iPad mini Review: The New Default iPad

The iPad mini is the best iPad yet and will likely become the default iPad choice for both consumers and businesses. It is both affordable and portable, two traits that are important no matter who’s shopping.  Apple has a huge hit on its hands, though it may take some time for the iPad mini to really catch fire.

A lot of people are asking why they should buy the iPad mini instead of the larger iPad with Retina Display. That’s the wrong question. After spending a few days with the iPad mini, I think people should start with the smaller device and ask themselves why they’d want the larger iPad.

Apple announced that it sold 3 million iPads the first weekend the iPad mini was on sale, but didn’t break out how many iPad minis it sold compared to the full-size iPads. Whatever the ratio, some critics say these numbers are disappointing and point to a weak product. I disagree. The iPad mini is going to be a huge hit this holiday season and beyond.


The iPad mini is Cheap

While the iPad mini is more expensive than alternatives, such as the Google Nexus 7 ($199), it is a relative bargain in the world of Apple products.  At $329, the iPad mini is just a hair more expensive than the top and iPod touch ($299)  and $170 cheaper than the full-sized iPad ($499).

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For Some, the iPad mini is in impulse–buy territory.  Sure, $329 isn’t anything to scoff at, but it is priced more like an accessory you would find at an Apple Store rather than an actual computing device.  Apple sells headphones and speakers systems that cost about as much, if not more than, the iPad mini. Take for example the $299 Beats over the ear headphones pictured above.

The iPad is going to be at the top of many people’s holiday shopping lists once again, but for the first time there’s going to be a relatively affordable option.  The iPad mini  is in the same general price range as video game systems, small TVs and bargaining–basement notebooks.  I have a feeling that a lot of people would rather give an iPad mini,  which is built to Apple’s excellent standards, instead of a plasticky

Black Friday special notebook or an off–br businesses are also going to love the iPad  mini’s  low starting price.  Some businesses balk  at spending wads of cash for iPads after equipping their employees with business–grade notebooks and smartphones. For many workers it’s going to be a lot easier to sell the boss on $329 device that doesn’t pretend to be a laptop replacement.

iPad mini is Much More Mobile

The iPad mini is  an entirely different animal than full-sized iPad. The iPad mini is the kind of device that sells itself once users go hands on with it. It’s surprising thin and light.

( Read:Size Matters: iPad mini vs iPad vs iPhone 5 )

Virtually every iPad owner I showed the iPad mini to  said that they would rather have the smaller model than their current one. The magic of the iPad mini is that people are going to start carrying them everywhere.  Too many iPads never leave the house, which means many users aren’t allowing the tablets to live up to their potentials.

iPad Mini iphone ipad

Here’s a photo that illustrates just how much smaller the iPad mini is than the standard iPad.

The fact of the matter is that the popular original iPad, iPad 2, New iPad (3rd generation) and iPad with Retina Display (4th generation)  are all too big to carry around without thinking about it. On the other hand, the iPad mini  is small enough to fit in a big pocket or small purse. It is light enough to forget that you are even carrying it.

Though relatively heavy full-sized iPad can be uncomfortable to use without support for extended periods gaming or browsing sessions. The iPad mini is much easier to use and handle than its predecessors. This is especially important for apps and games that require moving and shaking the device, such as racing games.

What about the Retina Display?

As with every gadget, the iPad mini comes with tradeoffs. Most notably, the iPad mini lacks a Retina Display, something that’s standard issue on the iPhone, iPod touch and full-sized iPad.

Side-by-side, devices with Retina Displays are noticeably sharper than the iPad mini. Text isn’t as crisp on the iPad mini, which may matter to those that read a lot of text on their tablets. But the overall display quality is still excellent. It has the same resolution as the iPad 2, but its smaller display means pixel density is higher, making text and other details look better on the smaller device than the iPad 2.

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As noticeable as the lack of a Retina Display is to myself and others that stare at screens the majority of our waking hours, nobody I’ve shown my iPad mini too has said anything negative about the display at all. In fact, most of the people I’ve shown the iPad mini to own a Retina Display iOS device or two. Apple’s continued iPad 2 sales (which ceased recently) are a testament to the fact that a lot of consumers don’t prioritize the Retina Display over saving money.

For those that must have the best of both worlds, the iPad mini will likely get a Retina Display in the next revision or two.