iPad Mini Review Roundup: Smaller Is Better?

The first reviews of the iPad Mini are out and they’re just like we expected. Smaller is nice! It’s so light! But having such a hefty price tag without a Retina Display is sorta disappointing. Is the iPad Mini worth the cost?


The iPad Mini is a shockingly easy-to-hold tablet that, despite its wider form, feels as light as a Kindle. Not a Kindle Fire, but a Kindle. At 0.28 inch thin and 0.68 pound, it’s the slimmest and lightest 7-inch-range tablet around, although it has a larger footprint. It’s thinner than an iPhone 5, and seems proportionally as razor-thin as the new iPod Touch.

In fact, the iPad mini feels very much like the new Touch, even down to the curved wrap-around aluminum shell and flat back. It lies down far flatter than the fourth-gen iPad, more like a wafer. The headphone jack at the top and Lightning connector and speakers at the bottom are carved into less-tapered, more-curved side edges. Around the front glass is an angled aluminum bezel like on the iPhone 5.

Daring Fireball:

It’s really light and easy to hold one-handed. The hardware design — chamfered edges, less tapered back, metal rather than plastic buttons — strikes me as better, more elegant, than that of the full-size iPad 3/4. But it’s disappointing to go non-retina after using the retina iPad for the last seven months. All of the accolades and advantages of retina displays work in reverse. I adore the size and form factor of the iPad Mini, but I also adore the retina display on my full-size iPad. My ideal iPad would be a Mini with a retina display.


Even though this screen isn’t state of the art, it’s O.K. If you’ve ever laid your eyeballs on the ultra-smooth text rendered by the Retina iPad, its text will look fuzzy by comparison, especially at teensier type sizes. But the tradeoff it presents compared to the 7-inchers — fewer pixels, but more space — is reasonable enough.

“O.K.” is also how I’d describe the speaker system. The Kindle Fire HD, which sports Dolby stereo, pumped out noticeably more pleasing audio than the Mini’s sole monophonic speaker. Then again, even the best-sounding tablet speakers are shrill, with minimal stereo separation; anyone who intends to do some serious listening is going to plug in headphones or use something like a Jambox.


In our standard battery run-down test, which entails looping a video with WiFi enabled and a fixed display brightness, the iPad mini managed an astounding 12 hours and 43 minutes. This gives it the longest battery life of any tablet we’ve ever tested, besting even the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 by 42 minutes. Indeed during the course of our testing the battery on the iPad mini exceeded our expectations, expectations that were already high thanks to the consistently great battery life offered by the iPad family.


While we’re on the subject of the screen, let’s not beat around the bush — if there is a weakness of this device, it’s the screen. But that statement comes with a very big asterisk. As someone who is used to a “retina” display on my phone, tablet, and even now computer, the downgrade to a non-retina display is quite noticeable. This goes away over time as you use the iPad mini non-stop, but if you switch back a retina screen, it’s jarring.

That’s not to say the iPad mini screen is bad — it’s not by any stretch of the word. It’s just not retina-level. At 163 pixels per inch, it’s actually quite a bit better than the iPad 2 screen (the last non-retina iPad), but you really can’t compare it to a retina display.

The Verge:

The biggest change in the software on the iPad mini that you need to be aware of is… everything is smaller. 99 out of 100 times while using it, this wasn’t an issue, but it did take some getting used to in places. For instance, because the screen real estate is so much larger than an iPhone but icons are now roughly iPhone size, apps with lots of navigational elements can be a little less intuitive to navigate. Furthermore, the keyboard size feels altered — most notably in portrait — and the keys don’t see tall enough for my fingers.

The Loop:

The iPad mini has technologies that help you use the device too. For instance, when you hold the mini with one hand your thumb naturally touches the screen on the side of the device. There is no way to stop that from happening — it’s going to happen.

Now, when you’re reading a book and you touch the side of the screen, the book will think you want to change pages. And it would do that, if the iPad weren’t smart. But it is smart, so it recognizes that you are resting your thumb on the device and don’t actually want that touch to do anything. So it doesn’t. Smart.


    I don't have an iPad (or any other tablet for that matter) I was going to get an iPad 3 but when I heard the Mini rumors I decided to wait and see. The Mini sounds great for those who want a smaller iPad (i don't mean smaller tablet, I mean iPad) but I think the lack of a retina display is going to be a deal breaker for most people (it is for me).

      The price is the deal breaker. $100 more and you can get the ipad 4. $100 less you get the Nexus 7. Both much better.

    I'll be getting the new Mini iPad in a year methinks. My iPad 2 will suffice until then.

    Let's see: it doesn't have a micro SD slot; it has a proprietary connector; its underpowered; it doesn't have a retina screen; it ain't cheap.. why of course I'll rush out and buy one. Not.

    What advantage does it have over the competition? A rear facing camera.... yeah that's really all and I don't need that I can use my phone for that.

    Seems pretty good, but will get better when it gets a retina display. it'll end up being the same pixel density as an iphone too. next year then. I won't be bothering anyway, my iPad is perfectly serviceable as is.

    ... we will never have a 7" ipad....

      is 7.9 equal to 7 now?

        If you want to split hairs, Steve Jobs had previously said that tablets less that the 9.7" iPad were uncomfortable, and that consumers who have to shave off part of their fingers to use them.

        The delta between 9.7" and 7.9" is far greater than the difference between 7.9" and 7".

          If you really want to split hairs... Steve said lots of things that wasn't gonna happen... that did happen.

            Tim Cook said the same thing just not too long ago, insisting that the 7.9" iPad is not a 7-inch tablet

    I can't see the fuss about a retina display. my phone is reina. my work monitor and laptop are not. and I'm a graphic designer do you know. I should care but I don't.

    I don't think people with full size iPads will want a mini. but ppl who've yet to break into the iPad market. by have an iPhone (like me) are probably going to find it spacious and joyous to use. I haven iPad 2 at work and I'm not a fan. it's heavy and bulky. cumbersome. so the mini is just what I'm looking for. I am tempted to wait it of for a faster processor though.

      It's funny people say that. With a non-retina screen, the processor actually has less work to do. The retina iPad, when it first came out, was found to only be a little faster than the iPad 2, because the cpu and gpu had to do extra grunt work for the screen.

      I agree I found the ipad 2 too bulky and sold mine, if I was sitting on the couch I preferred just using my laptop, and if I was laying down holding it up to read it, it became heavy very quickly

      Being a graphics designer you should know retina is essentially a catch phrase. Going by retinas description "can't see the pixels at typical viewing distance" my 6 year old LG plasma t.v. Is a retina display.

    Simplicity is still what is winning over general consumers for Apple with iOS. It's benefit is that it is less a computer than any other OS. Unlike most readers here and myself iOS can be very limited, but do we represent the general population. No. My wife loves her iOS devices. She wants to create a document she goes into Pages, she wants to create a Spreadsheet she goes to Numbers. Where are her documents stored. In Pages and Numbers app. Got her a Nexus 7 and she almost killed me. She said that the folders and filing system are a convoluted mess. My parents are in the same boat. For my wife and family iOS is enough and the only time they need a computer is for additional storage of music, photos and movies. She has three iPad mini's on order (her and the kids), weight and size being the deciding factor.

      Agreed - different strokes for different folks. There's no denying that Apple do simplicity very well. If you want to do more with your device, then go with an alternative tablet - no one is stopping you.

      What interests me most at this point is the Android-esque fragmentation that's beginning to creep into the Apple lineup.

      I tend to agree as well. I sort of think of it as the user looking for an appliance not a device. My wife wants a phone/tablet to plug in and go. If/when we upgrade I backup and restore for her and away she goes. Never asks me for help again.

    Everyone's fixating on the price but IMO buy what you will want to use the most, $100 up or down is not going to bother you in a month's time (unless you're living below the poverty line, in which case buy food not tablets) but picking the wrong device for your needs and wants will continue to bother you for months to come.

    Just wait another few months and Apple will release a iPad Mini with a Retina display. Everyone knows that's Apples style; they could have easily released a Retina screen now but why not rip everyone off, let the suckers spend millions and then 6 months time lets release the same iPad Mini 2 with a Retina Display.

    Apple is ridiculous, and people who support are it morons

      "Apple is ridiculous, and people who support are it morons"

      And this statement makes your choices superior to anybody else's then? Perhaps if you constructed your sentence properly in the first place, you wouldn't be the one looking like a moron. :S

        I can't help it but i'm starting to agree with Bill, the way Apple operates its business and the way its customer base follow without question. its not unlike religion and i can't help but see people who own apple devices as 'less intelligent' as a result.

          See i dont agree, i prefer using my iphone and my ipad to any other device on the market, not because im an apple fanboi, or because im less intelligent but because i want my phone to be simple, as well as my tablet. I like doing all my main work on my pc, i have this distinction because i want just that my phone and tablet to be simple. If i wanted to do anything that an android can do over an iphone id just hop on my pc, i enjoy the simplicity of my ipad because i just piss around on it and if needed i can still do work on it. The way i see it is good on apple for giving people who want these things to be simple and easy to use without too much tech knowledge something pretty that works. Oh and im senior network analyst for a rather large IT Company.

          Sent from my iPhone.

      I ridicule your personal choices sir, and the suppliers thereof!

      A duel!

    I just got mine from TNT and its beeeeeautiful! I am super impressed at how light and premium it feels. I got the black and it is damn sexy!. Sure sure everyone will say i am an isheep..whatever, I say to you.. I am entitled to my own choices and pleasures and won't be bullied or intimidated by haters. I also do own a Nexus 7 but this baby feels much much sexier and much more premium. As far as the screen goes sure it isn't retina but its resolution is actually very good considering...definitely not a deal breaker.
    I love the size as for me being a girl, it is much easier to hold and use. I love it and don't feel like the device is overpriced. I am a graphic designer and I love great design and i can safely say this tablet passes that test with flying colours..

    Signed off from a fangirl :P

      Sure is a lot of 'graphic designers' on gizmodo at the moment. of all the tablet options available, why would you buy 2 so similar - not to mention they're both new products so they would both be recent purchases

    iOS is a dinosaur, i used an iPhone5 for a week after running android and its like going back in time. can't wait for new nexus or lumina

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