Review | iPad mini

I think it is finally time for me to write up my iPad mini review.

iPad Review Image

The iPad mini is 100% an iPad and I feel takes the place of a complementary computing device for those who already have a primary computing device that fits their needs. It does not replace the original iPad but will serve a different role for many.

Now that I have the 10,000 foot paragraph out the way, let’s dig in.

The iPad mini is an iPad

Quite simply, the iPad mini is the exact iPad I was waiting for from Apple … minus one thing (the screen, obviously, but more on that in a bit). It is 100% an iPad and if you would look at the specs between the iPad 2 and iPad mini you would be hard pressed to find a difference …

… besides the dimensions and weight.

Of course, that’s kind of the whole point, right? The iPad mini is implausibly smaller and lighter than the iPad 2, the former lightest iPad. The entire product also just FEELS better. I don’t own an iPhone 5, but the iPad mini feels, construction-wise, at least as good if not better than my iPhone 4S. It feels solid even though it is so light. It feels sturdy even though it is so thin. The unibody structure must make the difference, but it is still pretty remarkable.

Inside it sports an Apple A5 processor, the same one (with the corresponding die shrink) found in the slightly-updated iPad 2 which was released quietly along with the 3rd generation iPad earlier this year. It provides a similar experience to the iPad 2 and 3rd generation iPad (which had the A5X), but in a much smaller package.

The screen looks like an updated iPhone 3GS screen. It is brighter, has better colors, but is not a Retina display. Normally, it doesn’t bother me, but when looking at text you can see the edges which are just not there with a Retina display (as on the 3rd and 4th generation iPads). This is the one glaring weakness of the iPad mini but if you are not a person who noticed the Retina display … you are not going to see a difference.

I think that the screen is going to be the most impressive improvement for the future. I have to believe that Apple is already counting down the days when they will put a Retina display that is laminated to the glass on the iPad mini. The lamination process for the iPhone 4 and newer really makes a difference, but I’m sure that scaling that process up to a screen the size of an iPad mini is going to be difficult. That screen will be remarkable, but it is still a ways off (I would think).

There really isn’t much more to say. There are small tweaks to make the overall package that much better, but the iPad mini is as much an iPad as the original iPad.

How I Use the iPad mini

I think the more interesting part is how people are using the new device.

I owned an original iPad and used it pretty extensively, but really didn’t carry it with me very often. I used it a lot at home as the “couch computer” and also to have next to me at a desk for reading manuals of any sort. The Retina display definitely helps in this regard, but that is for the larger iPad.

The iPad mini is now my fully-mobile-personal-computer. It sits inside of a little sleeve and gets carried along on client trips, to my day job … wherever I might be going. That alone changes how I use it.

I’ve been able to offload almost all social networking usage onto the iPad mini, mostly Twitter and Facebook. I also do quite a bit of the reading I used to do on the iPhone on the iPad mini … just because I have it with me. I would probably do even more if the iPad mini had a Retina display.

I also use it to write up blog posts in the WordPress app. It works pretty well. I tend to add in any pictures and do any small edits on my Mac before I post, but most of the words (including these) are written on the iPad. I also tend to write longer-form stuff in iA Writer as well. iCloud syncing is awesome and works really well. I tend to then move anything worth keeping out of iCloud and into a more permanent archive on the Mac when it is complete, but the writing happens there.

I also do some sysadmin stuff from the iPad mini as well. Prompt is a wonderful app from Panic which just allows me to connect to my VPS and do any updates or make sure everything is running without needing to run and grab the full computer. I could make configuration changes and maybe even do some small editing if I had a keyboard, but it frees me to from needing to head down to my office to track down a larger computer to handle those minor emergencies that crop up every now-and-then.

With cellular access, it becomes even more freeing. I can sync, check, refresh, and … just use the iPad no matter where I am. It is quite freeing.

Needless to say, I spend a lot of time on the iPad mini, a lot more than the original iPad. It is my main mobile computer now and the Mac now stays tied to the desk. That is also really nice.

The End

Quite simply, the iPad mini is the best piece of Apple hardware I’ve ever owned. The screen is definitely a step down from the full-sized iPad, but the better weight, size, and “fit and finish” of the iPad mini outweigh that downside of a worse display.

However, it IS smaller, and I feel that the original-sized iPad is still a better replacement for a laptop or desktop while the iPad mini can fit into someone’s life who is already used to working with multiple machines. The iPad mini is more a companion device, but even then, it is still a complete iPad so it can do everything that the larger iPad can do.

Head over to the nearest Apple Store and pick one up for yourself.