For many, the main appeal of the new iPad mini is right there in its name — it's an iPad, the Apple device that has dominated the tablet market since essentially creating it upon its initial release in 2010, and it's mini, with a thinner girth, smaller screen and a chassis that can fit in one hand.
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That smaller size will be a welcome development for many — if the iPad is like carrying around a clipboard, the new mini is more like toting a paperback. That change alone makes it attractive to a significant number of new consumers, even if Apple's recent launch of the mini was a relatively muted affair.
Its comparatively quiet debut makes some sense: The original iPad and iPhone were revolutionary devices, birthing entirely new categories and setting benchmarks. The iPad mini, on the other hand (and somewhat uniquely among recent Apple products), is entering a preexisting marketplace that already includes popular small tablets such as Amazon's Kindle Fire, Barnes and Noble's Nook and Google's Nexus.
So how does the mini stack up? It runs iOS6, Apple's latest version of its user-friendly mobile operating system. The caveat is that it's an older version of its bigger brother — the mini doesn't have Apple's retina display screen or the processing power of the newest iPad.
Instead, its screen resolution and innards are more similar to the year-and-a-half-old iPad 2. But we're veering into geek talk — the bottom line is that the mini loads Web pages and runs applications quickly. For most, the speed here is fine.
An e-reader with added power
Perhaps most important to older consumers who have embraced e-readers, the mini's smaller size makes it a very real option for reading, in addition to all its other capabilities. The screen measures 7.9 inches, compared with the iPad's 9.7 inch tableau, so the default font is a bit smaller. But a pinch or tap to zoom solves that problem, and reading on the mini works fine. In fact, after a few days of using the mini, switching back to a full-size iPad felt a bit like carrying around one of those bulky holiday catalogs. The mini is light and compact by comparison.
Through the iTunes Store, the mini offers access to hundreds of thousands of apps — more than 700,000, according to Apple. It has a front- and rear-facing camera, and though taking pictures with a tablet still feels a bit unwieldy, the mini doesn't feel or look quite as goofy while taking pictures as does the full-size iPad, which sometimes makes people look like they're using a place mat to take a photo. The mini also is a great size for video chatting (Apple's FaceTime feature is included) and watching movies and videos.
So what you get is an iPad that fits more easily into pockets (large ones, anyway) and purses — but at a price. The mini costs significantly more than its competition, starting at $329 for the Wi-Fi 16GB model and running up to $659 for a Wi-Fi/cellular 64GB version. For comparison, the Amazon's Kindle Fire HD tablet starts at $199 for the 16GB version, Barnes and Noble offers a Nook HD 8GB tablet for $199 (16GB is $249), and Google's Nexus starts at $199 for the 16GB model.
For some, the price difference may be a deal breaker. For others, the fact that it's an iPad, and that it's priced lower than the full-size iPad, is all the convincing they need.
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