After Apple’s slew of product announcements on Tuesday, which included the introduction of the iPad Mini, I got to spend some time checking out the smallest iPad in person. My initial verdict: It’s a cute little guy, and its features, size, and starting price tag of $329 will probably make it a hit this holiday season. I also expect it to gain favor in the growing education segment of the tablet market, where iPads are already very popular but budgets are always tight.
With a screen that measures 7.9 inches at the diagonal (compared with 9.7 inches on the full-sized iPad), the iPad Mini is easy to hold in one hand. It’s light, too, but not such a featherweight that it feels cheap. Videos look great on its bright, crisp display, and it was as fast and responsive as an iPad user would expect.
What most struck me about the iPad Mini in the few minutes I spent handling it was how similar it felt to the existing iPads. Using it was pretty much the same, even though the display is smaller (and, it should be noted, the display is bigger than the 7-inch screen on Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Amazon’s smaller Kindle Fire). And frankly, the display didn’t feel that much smaller.
I did expect the iPad Mini to be priced closer to $250 or $300, which would bring it nearer to the starting price of the Nexus 7 ($199) or Kindle Fire ($159).
But even with a starting price well above either of these at $329, I bet the iPad Mini will help Apple snag plenty of consumers who want an iPad but don’t want to shell out $399 for the iPad 2 or $499 for the fourth-generation iPad (which Apple also announced on Tuesday). This could be bad news for the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire in particular, as much of their appeal stems from their excellent combination of features, size, and, of course, low price.