Thursday 29 Sep 2016

iPad Mini
Jennifer Ramirez

After several months of rumours, the iPad Mini has gone on sale with a 7.9-inch screen. Is it a Google Nexus 7 beater though?

Apple has presented a smaller sized version of the iPad, unsurprisingly called the iPad Mini.  Boiling down the iPad mini to its core premise may not tell you everything you need to know about the 7.9-inch tablet, but it does set the scene: Apple’s legendary build quality, iOS and the hundreds of thousands of tablet apps in the App Store, and a guarantee that it’s going to polarize consumers. The iPad Mini launch comes as no great shock, but as the reviews roll in, what remains surprising is how Apple has reacted to the 7-inch tablet hype. It starts at $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model and went on sale yesterday.

Whether or not you think it's too pricey, the iPad mini feels truly luxurious to hold. Its 7.9-inch front is dominated by a single piece of glass with the small, round home button sitting at the bottom. It's 7.2mm thin and 308g light.

Build quality is remarkable. Probably because it’s like a scaled down iPad, the attention to manufacturing quality is even more evident around its diminuitive frame. For a start, it feels absolutely rigid that all aluminium backplate and frame melds into the front glass to make an unyielding featherlight slice.

The LED-backlit screen looks amazing on the 7.9-inch display. Colours are vivid, text is pin sharp, web pages render quickly and, because there's almost a 4:3 ratio going on, you get a lot of content on page. Those 1024 x 768 pixels are condensed into a smaller space than the 9.7in of the iPad 2. So where both the original iPad and iPad 2 had a resolution of 132 pixels per inch (ppi), the iPad mini raises its pixel density to 163ppi.

No amount of marketing spin is going to allow that to be called ‘Retina’; and sure enough the display is not as sharp as the swelling catalogue of hardware that Apple now sells with a Retina specification. The display is still IPS, with all the rich colours and spectacularly wide viewing angles we’ve come to expect from the screen technology, once the preserve of high-end graphic design monitors.

With its 4:3 aspect ratio, the iPad mini also looks more ‘right’, closer to the golden ratio that is so much more pleasing to the eye than the stretched 16:9 used by almost every other tablet maker.

The Ipad Mini has a dual-core A5X processor, the same as the Ipad 2. Apple didn't expose the memory size. We did a bit of web browsing and watched some BBC Iplayer footage in our initial tests, and experienced nippy browsing and a smooth media playback experience.

At the top of the mini you'll spy an HD camera for FaceTime and there's a 5-megapixel camera around the back, which can shoot video in 1080p. Like all recent Apple iPads, the iPad mini has dual-band Wi-Fi, allowing it to roam across the less crowded 5GHz radio band. Apple also lists channel bonding in its spec, where two adjacent 20MHz channels are combined to make a 40Hz channel for potentially greater throughput.

iOS 6 on the iPad mini may be more compact than we’ve seen it on an Apple tablet before, but it’s a familiar platform and we were quickly up to speed despite the diminished scale. All of Apple’s regular apps are present - Safari, Mail, FaceTime, iTunes, Game Center, Maps, and more - along with Siri, which expanded to the iPad line over the summer.

Apple quotes up to 10hrs of wireless browsing over Wi-Fi for the iPad mini, or up to 9hrs if you’re using the tablet’s cellular connection. In practice, with a mixture of browsing, some video playback, games, music - both locally-stored and streaming - and messaging, we comfortably exceeded Apple’s estimate. In fact, we exceeded 11hrs of use before encountering a battery warning.

The iPad mini boasts the same functionality and wealth of tablet-specific apps we've come to expect from its big brother, but in a smaller, lighter and more hand-friendly design.

It's especially good for magazines and illustrated books, but it's not as cheap as we were expecting for, and it doesn't offer the super-high resolution of its bigger brother. The $329 price may well tempt some budget-conscious buyers who have lusted for an iPad. But Apple believes the lower size and weight, not the price, are the key attractions. If you love the iPad, or want one but just found it too large or heavy, the iPad mini is the ideal solution.

Jennifer Ramirez, known as Jenny, has reviewed and edited for 5+ years. Originally from Toronto, she grew up performing and competing in rhythmic gymnastics. Jenny enjoys reviewing movies, books and music albums. She describes herself as funny and righteous, with a 'go that extra mile' attitude. Her philosophy is quite simple: try to live life to the fullest Jenny writes that hr passion is books. She reads and reviews current and back-list literary fiction, crime fiction, thrillers, occasionally science fiction, and narrative nonfiction. She also loves music. She's a huge fan of The Maine and All Time Low! Joy is her favorite word and creativity is something she can't live without.

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