Apple iPad Mini Review Roundup

The iPad’s smaller sibling, iPad mini, was finally revealed last week in an effort to sneak Apple into the 7-inch tablet market — and the reviews are in.

Here, we take a look at reviews by three tech news sites that were able to get their hands on a mini: Engadget and The Verge.

  The Specs

Before we dive into the reviews, lets take a peek at what the new mini is packing:

  • 7.85-inch display
  • 1024×768 resolution
  • Dual-core A5 processor
  • Lightning connector
  • 5 MP rear-facing camera
  • 1.2 MP front-facing camera
  • 720p HD video
  • 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage options
  • 10-hour battery life
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
  • 4G LTE availability


The iPad mini starts at $329 for the 16GB version, $429 for the 32GB, and $529 for the 64GB. If you’re looking to add 4G LTE to any of these, you can tack on another $130 to the price tag.

Those interested in buying a mini could pre-order starting last Friday. The Wi-Fi versions will ship November 2.

On to the Reviews!

The design of the iPad mini is likely the most popular topic, considering the main point of its existence is to offer a smaller, more mobile tablet. The mini is different from its larger iPad predecessors in that its back is made of anodized aluminum, and according to reviews, it looks and feels much different.

Joshua Topolsky of The Verge says:

If the iPhone 5 is reminiscent of jewelry, the iPad mini is like a solidly made watch.
In fact, the iPhone 5 and the mini have a lot in common. They both share a metal housing (in silver or black) that’s lean and smooth, with that reflective, chamfered edge that runs around the border of the display. The iPad mini’s paint job is similar to the iPhone’s, but smoother, and on the black version I tested has a glint of blue and purple to it in certain light. It looks dangerous, and it feels great.

Tim Stevens from Engadget adds:

Apple wanted to be very clear at its product-packed iPad mini launch event that this isn’t just a shrunken-down iPad. And, indeed, that starts with a very different case design. While the second, third and fourth generations of iPads have all been more or less indistinguishable, the iPad mini’s anodized aluminum back looks entirely different. In fact, the whole thing looks a lot more like a blown-up fifth-generation iPod touch than a shrunken-down fourth-generation iPad.   However, Topolsky did mention that the wide form of the iPad mini feels kind of awkward in your hand (Stevens disagreed, saying it was quite comfortable to hold). Topolsky also didn’t seem too keen on the fact that it only has 512MB of RAM and a “two-generations-old A5 CPU.” 

Stevens offered benchmark scores and performance figures:

Geekbench averages out at 751 and GLBench shows 24fps on the 2.5 Egypt HD benchmark. The SunSpider JavaScript benchmark completes in 1,426ms. These numbers pale in comparison to the new, fourth-gen iPad but we think that in day-to-day usage the relative lack of performance won’t be as noticeable. Apps do load more slowly but most are still up and running within a second or two and when it comes to general web surfing tasks the iPad mini easily kept up with our taps and swipes. So, perhaps not the greatest performance in the Apple lineup.
The iPad mini isn’t sporting the Retina display, but it didn’t seem to bother reviewers. However, there were mentions of issues like the visibility of pixels. 


Well for starters, it’s a really good looking display in general terms. Apple is using the same treatment here as it does on the iPhone 5 and iPad, and it makes for a crystal-clear screen that seems to hover just a tiny bit beneath glass. Colors are vibrant and blacks are deep, and games, photos, and video look terrific. That’s only half the story, however. There’s no question that to the naked eye this screen does look lower in resolution than its nearest competition. Pixels are noticeable, especially in webpages, books, and when viewing email — and that can be distracting sometimes. Since Apple is the company that’s gotten our eyes used to the hey-look-no-pixels trick of the Retina display, it’s hard to take a step back and not notice.

No, this isn’t Retina, but maintaining the same resolution as a 10-inch display shrunken down to 7.9 means a necessary boost in pixel density: 163ppi. That’s a nice increase over the iPad 2’s 132ppi, but it still falls short of the 264ppi of the fourth-generation iPad — not to mention, the iPhone 5’s 326dpi. Naturally, this means that text isn’t anywhere near as sharp as on the newer iPads, but this is still a very nice-looking display.
As for the camera, Stevens notes that the iPad mini’s is better than the iPad 2, but not better than the iPhone 5. Topolsky added that the iPad mini offers a better image than most newer smartphones:

As you may know, I’m not a fan of people taking photos with tablets. Just as with previous models I’ve tested, I find the act to be not only awkward, but embarrassing as well. The slightly more diminutive size of the iPad mini does make the experience slightly better, and its 5 megapixel backside camera is actually not terrible for general shots. In fact, its color tone and low light performance was better than what I’ve seen on many newer smartphones. It was sometimes difficult to get a clean image due to shakiness, but that has more to do with the odd physicality of taking a photo with a tablet than it does with the actual camera.
The reviewers agreed that the battery life is very competitive with other 7-inch tablets, and that the software is basically the same as a regular 9.7-inch iPad…just smaller. A few changes were made, however, such as the ability to reject unwanted touches near the sides of the screen, which helps keep your thumbs from making accidental touches in apps. 

The verdict?


This isn’t just an Apple tablet made to a budget. This isn’t just a shrunken-down iPad. This is, in many ways, Apple’s best tablet yet, an incredibly thin, remarkably light, obviously well-constructed device that offers phenomenal battery life. No, the performance doesn’t match Apple’s latest and yes, that display is a little lacking in resolution, but nothing else here will leave you wanting. At $329, this has a lot to offer over even Apple’s more expensive tablets.

The iPad mini is an excellent tablet — but it’s not a very cheap one. Whether that’s by design, or due to market forces beyond Apple’s control, I can’t say for sure. I can’t think of another company that cares as much about how its products are designed and built — or one that knows how to maximize a supply chain as skillfully — so something tells me it’s no accident that this tablet isn’t selling for $200. It doesn’t feel like Apple is racing to some lowest-price bottom — rather it seems to be trying to raise the floor.

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