Apple’s iPad mini: the pros and cons

October 24, 2012

Apple made its iPad mini official on Tuesday, after months of speculation that the company would release a smaller tablet.

The new mini tablet has a 7.9-inch display, runs on an A5 chip and was built with the words “light” and “thin” in mind. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of Apple’s latest gadget.

It’s portable: At 0.68 pounds and 0.28 inches thick, the tablet is built for portability. That means it’s good for commuters and, as Apple made a point of highlighting Tuesday, for kids.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Forrester tech analyst Sarah Rotman Epps also noted that the smaller size is good for businesses. “[In] retail, for example, or in the medical industry – carrying around full-sized iPads isn’t that practical. A smaller, lighter device expands the number of people who can use the device regularly.”

But, some say, it’s a little wide: On the other hand, because Apple wanted to be sure that the iPad mini’s ratios matched the regular iPad’s to make the transition easier for developers, some think the device is a bit wide for true one-handed operation.

In his hands-on with the device, PC World’s Sascha Segan said that the iPad mini is more than a half-inch wider than tablet competitor Nexus 7.

“There’s no denying that the additional width makes a significant ergonomic difference, and it isn’t in the iPad mini’s favor,” Segan said. The Associated Press, on the other hand, reported that it was pretty easy to use with one hand and to slip into a coat pocket — clearly the width complaint depends on the hand and pocket in question.

It opens the iPad up to new buyers: The tinier tablet, however, could expand Apple’s list of tablet buyers. We mentioned commuters, but those looking for a replacement for the old paper pad might also make the buy. It may also appeal to women, who have snapped up the Barnes & Noble Nook and Kindle Fire, which slip easily into smaller handbags.

This less expensive iPad, too, may help Apple woo those who are close to buying a tablet but spooked by the $500 starting price of the latest regular-size iPad.

But it’s still pretty pricey: At $329, the tablet is, as Epps put it “less expensive, but it’s not cheap.” Cheap, of course, is the main selling point of the iPad mini’s top mini rivals, which are priced at $199.

The $130 price difference is a big one and likely will make consumers think twice about rushing out to buy Apple’s mini.

It’s a well-built device: Because Apple decided to build its mini with the same aluminum and glass materials as the bigger iPad and not the plastic or rubber that its competitors use, it’s designed to feel like a premium device.

Apple consumers have shown in the past that they don’t mind paying a premium for the company’s products as long as they are well-designed.

“The stellar build quality is the physical element which should seal the deal on the price,” Segan wrote.

But it loses a little precision: Apps and Web sites optimized for the iPad are supposed to scale down easily, thanks to the consistent screen ratio. Segan said iPad mini users will have to be a little more precise as they tap to hit links and other buttons on the smaller screen. He called it “noticeable, but not overwhelming” and said that he’s not sure if this will affect usability over time.

It’s screen is bigger than the competition: The iPad mini’s screen is nearly an inch larger than the 7-inch screens of competitors, such as the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire. That allows more real estate for browsing, reading and playing on the tablet — something Apple’s Phil Schiller was careful to point out in Tuesday’s presentation.

But it’s resolution isn’t as good as other iPads or the Kindle Fire: As expected, the iPad mini doesn’t have the retina display of Apple’s third- and fourth-generation iPads. It shares the same resolution as the iPad 2, which is good but by no means the top of the line. No reviewers knocked the display, but it’s worth noting that the device has fewer pixels per inch than competing tablets such as the Kindle Fire.

Related stories:

AP: Hands-on with the iPad mini

Microsoft Surface: Review Roundup

Apple surprises with 4th-generation iPad, faces backlash

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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October 24, 2012

Apple made its iPad mini official on Tuesday, after months of speculation that the company would release a smaller tablet.

The new mini tablet has a 7.9-inch display, runs on an A5 chip and was built with the words “light” and “thin” in mind. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of Apple’s latest gadget.

It’s portable: At 0.68 pounds and 0.28 inches thick, the tablet is built for portability. That means it’s good for commuters and, as Apple made a point of highlighting Tuesday, for kids.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Forrester tech analyst Sarah Rotman Epps also noted that the smaller size is good for businesses. “[In] retail, for example, or in the medical industry – carrying around full-sized iPads isn’t that practical. A smaller, lighter device expands the number of people who can use the device regularly.”

But, some say, it’s a little wide: On the other hand, because Apple wanted to be sure that the iPad mini’s ratios matched the regular iPad’s to make the transition easier for developers, some think the device is a bit wide for true one-handed operation.

In his hands-on with the device, PC World’s Sascha Segan said that the iPad mini is more than a half-inch wider than tablet competitor Nexus 7.

“There’s no denying that the additional width makes a significant ergonomic difference, and it isn’t in the iPad mini’s favor,” Segan said. The Associated Press, on the other hand, reported that it was pretty easy to use with one hand and to slip into a coat pocket — clearly the width complaint depends on the hand and pocket in question.

It opens the iPad up to new buyers: The tinier tablet, however, could expand Apple’s list of tablet buyers. We mentioned commuters, but those looking for a replacement for the old paper pad might also make the buy. It may also appeal to women, who have snapped up the Barnes & Noble Nook and Kindle Fire, which slip easily into smaller handbags.

This less expensive iPad, too, may help Apple woo those who are close to buying a tablet but spooked by the $500 starting price of the latest regular-size iPad.

But it’s still pretty pricey: At $329, the tablet is, as Epps put it “less expensive, but it’s not cheap.” Cheap, of course, is the main selling point of the iPad mini’s top mini rivals, which are priced at $199.

The $130 price difference is a big one and likely will make consumers think twice about rushing out to buy Apple’s mini.

It’s a well-built device: Because Apple decided to build its mini with the same aluminum and glass materials as the bigger iPad and not the plastic or rubber that its competitors use, it’s designed to feel like a premium device.

Apple consumers have shown in the past that they don’t mind paying a premium for the company’s products as long as they are well-designed.

“The stellar build quality is the physical element which should seal the deal on the price,” Segan wrote.

But it loses a little precision: Apps and Web sites optimized for the iPad are supposed to scale down easily, thanks to the consistent screen ratio. Segan said iPad mini users will have to be a little more precise as they tap to hit links and other buttons on the smaller screen. He called it “noticeable, but not overwhelming” and said that he’s not sure if this will affect usability over time.

It’s screen is bigger than the competition: The iPad mini’s screen is nearly an inch larger than the 7-inch screens of competitors, such as the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire. That allows more real estate for browsing, reading and playing on the tablet — something Apple’s Phil Schiller was careful to point out in Tuesday’s presentation.

But it’s resolution isn’t as good as other iPads or the Kindle Fire: As expected, the iPad mini doesn’t have the retina display of Apple’s third- and fourth-generation iPads. It shares the same resolution as the iPad 2, which is good but by no means the top of the line. No reviewers knocked the display, but it’s worth noting that the device has fewer pixels per inch than competing tablets such as the Kindle Fire.

Related stories:

AP: Hands-on with the iPad mini

Microsoft Surface: Review Roundup

Apple surprises with 4th-generation iPad, faces backlash

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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