Monday, January 21, 2013

iPad mini


iPad mini – One month on

Having previously suggested that the iPad mini was one of the first true iPad challengers and a true rival to the Google Nexus 7, despite the price difference, one month on from launch and the iPad mini has grown into its role as arguably the most desirable tablet on the market.

Despite weeks’ worth of heavy use, protected only by the screen saving official iPad mini Smart Cover, the iPad mini’s stunning brushed aluminium rear remains pleasingly, and somewhat surprisingly, devoid of unwanted scuffs, scratches, nicks and most other marks of general wear and tear. Although the iPad mini’s screen is again proving resilient to permanent marking, the device’s oleophobic coating is less than impressive at preventing the all but unavoidable eyesore that is smeared fingerprints.




Despite the 64GB iPad mini now being rammed full of an extensive collection of TV shows, music and app based content, the device has shown no signs of slowing. Where the iPad mini has been found to lag behind some of its more high-powered rivals, however, is with load times of some of the more high specs demanding applications. An example of this is the Pages app, Apple’s word processing tool, which now stutters, falters and stalls before finally springing to life.

Although the Retina display rumoured to feature on the iPad mini 2 would be a welcome addition, the original iPad mini’s 7.9-inch screen is still more than acceptable with the device proving to be a valued addition to both our business and entertainment based tech arsenals.

Whilst the single-hand friendly form factor has seen the iPad mini largely replace our trusted pen and paper in a number of situations, the device’s easy portability and sleek user interface has seen it transform into a PA of sorts, tackling the majority of our working needs with aplomb. What’s more, movie and video consumption is a joy thanks to the wide variety of readily available content and impressive visual and audio performances.

Sure to convert many to the 7-inch form factor, the iPad mini, will please and multiple front and, one month on, remains the must have item on the market.

Continue reading for our full iPad mini review.

Introduction

Apple might have revolutionised the tablet market back in 2010 with the launch of the 9.7-inch original iPad, but the Cupertino based company is late to the 7-inch tablet party. With the iPad mini, however, it is certainly a case of better late than never.

Not your typical 7-inch device, the iPad mini is in fact a 7.9-inch tablet, with that extra 0.9 of an inch providing you with a very welcome 35 per cent more on-screen real-estate without adding too much to the device’s overall size. Able to be held in a single hand, the iPad mini answers many of the gripes with the original iPad’s difficult, at times cumbersome, size.

Featuring Apple’s customary premium price tag, iPad mini prices kick off at £269, a figure that is pleasingly £139 cheaper than the entry level iPad 4. Despite this, the iPad mini still costs £110 more than the basic Google Nexus 7, arguably the iPad mini’s closest competitor and a device that, on paper at least, is a more specs impressive offering.

With the iPad mini screen featuring an iPad 2 mimicking 1024 x 768p screen resolution, Apple’s stunningly designed, brushed aluminium beauty backs this up with a dual-core A5 processor. The Android 4.1 Jelly Bean running Google Nexus 7, on the other hand, boasts a 1280 x 800p HD display and NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, both of which are considerable upgrades.

Cameras front and rear, the iOS 6 operating system, Apple’s compact and fast new Lightning connector (as debuted on the iPhone 5) and a claimed 10 hour battery life complete the core iPad mini features list but, if we are being honest, this is not where the iPad mini excels. Unrivalled in terms of design and build quality, the iPad mini looks, feels and acts like a premium device and one which has the presence of an advancement of the 7-inch tablet market.
 
Apple iPad mini

iPad mini - Design

As with virtually all Apple devices, the iPad mini is an undeniable beauty, combining sleek, seamless edges, a stunning brushed metal back and strong build quality that is unrivalled by anything else on the 7-inch tablet market.

On first looks, it is most certainly a case of ‘Apple has done it once again’. A company that has a knack for producing some of the best looking gadgets on the market has instantly transformed the 7-inch tablet scene with the iPad mini, a device that oozes style and offers a pleasingly friendly user experience from the off. Whereas many of the other 7-inch devices on the market feature plastic heavy constructions, with the iPad mini Apple has taken the premium approach, a move that, although showing in the price tag, is one which separates the device from its competition.

Lining up at a svelte 7.2mm thick and just 308g in weight, despite the iPad mini’s additional screen size, Apple’s first 7.9-inch tablet enters the market with a more solid and reassuring build than the competition. With no flex or creaking when putting the device under considerable amounts of pressure, the iPad mini puts your mind at ease and offers a strong yet lightweight form factor that is more than just easy on the eye. Press the centre of the back and there's just a little give which you don't get on the larger iPad, and pressing the screen does result in the LCD distorting more readily but neither detract from the overall effect.

Apple iPad mini

With Apple keen to reassure us that this is not a mere 7-inch tablet, but in fact a game changing 7.9-inch device, it is clear to see why the iPod Touch manufacturer has plumped for the near extra inch. Although not as sharp as some the extra screen space creates a more immersive viewing experience that draws you in.

Despite being a couple of millimetres too wide to be held comfortably across the centre for prolonged periods, you can at least do so. And, if you do grip the corner instead, the lower weight means it remains comfortable for hours on end. With the tablet’s minimalist weight distributed evenly throughout the device’s body, the iPad mini is also well balanced in the hand not proving awkward to hold or tiresome to keep steady.

With few physical connection ports, the iPad mini’s power providing Lightning connector is hidden discretely out of the way on the device’s base whilst, somewhat strangely, the 3.5mm audio connector is situated on the top of the tablet. Having recently moved the iPhone 5’s audio connector from the top of the device to the base for improved, less intrusive access, it would have been expected to see Apple do the same with the iPad mini. As it is, however, the top-mounted connection can cause headphone cables to droop across the screen on occasion; an issue that although only minor can grate when attempting to watch a movie.

Apple iPad mini

This seemingly seamless design isn’t without a slight gripe, however. When playing a game such as Need for Speed: Most Wanted in which the device needs to be held in a landscape manner, the iPad mini speaker location becomes a cause for concern. Situated on the base of the tablet, either side of the new 8-pin Lightning dock connector, the speakers are easily muffled by the hand when holding the device in a standard and conventional manner, an issue that can severely diminish the sound quality and deplete the overall enjoyment of the experience.

Also, as visually appealing as the slim, brushed metal, flat backed design is, it does have a slight cost in terms of practicality. With little area to gain a finger hold, it can prove irritatingly difficult to pick the iPad mini up off of a hard flat surface without having to drag it to the edge of the table or desktop first.