iPad Mini hands-on review

Apple’s latest tablet has shrunk in the wash. But will it pass the Stuff doorstep challenge? We take a closer look

iPad Mini hands-on review – overview

An army of mini-er, similarly mighty iPads adorns the demo tables at the San Jose launch event, and we’ve grabbed ten minutes to put one of the troops through its paces. Here are our (early, somewhat jetlag-addled) impressions.

iPad Mini hands-on review – screen

Steve Jobs famously stated that a 10in screen is “the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.” Alternatives are yet to prove otherwise, but they have showed that 7in is ample, and arguably better, for consuming media on the go. So, how does the iPad Mini rate in that regard?

iPad Mini hands-on review – aspect ratio

The Mini’s screen retains the 4:3 aspect ratio of its predecessors, so it’s squarer than elongated Androids such as the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. This means there’s a useful chunk of extra width (an inch, in fact) for reading and browsing in portrait mode, but it’s not optimised for movies – in order to fit widescreen 16:9 content in landscape, you’ll have to but up with the ‘postbox’ black bar effect.

iPad Mini hands-on review – watching films

That said, it’s still a good size for films. Because of the extra 0.9in it enjoys over 7in competitors, you get marginally more space for video even with the black bars in place. Do the trigonometry – it’s an inch wider at the base of the screen than a 16:10-ratio seven-incher (4.71 vs 3.71 inches), and about 0.35 inches longer (6.28 vs 5.94 inches). Still awake? Good. Then we’ll go on.

iPad Mini hands-on review – colour and resolution

No matter the media, it seems to get the basics right – colours are bright and lifelike, and the resolution of the smaller screen is fine – although the iPad 3, with four times the number of pixels (264ppi vs the Mini’s 163ppi), shows it up a bit in that respect.

iPad Mini hands-on review – the app experience

As to how suited the Mini is to running apps with complex interfaces, the jury will remain out until we can get a sample to stick our favourites on. The likes of Korg’s iMS-10 synth use every millimetre of available screen space on the 9.7in iPad, which has 50 per cent more screen estate than the Mini, so whether those knobs and buttons become just too small on the new device remains to be seen. Of course, we’ll let you know.

The Mini’s interface is simply a scaled down version of that of the larger iPad, so app icons and buttons are necessarily shrunken. Fortunately the ones we tried were still large enough to hit with accuracy, and because the device is small and light enough to be held in one manly hand, using a Mini while standing should be easier than it is with the 9.7-incher.

iPad Mini hands-on review – design

Apple has done it again. The iPad Mini is a beautiful little thing, its curved edges rounding swiftly into a silky flat aluminium back. It feels solid right down to the details: the metal volume buttons are totally clatter-free, and the speaker grilles are mini works of art.

iPad Mini hands-on review – size

It actually seems as close in size to a phone as to a tablet, but because the bezel around the screen is so shallow at the sides, you get a good stretch of screen estate to play with. This is one desirable machine, whether you go for the all-black version or the shiny white one.

iPad Mini hands-on review – performance

On the inside the iPad Mini is basically a concentrated iPad 2. The screen has the same resolution, and the same dual-core Apple A5 processor powers the same 275,000-odd dedicated apps. As a result it’s still smooth in operation, and we only noticed any stutter when scrolling into the universal search screen.

iPad Mini hands-on review – camera

The one difference is the 5MP iSight camera. We didn’t get to test it out properly, but it captured shots quickly.

iPad Mini hands-on review – iPad Mini vs Google Nexus 7

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.


Neither device is obviously faster in operation than the other – lag is so minimal as to be a non-issue in either case – so for most, the determining factors lie beyond the hardware.

iPad Mini hands-on review – Android vs iOS apps

The roster of apps available for the iPad Mini is of a much higher quality than those available for the Nexus. Then again, the Nexus is £70 cheaper (the 16GB model is £200; the 16GB iPad Mini Wi-Fi is £270), it packs next-gen tech (NFC, powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor) and runs what is arguably a fresher and more innovative OS (Android Jellybean) with widgets that provide live information every time you unlock. On the other hand again, the iPad Mini has a decent rear camera, while the Nexus has none at all.

iPad Mini hands-on review – verdict

Given the importance of apps and screen quality to the tablet experience, we’d suggest the iPad is worth the extra. Have a hold of each and it might even be a no-brainer. It’s a very desirable device, and it’s going to sell like crazy this Christmas.

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