My iPad mini review

By , Nov 7, 2012

I remember the first time I picked up my iPad 3. I was surprised how much thicker and heavier it was compared to the iPad 2. In my iPad 3 review, I wrote that even though the increased thickness and weight of the device are noticeable, I’d probably get over it in a matter of weeks. Several months later, I’m still not used to it, and to be honest, I’m completely turned off by my iPad 3.

The nail in the coffin came when I received a Nexus 7. This device was everything I needed to read, email, and tweet, which is pretty much all I’m doing on a tablet. In the end, the Nexus 7 didn’t do it for me and I returned it, but it clearly showed that there was a device missing in my life. A device that is small, thin, and light. A device that would be just like an iPad, but smaller. Enters the iPad mini…

Before going any further, we have to get some things out of the way. I will cut to the chase and admit right now that the iPad mini is by far my favorite Apple device, right after the iPhone 5, of course. It is all I ever needed, well, minus one detail. Since we’re on the subject of getting things out of the way, let’s talk about the lack of Retina display.

RetiNO display

Having no Retina display is a real bummer. Of course, if you don’t have a Retina device, you probably won’t even notice, but coming from an iPhone 5 and iPad 3, it is a real obvious downside to me. The screen sure looks slightly better than the iPad 2, but not by much. Just like I tried to learn to live with a heavier iPad 3, I am now trying to learn to live with a device with no Retina display.

The only reason why I’m not flaming Apple about the lack of Retina display in the iPad mini is my understanding of technological limitations as well as my understanding of how Apple works.

Apple could have certainly packed a Retina display in the iPad mini. There is no doubt about this. But were they really ready to sacrifice portability (i.e. thickness, weight), battery life, and cost? Of course not. A Retina display would have made the iPad mini bigger, thicker, and heavier. Something that wouldn’t have played nice compared to a device like the Nexus 7. Furthermore, you must remember that Apple is in the business of making money. If the iPad mini had a Retina display, what marketing gimmick would they be able to use next year to sell you a new iPad mini?

Industrial Design and build quality

I’m obviously heavily biased towards Apple products and your opinion may vary, but like most Apple products, I think the iPad mini is a beautiful device. You can just have it lay around the coffee table and it makes the scene that much nicer to look at. It gets even better once you hold it in your hands. It’s incredibly small, light and thin.

As a matter of fact, it is so thin and small that it even fits in the pocket of my shorts. For those living in colder areas and who don’t have the luxury of wearing shorts as often as I do, I’m happy to report that the iPad mini also fits in the pocket of my jeans. Obviously, it’s really tight in there and you probably wouldn’t want to walk around all day with the mini in your pocket. To me, it’s perfect. I can put it in my pocket while riding my scooter to Starbucks. It’s safe and snug in there.

I have to say that I was not particularly impressed with the build quality at first. When I unwrapped my iPad mini, I noticed small scratches on the back of the device. Maybe even worse, I noticed some glue residues around the Lightning port. It’s definitely not usual for Apple products to be shipped this way and I’d lie if I said I wasn’t disappointed. Using a wet cloth, I was able to quickly get rid off the scratches and the glue, but still, the memory is there forever.

I had a problem with a crackling speaker so I returned the iPad mini to my local Apple Store and got it exchanged. When I unwrapped the new iPad mini, it had the same glue residue around the Lightning port, which made me think that it probably wasn’t an isolated issue. The new iPad mini didn’t have any scratches though.

If anything, this shows that the iPad mini was rushed through production to meet the deadline. It’s the first time I encounter this issue with an Apple product, and I sure hope it’s not going to be a recurring problem.

Now, to be fair, despite these minor issues that were taken care of, the overall build quality of the iPad mini is amazing, just like I would expect from a $329 tablet from Apple.

Performances and battery life

Sporting the older A5 chip, the iPad mini has been performing extremely well so far for me. But again, remember that all I basically do is email, Twitter, RSS, and light photo editing. I’m fairly certain that the A5 will be more than enough for most people. For the purpose of this review, I fired up Real Racing and took the iPad mini for a few laps. As far as I can tell, graphics and frame rate were just as I would have expected. I didn’t notice any lag or anything negative for that matter.

Battery life is always a big concern, especially for a mobile device. Apple claims the iPad mini has about 10 hours of battery life, and while I haven’t conducted any scientific test, I find it to be quite accurate. I have obsessively been playing with my iPad mini since I received it late Friday afternoon, and I only had to plug it and charge the battery once. Yesterday, I exchanged my faulty iPad mini for a new one which came with 90% of battery. I suspect I won’t need to charge it for another day or two. All in all, the battery life is amazing.

Pricing

Much has been said about the pricing of the iPad mini. Everybody was expecting Apple to play the Amazon/Google game, but it just didn’t happen, and hopefully it never will.

As I mentioned above, Apple is in the business of making money. Actually, to be more precise, Apple is in the business of generating insane amounts of profits. When Amazon struggles to break even on each Kindle Fire sold, Apple makes several hundred dollars for each iPad it sells. Why do you think Apple is the most profitable company in the world while Amazon is actually bleeding money?

Last week we found out that the estimated cost of a 16GB iPad mini is about $188. Retailing at $329, it leaves Apple with a comfortable profit of about $141 per device on the base model. Note that out of these $141, you have to take off costs of manufacturing, shipping, R&D, marketing, etc, so it’s not like Apple is pocketing $141 net.

As always with high end brands, you get what you pay for. I’ve used a $200 Nexus 7 and I can assure you the build quality is nothing like an iPad mini.

I’ve never really understood why people complained about high prices for Apple products. It’s quite simple: their products are better than the competition and that’s exactly what you pay for. When you want to buy an Audi, you don’t complain that the A5 is too expensive. You know you’re getting a high end automobile, and you know that’s the price to pay. The same applies to Apple products.

The bottom line

I’ve said it before the iPad mini was announced and I’ll say it again: I believe that in the near future, the iPad mini will outsell the full size iPad. It’s more affordable, it’s more portable, it’s more fitted to what most people expect from a tablet.

I never found the full size Apple practical for work use. My job requires a lot of typing and a lot of windows to be opened at the same time, and the iPad just can’t do that right. For the last two years, I’ve been using the iPad as a content consumption device, but it was clear from the start that it was too big for me.

The iPad mini has definitely replaced my iPad 3, and I will probably never buy a full size iPad again, at least until Apple can figure out how to turn a MacBook Air into an iPad (believe me, it’s coming). I’m already anticipating the next iPad mini to come with a Retina display, and hopefully it will not be at the expense of portability as it was with the iPad 3.

Now the big question: should you buy an iPad mini? As always, it really depends on your needs and financials.

If you don’t own a tablet yet, the iPad mini might be the right pick if all you’re going to do is browse the web, Facebook, email, etc… However, if you intend to get any work done on your iPad, I highly suggest you get a full size iPad, as the iPad mini is too small to be used for content creation.

If you already own an iPad, and like me you feel like it’s too big for what you do with it, then go ahead, put your iPad up for sale on Craigslist, and go grab a mini. I promise you won’t regret it. Of course, if you can’t live without the Retina display, you’d be better off waiting for another year or so until Apple gives the iPad mini a much needed screen upgrade.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1328808990 Bhuvan Kalra

    I have an iPad 3, iPhone 4S and badly addicted to Retina Display. Will wait for the iPad Mini (2nd gen). iPad seems too big, I really need a mini.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    lol@ this guy trashing the ipad 3…lol it is 100Xs better than the lame retro ipad mini

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Obviously you’re speaking for yourself. “Better” is always relative. In my case the mini is better than the iPad 3. I understand it might not be the case for everyone, including you.

      • CollegiateLad

        I love my mini, too. I’m not saying it’s better than my iPad 3(they are basically the same device), but I think I enjoy it more.

        Likewise, I prefer the 11″ Air to the 13 inch one.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        “they are basically the same device” no!! the mni = the ipad2 not 3

  • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

    I finally tried out an iPad Mini at my local Apple Store and all I have to say is wow. Makes my iPad 3 feel like an old dinosaur. Even without a Retina Display it still looked really good to me and totally closer to a Retina Display than an iPad 2. When I held it at the usual distance I used my current iPad I did not feel like the display was bad at all. But obviously I can’t speak for everyone, some people just really need a retina display I guess. I would love to wait for a retina display mini but I just can’t stand the weight and size of my iPad 3 anymore after using the mini, I really want a mini now :/

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      lollololollo

      • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

        Wtf?

  • Ignacio Irigoyen

    Thanks to a Apple wireless keyboard, and Quasar my iPad 3 replace my laptop. I relay do not find this smaller version appealing at all, as with the big one I can consume and create.

  • http://about.me/Brian.Fanzo Brian Fanzo

    I couldn’t agree more… I was the proud owner of all versions of the iPhone and absolutely love my iPhone5. In my house prior to the iPadmini release I had 2 iPad2’s, an iPad3 and 4 iphones (Two iPhone 5’s & Two iPhone 4s). I work from home mostly on my MacBook Pro box and although I loved the iPad’s for social browsing and for traveling I found that typing & doing work (IT Social Media & Cyber Security stuff) that I would never go to my iPad. Mainly because I couldn’t type on it as fast as my iPhone and also it wasn’t small enough that I felt like I could take it everywhere.

    Fast forward to Friday delievery of my iPadmini… Not only am I happy to let my daughters watch dora on the iPad2 but I love the feel and look of the iPadmini & I find myself now keeping it with me no matter what room I am in the house. The retina screen I agree would be nice but its hard for me to complain as I now look for my iPadmini for all of my social media interactions as well as it now makes sense to take it to restaurants and in the car because of the size.

  • http://twitter.com/DucoHD Duco™

    Next year, Retina iPad Mini! Great review btw!

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Thanks

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Cannan/100000630162509 Steven Cannan

      The new iPad mini now with retina display :P see I can do this apple thing too

  • M L

    Sebastien,
    The only question I have is how Xcomics would look on it with reading comics. I know I am 40 but I still purchase many comics every week and although you have the ability to zoom into each panel, I like looking at the whole page also. I just wonder if the page would be too small to read on that size of a screen. Any experience? Thanks

    (yes I do many other things on my ipad also :P )

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      See http://cl.ly/image/1Q0G0q1v0q0f

      Easily readable if you ask me, but I don’t know how good your vision is :)

      • M L

        Thanks for that!! Not bad at all….hmmm…I need to wait for the lte versions to be released but we might have a winner. Only have an ipad 2 now, so the retina shock is not a huge deal to me. I do have an iphone 5…but still.

    • http://www.3sixtydegreescouting.com/ Greg Braddock

      I use the Marvel comics app and they look wonderful on the Mini. WONDERFUL!

  • theresonemorething

    “I never found the full size Apple practical for work use” Not too sure if that’s as it was meant to be

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      No, that’s what I meant. I can’t get work done on the full size iPad. Typing is a pain in the ass. Switching between windows is cumbersome.

      • theresonemorething

        I thought you meant ‘iPad’ instead of ‘Apple’. That being said, great review

  • Mohammed Sahib

    Thanks to iPad mini, iOS/apps support of my iPad 2 got prolonged for a year or two more than I expected. Cheers.

  • http://twitter.com/DJYouso Youso

    I’m pretty sure that after 2 months you realize that the iPad Mini isn’t all that. You are doing the “tablet tasks” on the iPhone5 just because of the better display. The size difference between an iPhone and an iPad3 is a good thing. There’s hardly any difference between iPhone and iPad Mini.

    I also think you didn’t explain the “iPad 3 is too heavy” thing well enough. You just said it’s big and heavy. Nothing else.

    It’s a shame you guys write these reviews after using the product for less than 1 week. You cannot say shit after 1 week. You can’t have any second thoughts after 1 week. 

    It’s also a shame that you guys reply to these people’s comments like your blog post is the bible and you can’t yield at all. Where are your second thoughts? That’s what we want to hear! Not the magical first impressions.

    This review definitely wasn’t all that

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      I linked to my iPad 3 review from 6 months ago. If you want to know why I don’t like the iPad 3 that much, go read it :)

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      As for the “bible type” comments, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. This is a personal review based on my own experience. I’m not trying to sell you an iPad mini at all price. I’m just saying that to me this is the best iPad yet. A month or two of usage won’t change that. But if it does, I’ll make sure to write another post explaining why I changed my mind. But again, I highly doubt this will happen.

    • FabianPVD

      My iPhone is for calls, messages, and checking email. Why would I want to be on my phone at all times during the day trying to read and browse on it depleting battery life? (Especially on such a small screen.)

      Regular iPad is too big for my taste, iPad Mini gets what I want done like I want it. It’s all personal preference. No second thoughts here.

  • http://twitter.com/xdracco Juan

    so when is that jailbreak due? =P

    Nice review Sebastien….

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      No idea about the jailbreak. And thanks for the comment :)

  • http://twitter.com/rickz97 Ricky

    No video?? I really wanted to hear yout beautiful voice jeff

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Too bad, this post wasn’t written by Jeff

    • http://www.facebook.com/xxLIUZHENYUxx Liu Zhenyu

      U gay?

      • najibjohari

        hahaha

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com/author/dujkan Christian Zibreg

      He’s got that awesome radio voice, doesn’t he? :)

  • http://twitter.com/thegabrielk Gabriel K

    Psh, if you’re turned off by your iPad 3, I’d take it off your hands xD

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      HA!

  • http://twitter.com/Timeth3ft David T

    if you want to pay for quality by the surface. windows 8.

    • http://www.facebook.com/xxLIUZHENYUxx Liu Zhenyu

      No.

  • notewar

    actually, i’m pretty sure thats why apple didnt price the ipad mini around the $250 mark, if they did, they would have to increase the price for next years “retina” version, they priced it over $300 so they can say, now you get a retina display at the same “amazing” price

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Good point

  • House4life

    Ipad mini or not mini.. As long as theres no jailbreak they all shit to me

  • m13

    I look at it this way. Do I regret getting an iPad 3 after using my iPad 2 after 1 year? No. It is heavy and I can’t wait to get a lighter Retina iPad. That is where iPad mini comes in for me. Lighter. But Retina. I will take a slightly heavier iPad mini next year.