iPad Mini Australian Review: Shetland Tablet

Forget the headlines and exit the hype train at the next station. The iPad mini is here and it's not the shining beacon we all expected it to be, but it damn-well got close.

What Is It?

A 7.9-inch iPad that sports the same specs as an iPad 2 and the form factor of your favourite A5 notebook.

Under the hood of the 7.9-inch device is dual-core A5 processor with a neat little clock speed of 1GHz, 512MB of RAM, a 1024x768 pixel screen that packs 162 pixels per inch and a 5-megapixel rear facing camera. It weighs just north of 300 grams and is built out of the same sleek aluminium as the iPhone 5.

What's Good?

The mini's form factor really is awesome. I love 7-inch tablets. I think it's just the right size for a content consumption device. The last tablet that did the 7-inch form factor some justice was the mould-breaking Nexus 7 tablet from Google and Asus. The iPad mini adds 0.9 of an inch to the device (diagonally speaking) and it makes the whole thing look that much better.

0.9 of an inch doesn't do that much to the device per sé. What really makes the mini pop is the thin bezel on the edges of the device. It's so tiny! It's the closest thing to an edge-to-edge screen we're likely to see from Apple for a while. Coupled with a slightly larger screen, all the elements come together to give you the impression that the mini is actually a lot bigger than it really is. It looks less like a grown-up iPhone and more like a device you'd actually use.

The most interesting thing about the mini's design, however, is the fact that it doesn't fragment the app experience like the iPhone 5 does. Sure the mini is a different (and slightly awkward) size that Apple hasn't made before, but the screen is still packing the same resolution as an iPad 2, meaning all the apps, games and videos work just fine. The 2x magnification button is still there for iPhone apps that need to be upscaled, but apps intended for the 9.7-inch iPad don't require obnoxious black bars like we find on the iPhone 5.

Inside the device, it's just an iPad. You'll need to update the thing straight out of the box to iOS 6.0.1, but other than that, it's the same, pleasant walled-garden it always has been.

The screen has been hailed as the iPad mini's Achille's heel, and that's true to an extent, being a non-Retina grade panel, but where it really shines against the Nexus 7 is brightness. The Nexus is barely usable in direct sunlight. The iPad still has some glare, but it's nowhere near as washed out as its Google-born competitor. It's much brighter when held side-by-side and the colours are far more vibrant.

What really strikes you about the iPad mini, though, is the weight. It's incredibly light. Apple has finally ditched its glass-obsession that we saw ad absurdum in the iPhone 4S, and instead adopted a new design language that focusses on pure aluminium again.

The battery life from the 4400mAh battery is great on the Wi-Fi version of the mini. If you're smart about it, you'll get a rough day and change before having to recharge the thing. To put it into perspective, that battery is three times that of the iPhone and roughly one-third smaller than the 3rd-generation iPad.

The Best Part?

Two words: App Store. The App Store is the best thing Apple has going for it right now. It's the reason it starts off every keynote saying how many apps there are and how much they're giving developers, and it's the reason it can get away with charging people this much for an under-specced tablet. I believe the apps on the App Store give a better experience all round than inconsistent apps from somewhere like Android's Google Play, for example. That's just me, though.

What's Bad?

There's no denying it. This thing is way to expensive for what it is. The 16GB Wi-Fi-only model is $369. If you want 32GB of storage that'll cost $479 and the 64GB version hits a whopping $589. The cellular version is coming in a few weeks and that starts at $509 for the 16GB model and tops out at $729 for the 64GB version.

While the 16GB model is priced at the top end of what I'd deem reasonable, asking for over $700 for a tablet with these specs is nothing short of a farce. There's no doubt that Apple will sell boatloads of the things to people who want a 7-inch tablet in the Apple ecosystem, but that doesn't make it right. It's charging through the nose for people who have been waiting for this for years.

There's not even a Retina-grade display to speak of on the iPad mini. There's no doubt it's coming, but the fact that Apple, who prides itself on crisp screens, put a 162ppi display on here is pretty disappointing. It's not as junky as everyone is saying it is, but Apple customers have been spoiled by a run of Retina displays in recent months.

Also, don't buy the iPad mini expecting a supercomputer. The benchmark results are pretty abysmal.

It rates just 753 on Geekbench 2. To put that into perspective, the Nexus 7 with its quad-core, 1.3GHz processor ranks a healthy 1200 and the more comparably specced, long-in-tooth Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 with its 1GHz dual core processor scored 793.

Fatal Flaw

Everyone knows there's a better one already in the works, so a lot of people will hold out until it packs a Retina display, at least.

This Is Weird...

Not sure if it's just mine or if it's everyone's, but my Smart Cover doesn't actually sit flush with the device. There's this little bit that always pokes up. It's not a problem, it just puts me off when I see it.

Should You Buy It?

If you've always wanted this form factor along with iOS and its bountiful selection of lovely apps, now is the time to jump in. The 16GB Wi-Fi version isn't as absurdly priced as its brothers in the range and if you use the cloud correctly you won't need all that storage anyway.

If you're a pixel and processor tragic, though, you'll want to wait for the next iPad mini. Imagine this device with a Retina display and the A6X processor in the fourth-generation iPad? Phwoar...

If you want something right now that packs more power and still saves you a few bucks, go the Nexus 7. It's still the most powerful and best looking device in this form factor, but it all depends on which ecosystem you like best.

Image: Megan Allen

The iPad mini isn't your average workhorse, but it makes for a lovely Shetland pony: smaller, less powerful, but just as lovely to own.


    After playing with a iPad mini over the weekend I have decided that I will ditch my 3rd gen iPad for one. IMO the screen is better than I expected. I did notice the drop in resolution and lack of crispness, but I can live with out a retina screen. It's the device I've all ways wanted. But I'm waiting for the LTE version that will come out later this month before I buy.

    Last edited 05/11/12 11:09 am

      The key thing to learn here is that retina displays are NOT the norm and one should not come to expect it on every device. If you can udnerstand and accept this like dan has then you'll view tablet and mobile devices in general in a much more sensible light

      People need to start realising that apple only ever shoves a retina display when LG or Sharp have actually invented a device with such a pixel density. "Apple" actually doesnt do jack crap except buy these panels and put them in. You dont see Google hounding about retina displays in the Nexus 10, it simply put it in because technology finally exists to have 300ppi in a 10" form factor.

      I hate how apple makes it sound like engineers can suddenly just pop out magical hardware features with no emphasis on the research and development and maturity required to make it happen

    Retina would be nice but it isn't a deal breaker for me. The A5 chip however is a deal breaker. I want to UPGRADE for that price, not just shrink my current iPad 2.

    "The iPad mini isn’t your average workhorse, but it makes for a lovely Shetland pony: smaller, less powerful, but just as lovely to own."

    You mean "just as much shit to shovel", don't you?

    Last edited 05/11/12 11:11 am

      I honestly have no idea how much they shit comparatively, to be honest.

        Luke, I'd like to know why Gizmodo keeps you reporting on Apple products, Since your bad experience of the iPhone 5 you seem to just be Anti-Apple and its clearly evident that your personal views stand out throughout every apple post since.

        Just because your Apple experience was rotten, doesn't mean that everyone's apple is rotten.

          Richard, I'm not anti-Apple. It's worth noting that the device I reviewed is the one I went down to the store and bought for myself with my own money. I'm pro-good technology.

            I actually think this is a fair and balanced review, particularly from someone who exhibits such an obvious Apple bias generally. After all, if Samsung, Asus or anyone else tried to put two generations old hardware into a new device and sell it at a premium, I can guarantee that no matter how good it was, it wouldn't stand a chance of getting even a half-decent review from anyone. Only Apple could get away with doing it at all. At least Luke is acknowledging the fact.

            yeah I think it's a very fair review. it acknowledges apples strengths (app store, though I'd add design too) and weaknesses (price).

            I was never tempted by iPads til now. I was going to hold out for a windows surface pro. but I can see that's going to be way too expensive for the small handy device I want and the apps I want to use are only in the apple store for now.

            windows surface will probably be my next pc of choice. but iPad mini is definitely my first tablet. 16gb wifi is just fine with me. and a5 processor isn't all that slow.

          Good question :)
          But 'L H' is a good guy.
          He is one of the reasons for me to visit the Australian Edition of 'G'.

          Given the review he's written here, that seems a pretty harsh comment. Did you even read it?

      i would think a shetland pony would have less shit than a full sized horse.

      What do you want, MotorMouth? Do you want us all to promise not to buy Apple products, and then have them go out of business? Will THAT finally make you happy?

        If you're asking, I'd prefer that you all spontaneously combusted and left little piles of ash all over the place for me to step over - less chance of a zombie problem down the track that way - but I hold faint hopes of ever getting my way. Obviously you have never owned a horse or a pony (or a sense of humour).

          I have never owned a horse or a pony. I do own a sense of humour. I'm afraid it only comes into effect when I see or read something funny.

          You need to ease up, mate. You really do. You are just plain unpleasant to see here. And I can tell you're an intelligent guy, and have some interesting things to say, but the way you go about it just makes everyone want to skip to the next comment. I'll admit this particular comment isn't one of your nastiest or most unpleasant. Would that that were the case.

            I write here the way I interact everywhere else. I don't know what sort of molly-coddled upbringing you had but I feel sorry for you're put off by opinions that differ from your own. It's kind of sad.

              The height of irony, accusing me of not being able to handle other people's opinions, MotorMouth.

              I don't mind you having opinions. You're entitled to them and you know what you're talking about. But you certainly spend a lot of time trying to force your opinions onto the rest of us. If me not liking you acting like a jerk makes me sad and molly-coddled, then I'm a sad, molly-coddled, sheltered little boy indeed.

              Yes, you're very straight-talking and tough, we're all very impressed I'm sure. But take a deep breath, calm down. This isn't a soap box.

              Last edited 08/11/12 9:38 am

    Although not a retina display, I think the decision to use the iPad 2 resolution was a good step for the Mini. Instead of "Hey buy this iPad Mini, the screen is great but there's only a few apps that work at the moment!" they can say "Hey buy this iPad Mini, it already runs 250,000+ applications!".
    The less they fragment resolutions, the better it is for everyone (developers and consumers alike).

    Haven't seen an iPad Mini in the flesh yet. Although I won't buy one I'm interested in seeing what it's like irl.

      go to JB HIFI, it's actually very good built, light and the corner is cut like iphone 5, but I wouldn't buy one as they are 'old' tech inside. maybe the next version will be better.

      I am interested on W8 tablet actually that run W8 Pro not RT, just that apps are ....sad in Windows store at this stage.

    Apple tablet are not overprice at all. They are sold with a reasonable margin, which is a lot if you compare it to Nexus and Amazon tablets which are sold at cost or below.

    The consumers may think its cute, but Amazon is losing tons of money over this, the stock is now trading with a PE of 3000+ because of last earning lost. Its not better for Google, despite the millions of Android devices out there, Google profits keep falling on decrease desktop ad revenue is low mobile ads revenue. It this keeps up the entire tech sector is going to crash and you end up with hardware running on bankrupt ecosystems.

      Exactly right Eric. They are giving them away to break into the market but at what cost? People now expect to pay little for hardware and next to nothing for software. I can't see it ending well.

      Also Google destroys companies by offering things for free. They are trying to do the same to Apple but I don't think it will work. In addition it takes years and money to enforce patents. I can see it crippling Android.

      ^ THIS. Except I'm not sure about the second paragraph. But definitely the first.

    You get what you pay for and the mini IPad is excellent value considering it's, strong construction compared to the rest. Alloy and glass are more expensive than plastic and will handle a bump or two, And lets not forget an unrivaled application data base, well done again Apple!!

    After playing with one, my review is just, use a nexus or a kindle first.

    Cause, I love my iPad, but man, the price difference between this a similar sized sized android device is just way too much.

    If you want the form factor and weight fair enough, but man, that price.

      Yeah that's what is stopping me the price. Especially since I would be getting the LTE version. What retailers do sell the Nexus & Kindle Fire here in Aus? Cause I know Dick Smith apparently do, but none of my local ones have them on display or whatever.

      I got to play with one yesterday, it was really a lot smaller than I anticipated, I love the form factor & weight of it, and I quite like iOS since it does everything I require and has the apps I frequently use. Though i'm thinking i'll wait for the refresh before buying one, will hopefully see a price drop and whatever else Apple decide to include.

        Try EB games for the nexus. Or you can buy my old nexus 7!

          Haha, alas my local EB games don't sell any of that tech they supposedly take on trade ins and all that.

    "Under the hood of the 7.9-inch device is dual-core A5 processor..."

    Ahhh shouldn't that read "Under the bonnet..."

    We are in Australia and the article was written by an Australian right?

      Isn't hood an international colloquialism for bonnet?

        Isn't faucet an international colloquialism for tap? ;)

        *puts MikeRanquist in Luke's trunk with some diapers and aluminum foil*

    Apps is right. Some of us need the apps in the store. I do, and I'll be buying one (when 3G comes out). If you don't need them, save your money and buy the nexus 7.

      Thing is....exactly what app is there that this has that the nexus doesnt? And are the tablet optimized apps that much better? Example? And lastly....those tablet optimized apps, which make better use of the screen real estate....are they practical in this form factor given the small size of the fonts...especially given the mini has the worst in class resolution? I haven't heard of a single app worth using that isn't available on android.

        Jmac, I've had android phones - HTC One X, and others- and I've got a nexus 7 tablet. Nice machines; I'd happily switch from OS permanently. But they just don't do what I need them to do. I have to be able to read and annotate documents on my portable devices - PDFs and docs. I can do that easily on my idevices. I've tried lots of different apps on android - documents to go. Polaris suite, various PDF readers. I don't know if it is android or the apps, but none of them are usable for my purposes. Selecting a small block of text is a nightmare, worse with docs but bad enough with PDFs. The apps fail to save annotations often enough that you're never sure you're not wasting your time. I ended up wanting to throw the machine at a wall. I miss swype and I miss all that screen real estate on the One X. But I'd rather have a phone that works than one that looks good; same for the tablet. I can basically only report my work experience; if you wanted the tablet for something else, you might be okay (though FIFA 11 on the nexus 7 is slow and unresponsive).

    Good summary at the end Luke. All depends on what ecosystem your most comfortable with in the end...

      My Nexus 7 must be a mutant because its screen is crisp and bright, even compared to my iPad3, definitely much better than the iPad Mini i played with on the weekend especially for text, that being said the mini is still a lustful device, Il skip it this time but if Apple make the screen better in the next version its going to be much harder not to impulse buy.

    I pre-ordered and I'm really happy with it. I mainly got it for gaming, while my hands are too big for comfortable gaming on an iPhone/3DS/Vita, the iPad mini is a great size.

    For those who are a little dubious about buying one - if you purchase through the Apple website they send it out via TNT. Treat it like a newborn, and if you decide you don't like it, you can request a refund online (within two weeks). Apple then send TNT back out to collect it. You'll get a full refund if it's in perfect condition with all the packaging. I'm not sure how they handle refunds for damaged goods though.

    My smart cover doesn't sit right either. It also doesn't hold as well as the normal iPads.

    Get the same issue with the Smart Cover... just doesn't sit flush - maybe its a problem with the product (red) ones?

    General opinion from friends seems to be that the screen is either too small or two big - but in any case, way too expensive. But work bought mine, so when you take cost out of the equation, I actually really like it!

    Picked one up in Friday and then headed off to hospital for abdominal surgery packing the 3rd Gen iPad and the Mini. Abdominal surgery can very quickly make you realise how heavy something is - and the 3rd Gen left me feeling at risk of rupturing my stitches! I would anticipate in twelve months having a (hopefully Retina) LTE Mini and a WiFi larger model for the home. It would be good if Apple can get multi-user going by then a shared larger device around the home makes more sense with a Mini in the World...

    I read in Giz that the iPad Mini has smaller pixels than the ipad 2 so it all balances out in the end.


    Two factors are stopping me from buying the mini for the wife.
    Most importantly the high price (when compared to other 7"s available) & the possibility it may come down in price if it doesn't get the warm welcome Apple is hoping for.

    Secondly, the possibility that 6 months down the track it will get an upgrade like the iPad 3 did.

    I got the XtremeMac case for mine from JB. Sits nicely, protects both sides and doesn't add too much thickness. It also has the magnets for locking the screen like the apple versions and does the fold to stand thing rather well.

    Got rid of my Nexus7, and got 64GB black mini.
    Happy as dinosaur :) More content on Flipboard, as screen fits more, and pleeease don't tell me about resolution, I do not care about pixels, only about experience in general. Better battery life IMO. Also better book reading experience , again in my opinion.

      Better book reading....that is an impossibility! Its bigger, with lower resolution. However there's no doubt a mini with retina would blow it out of the water. But its just too expensive. I can't believe it doesn't even have GPS in the WiFi version...,that's unforgivable. Although I guess they haven't got working navigation anyway. But how bout us golfers. My nexus 7 is so much more practical as a range finder than my iPad 2 was, which did also work well, but was too farking difficult to cart around with me.

    it is weird the way the smart cover pops up like that. I'd be heading to the apple store. it may be the magnet placement in the iPad or the cover itself. but I wouldn't be putting up with that for a second. after all the form factor is a big chunk of why you buy an apple device.

    @ Luke

    I take it you are not very well versed on Android, or you would not be comparing a nexus 7 which is all out better in all stats other then screen size, but then again comparing 8" to 7" is really a bad thing to start, but close enough is near enough for most.

    For those people using the one software issue the nexus seven has, which is Nvidia PRIZM tech which causes the washed out colours only after watching video on a non performance power state, you do know you can turn this feature off, and then the whole issue well isnt anymore.

    the nexus 7 has better technology stats, therefore, can do more.

    I" wish IOS was as flexible as Android, because once the Play store has the same level of app support, apple has its next nail in its coffin.

    Apple of late is slipping on the quality and innovation aspects which is what defined apple products, so to me apple are fading, and i own alot of apple products, but when you feel that each new apple device is less wow, then the next and every new android device is getting better, then the writing is on the wall.

    I'm seriously thinking about getting one of these. And while it's way too expensive for what it is, I really want it now rather than later so will most likely sell it once the 2nd gen is out.
    I can't bring myself to get the Nexus 7 mainly because of the apps, look and feel and I just know I'm going to really like using my premium Apple product.

    It's a good well balanced review.

    I think I may wait for the second generation though.

    Ah, I thought I should mention that the smart cover will sit well if you just slide it to the right a bit more. When it pokes up like that it's because it's not sitting 100% correctly. Easy fix. I also have the red one and thought it was flawed, but it's not. It's just not as smart as the bigger one.

    Gizmodo should stop calling this 7 inch tablet, and keeps saying that even Apple swore not to make 7" tablet but they did. Well they didn't, it's 7.9" that's close to 8"

    Please get it right, when you round up the number, anything higher than .5 should go up... 101 Math
    Not defending Apple but seems like you got this incorrect

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