast page loads, and proper rendering, it has all the ingredients to make it an admirable offering for web browsing. Sure, it might not have the extensive tertiary functionality found with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, but nonetheless, we’re satisfied by what it has to offer. Naturally, you can expect speedy cellular connections if you happen to pick up a model with support for 4G LTE.

Browsing the web with Safari - Apple iPad mini Review
Browsing the web with Safari - Apple iPad mini Review
Browsing the web with Safari - Apple iPad mini Review
Browsing the web with Safari - Apple iPad mini Review
Browsing the web with Safari

Since the iPhone 5 is being sold by three out of the four major players in the US, it doesn’t surprise us in the very bit that the Apple iPad mini is being made available in LTE form with AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Along for the ride as well, it’s also packing connectivity features like aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n, and mobile hotspot functionality.
Camera:

Continuing to be a standard practice, there’s nothing new with the tablet’s camera interface, as it relies on the same exact UI from before. Certainly, we appreciate its uncluttered layout and lightning quick snapshot speed, but hardcore camera buffs will be appalled by its lack of manual seeing and shooting modes. Basically, the camera interface is predominantly taken up by its viewfinder – with only the option to add a grid under its settings.

The camera interface - Apple iPad mini Review
The camera interface - Apple iPad mini Review
The camera interface - Apple iPad mini Review
The camera interface

In general, we have to admit that the iPad mini’s 5-megapixel auto-focus camera is able to produce some pleasant shots with its quality – especially for a tablet. However, it’s still obvious that it’s nowhere close to the quality put out by some of the smartphone elites out there. As long as there’s sufficient lighting, it produces shots that have a good balance between details, colors, and exposure. With shots taken in lower lighting situations, many of its deficiencies become more noticeable – like its softer details and heavier presence of noise.

Thankfully, there’s also a lot to like about its 1080p video recording quality too, as it proves more than usable for variety of settings. Yet again, we’re seeing a very balanced performance with this one! As long as there’s sufficient amount of lighting, its quality is filled with average details, smooth 29 frames per second recording, gradual exposure, and clear audio recording.

 Performance:

Apple iPad mini Review
Using the Wi-Fi only version of the iPad mini, we have to admit that its battery life is more on the above average side. Charging its battery fully, we’re impressed to find it giving us at least 1.5 days of normal usage! Without question, that’s an impressive tally and whatnot, even more knowing it’s packing one sleek frame. Before getting ahead of ourselves, it’s worth noting that the results will fare less when using 4G LTE speeds.


Conclusion:

In the moment that the iPad mini was announced to feature a starting price point of $330, we were left wondering in confusion as to why? Factoring in its hardware specs and all, it would lead anyone to believe that this latest iPad is rather over-bloated at $330, which is still seen as a considerable investment over other highly prized tablets. Despite the less-than-stellar hardware in tow with this one, its unbelievable construction is proof enough to make us believe that its price point is every bit warranted. Looking at it, there’s no doubt that plenty of love was placed into the design of the Pad mini!

Besides seeing Apple moving in a forward momentum with the construction of the iPad mini, we can’t concretely confirm there is a diehard reason to stick to the iPad mini over other offerings. Sure, there are going to be people questioning its value for the buck, but when we think about its healthy selection of tablet-optimized apps combined with the rich functionality of its third party ones, some might be able to see pass the missed opportunities and view the value in it. Without question,, though, its svelte construction is what stands out most prominently beyond other things.

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