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iPad  header logo
iPad mini
Sometimes less is more
 Handset: iPad mini 
 Manufacturer: Apple 
 Price: £269-£529 
by Jonathan Morris
Ever since I used a 5-inch Dell Streak some years ago, I always felt the optimum size for a tablet was somewhere between that and the original iPad.

More specifically, somewhere between seven and eight inches.

While others opted to produce 7-inch tablets, the huge sales of the iPad suggested most people wanted a larger screen. But now it seems that opinions have been changing, and with the growing success of high-powered 7-inch tablets from Amazon, Google, and, soon, Barnes & Noble, Apple clearly didn't feel safe to sit back and lose sales.

The problem for Apple is releasing something that doesn't devalue the brand, or impact on the success of the iPod touch, which comes in at £249.

The iPad mini, with a 7.9-inch screen, is Apple's answer, retaining the premium look and feel of the 9.7-inch models and continuing to support the innovative smart covers. Support from third-party hardware manufacturers is guaranteed.

Meanwhile, six months on from launch, Google still hasn't got its official dock for the Nexus 7 on the market.

2012 design, 2011 technology

The iPad mini uses the original iPad screen resolution, which is a controversial decision by Apple. The one upside is that every iPad app works just as it did on the original 1024x768 pixel iPads, with no resizing or change of aspect ratio.

You'll see the lower resolution straight away if you've seen anything with a Retina display

You can't help but notice that the screen lacks the impact of all the recently announced Apple products, from the new iPhone and iPod touch to the Retina display MacBook Pros.

With the industry now battling it out in the pixels-per-inch war, it's likely that Apple will roll out a high-PPI screen to all the remaining products in due course, from the MacBook Air to iMac. If it does, the iPad mini will look even more dated.

iPad mini (black) v iPad 2 (white)

To ensure there was no need to get developers to update apps (something many are still doing for the Retina display iPads and the iPhone 5), you still have a 4:3 aspect ratio. It makes it easier to swap from portrait to landscape, but does mean watching films with a border at the top and bottom.

However, it's only really web-browsing, eBook-reading, and document-editing that show the limitations of the screen size. For most apps and games, it's fine.

Compared to Android, where many app developers are still failing to make better use of the larger screens, Apple is miles ahead, and this is what make the iPad mini stand out from its more powerful rivals.

It's all well and good to have loads of power on tap, but there's an app for almost everything on iOS. There are more games, and more powerful apps - such as BBC iPlayer, which supports offline viewing, or the Sky+ app, which gives you total control of your Sky box.

The unboxing experience is part of what you pay for

And then there's the battery, which doesn't seem to want to quit no matter what you do. This is due in part to that lower resolution screen (which needs less processing power to fill). The screen also means that Apple didn't have to pack the tablet full of battery cells, which would have added to the weight and bumped up the price even more.

That's just as well, as it's possible to spend an awful lot of money if you opt to go for a 32 or 64GB model. Google believes a lot of us will access all our content from the cloud, but Apple makes devices that let you carry the majority of content with you.

Mobile option comes at a price

If you add the cellular option, for an extra £100, you'll get a nano-SIM socket that gives you the ability to connect to any 3G network, or EE's 4G network. The 4G iPad mini also adds GPS support.

For sake of comparison, the 32GB Google Nexus 7 with 3G costs £239, compared to £449 for the 32GB iPad mini with 3G and 4G. That's a difference of £210 and shows exactly what competition Apple is now up against.

However, this is where any comparison to Android really should end. Unless you're reading this review with an open mind to choosing an OS, you're probably already after an iOS device and just want to look at all the options.

Apple is even hoping some existing iPad owners will buy a mini as a second device, possibly more suited for travel while the original stays on the coffee table. The Cupertino giant is probably going to be proved right.

Having used every iPad model, I prefer the iPad mini to its bigger Retina-endowed brother. It has a poorer performance (A5 dual-core vs A6 dual-core with quad-core GPU) and a lower-resolution screen, but there's more to life than just raw power. Easily held in one hand, the iPad mini is ideal for travelling. Also, it's a lot quicker to charge.

With the 4G option, as well as support for AirPlay Mirroring - so you can connect to your big screen via an Apple TV - it's a more practical iPad for most people. And you can still hook up a keyboard if you want to be more productive (although the on-screen keyboard is fine when the screen is propped up and the smart cover is folded back).

Like the iPod touch, the iPad mini's release just ahead of Christmas is perfect timing, and even though early sales haven't been as high as other iPad releases in the past it's safe to say that Apple will be continuing to develop this product line for many years to come.

Reviewer photo
Jonathan Morris 12 November 2012
If you're looking for all of the power of the latest Retina iPad, you're out of luck. If you're looking for the most portable iPad yet, with great battery life and ample performance, the iPad mini won't disappoint
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Specs Size200x134.7x7.2mm
Weight308g (312g with cellular option)
Battery16.3 watt hour battery; up to 10 hours web/video/music playback
CPUDual-core A5
Screen7.9-inch 1024x768 pixel (163 pixels-per-inch) with fingerprint resistant coating
SoundIntegrated speaker + 3.5mm headphone + Lightning connector for speaker docks etc
Input/OutputLightning connector, Bluetooth
NetworkingDual-band Wi-Fi
Other featuresiOS 6, Optional Smart Cover, Cellular option includes 4G/LTE service suitable for EE network in UK
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