What is the right slate for you
Apple iPad mini review
What is it?
Apple’s latest iPad is a smaller-screened model that’s powerful, slim and light.
Stunning design, impressive light weight, thin bezel, Siri, fast processor
The display is the same resolution as the iPad 2: this is no Retina Display. It’s not cheap, either.
The bottom line:
The new tablet from Apple is pretty irresistible, if you don’t mind the price. But the convenience and the gadget’s beauty beats all other small-screened tablets easily.
If you have an iPad and use it for reading ebooks, you may find it gets heavy after a while. Sublime though it is for watching video, playing games and more, the 9.7in iPad is not light – especially the most recent version.
If you want thinner, lighter and more portable, you may have turned to the Google Nexus 7 or Amazon Kindle Fire HD. These are very popular devices, and Apple decided that, despite the late Steve Jobs having said no to the idea of a smaller iPad, it wanted some of those Nexus and Kindle dollars.
iPad mini: Design
The result is one of the most beautifully designed, impressively executed gadgets you’ll come across, beating even the high standards set by the iPhone and iPad. Read the specs and you’ll see it’s light, slim and small. But it’s only when you touch it that it makes sense. This is lighter than the other colour screen rivals, and only beaten by the monochrome Kindle range like the Paperwhite.
So it’s ideal for extended one-handed use, like for ebooks. And the display size is impressive: at 7.9ins it manages to have around a third more display than the Nexus or Kindle Fire HD. But the gadget is no wider than Amazon’s thanks to a super thin bezel at the sides.
This could have been a problem – where do you hold it without touching the screen and accidentally turning the page, say? Apple has solved this with something called thumb rejection: the software knows that touch input on the edge is your thumb and can be ignored while you navigate the iPad with your other hand. Genius.
iPad mini: Screen
Less impressive is the resolution of the display. If you’re used to a Retina Display, well, this is not that. It has a lower pixel density than the Google or Amazon rivals. It really shows when you are using iPhone apps that haven’t been optimised for the iPad. They look either tiny or, if you zoom in, blocky.
Beyond that, the screen is good, especially for video playback and iPad optimised apps. And realistically a Retina Display would have added to the mini’s thickness, weight and price. Next time, maybe?
If you don’t have an iPad then this is arguably the best one on the market – high-resolution display apart. It’s also the cheapest. Even so, it’s way more expensive than its rivals. If you’re not bothered about the look or the weight, and are as happy with Android as Apple’s iOS then the Nexus 7 is much cheaper – a 32GB model with Wi-Fi and 3G costs £239 against the £269 starting price for a 16GB Wi-Fi only price for the iPad mini. And the Amazon Kindle HD starts at £159 for a 16GB Wi-Fi version.
iPad mini: As an eReader alternative
But for the extra money you get a machine that’s much better built, easier in the hand and with 275,000 tablet-optimised apps. Even so, the display is not as good.
Still, for book reading, using the iBooks or Kindle app, it’s better than any other ebook reader except the Kindle Paperwhite.
See also: iPad 5 - what we know
Though the iPad mini is essentially the iPad 2 in a smaller, lighter, slimmer case, it includes some extras. Like Siri, the voice-recognition program which is always fun. And it includes a much better rear camera than the iPad 2, a 5-megapixel model, though there’s no flash. The mini’s 7in rivals lack any rear camera.
This is a gorgeous, highly desirable mini tablet. Its screen size is bigger than its overall dimensions would suggest and it’s amazingly light and manageable. The screen, though no Retina Display, is good enough for everything except iPhone-only apps. And it’s expensive. But Apple has never tried to create a budget gadget and this one is worth the money.
iPad mini: what the web is saying
Take a look at the mini's bigger brother: Apple iPad with Retina display (fourth generation) review
Ultimate guide: What iPad should I buy?