There have been two camps in the tablet market — one that insists that anything with a screen of less than 9.7 inches will not deliver the ‘tablet experience’ and another that believes that consumers actually would be content with something smaller that could fit into an overcoat pocket and be more easily handled. Until a few months ago, the company that started the tablet revolution, Apple, was firmly in the first camp — Steve Jobs even publicly derided smaller tablets.
So you can imagine the turmoil that the announcement of a smaller iPad in late October triggered all over the tablet world. It was not THAT much smaller — its 7.9 inch display was still larger than those seen in most seven-inch display tablets — but for the cynics, it seemed to be a sign that Apple was willing to compromise experience for market share, notwithstanding the “every inch an iPad” tagline.
It’s in India... and it’s classy
The iPad mini, as it was christened, has been quick to arrive on Indian shores — it got here within slightly more than a month of its international release.
And with a price starting at Rs 21,900, it certainly redefines iPad affordability — the least priced iPad otherwise was the iPad 2 which starts at Rs 24,500.
However, any notion that this is less than a premium product is dispelled from the moment you set your eyes on it. For, in terms of sheer design, the iPad mini is every bit as spectacular as the iPhone 5. In a very clever design tweak, Apple has shrunk both the bezel and the home button around the 7.9 inch display, making the display seem much larger than it actually is — iOS 6 (the same OS you see on the iPad and iPhone) looks very good indeed on it. The whole tablet, in fact, is not much larger than the Nexus 7, but has a much more premium feel to it, with an aluminum unibody build (spectacular in black in particular, with the subtly shining Apple logo), diamond cut edges, and an amazingly slim figure. At 7.2mm, it is thinner than the iPhone 5. At a shade over 300 gms, it is light enough to carry and use one-handed, while its width makes it perfect for those who like to type with their thumbs while holding the device. You can actually stand and use the iPad mini with a degree of comfort, something that was not possible with the larger iPad. And believe us, you would like to be seen using it — it is easily one of the most gorgeous gadgets we have seen.
Good specs, awesome apps
Beneath that very classy exterior lurks hardware that might not raise too many eyebrows but is by no means lightweight. The 7.9 inch display has the same resolution (1024 x 768) as the first and second iPads. But as the pixels have been crammed into a smaller space, the display looks a tad better, although nowhere near the retina displays on the third and fourth generation iPads or even the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. Processing is handled by a dual core A5 processor, which again was used in the iPad 2. A new addition, however, is the 5.0-megapixel iSight camera which is among the better ones we have seen on a tablet — we are no proponents of tablet photography but this camera might tempt us to use our tablets to click more often. Storage, as always, is non-expandable and is available in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB versions. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G (depending on your model), and Bluetooth (albeit without file transfer out of the box).
However, what makes the iPad mini really stand out is the fact that it handles almost every app in the magnificent iTunes App Store with ease. High-definition games, video editing, word processing, HD video - you can do just about everything you could on your bigger iPad. No, the experience is not always inch perfect — e-book lovers will notice fonts to be a bit jagged, sometimes the screen does not respond as we would like it to, and we did notice a few lags while playing taxing games like Virtua Tennis and FIFA 13. Still, all said and done, this is easily among the ‘appiest’ experiences we have had on a seven-inch tablet. We have seen Android tablets and phablets with better specifications (quad core processors and the like), but when it comes to the sheer quality of apps, the iPads stand alone. And the iPad mini continues this tradition.
So where does the iPad mini stand exactly? And do you need it? Well, if you have never used a tablet before, we think it is an excellent option, given its price, performance and well, why deny it, sheer flaunt value. On the other hand, if you have used an iPad with a retina display, there is a chance you might feel just a bit disappointed. No, we cannot honestly say that our experience with the mini was on par with that of the new iPad, which had a much better display and handled high-definition games with far more elan and buttery smoothness. Still, we can confidently say that Apple now has both the best 9.7-inch and 7.9-inch tablets in the world. Buy it, if you have not used a retina display iPad and/or are looking for a large screen iOS experience on a relatively lighter budget and on a big screen.