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David Zax

A View from David Zax

The iPad Mini Reviews Are In

Mostly favorable–though the screen is no Retina Display

  • October 31, 2012

Reviews of the iPad Mini, Apple’s recently-announced 7.9-inch slate, are trickling in, and the view is mostly favorable. In a word, if the $129 price difference between the iPad Mini and the $199 Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7 doesn’t seem daunting to you, reviewers are mostly saying it’s a no-brainer. For a more granular look, read on.

First, let’s talk about the screen, which everyone is talking about. It’s not a Retina Display. It doesn’t look like a Retina Display. It has the feel, apparently, of the screen on an earlier-generation iPhone, with a resolution of just 1024 x 768. Reuters calls this a “big step backwards.” (It’s the same resolution as the original iPad, which I have, and which I certainly never complain about–but then again I have yet to taste the Edenic fruit of Retina.) “There’s no question that to the naked eye this screen does look lower in resolution than its nearest competition,” says The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky. And though CNET calls the screen a “comparative letdown,” but points out that its wider aspect ratio makes it even better for reading on than rival tablets.

How about the battery life? WSJ’s Walt Mossberg put it through his “harsh battery test”–back-to-back videos, 75% brightness, WiFi on. Even so, the iPad Mini went beyond Apple’s claimed 10 hours of battery–27 minutes beyond. That was a good deal better than the Kindle HD, and nipping at the heels of the Nexus 7. Topolsky was “more than satisfied.” Engadget’s Tim Stevens ran it for an “astounding 2 hours and 43 minutes.” Rest assured, the iPad Mini will get you through a long day.

Are people bothered by the smaller size of the device? Hardly. They love it. David Pogue of the Times says the Mini is “more manageable,” and perhaps even “what the iPad always wanted to be.” Walt Mossberg noted that “I was able to use it one-handed and hold it for long periods of time without tiring.” His main frustration, at times, was that it was simply too wide for his pocket.

As for the software ecosystem, it should go without saying that Apple is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition here–the main complaint leveled against the Microsoft Surface, for instance.

I personally have recently become an iPad user, and what I’ve mainly noticed is how the iPad has taken up residence on my bureau. It lives there, mostly, and so that part of the room begins to feel, spatially, “smart,” or perhaps “wired” (though of course wireless). As prices come down on devices like the iPad Mini, I wonder about a near-ish future when some people buy multiple devices (or buy new ones, while retaining the old), simply to have windows to the Web throughout the house–consoles to check email, spew forth music, and so on.

Something tells me Apple wouldn’t mind that at all.

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