Apple iPad mini review: Apple iPad mini

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

3.5 stars 93 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Ultra-thin and light; Handles ebooks and iPad apps well; Camera, storage and optional 4G make for a full iPad experience.

The Bad Over £100 more expensive than rivals; Low-resolution display; A5 processor isn't particularly quick.

The Bottom Line The iPad mini is a 7.9-inch version of Apple's popular iPad, and offers a polished tablet experience in a smaller package. It's too expensive however, and its display resolution doesn't measure up to competing tablets, or other iOS devices.

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The latest addition to Apple's iPad lineup is the iPad mini. With its 7.9-inch display and slim design, it's spectacular at being portable and is discrete enough to hold in one hand -- but it's marred by a lack of retina display. Its high price, in comparison to the similarly sized Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD (both £159), is also a major problem.

The iPad mini starts at £269 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model and is due to go on sale from 2 November.

Design

Whether or not you think it's too pricey, the iPad mini feels genuinely luxurious to hold. Its 7.9-inch front is dominated by a single piece of glass with the small, round home button sitting at the bottom.

iPad mini in a hand
At 15mm wider than the Google Nexus 7, it's going to stretch your coat pocket to tearing point.

It measures 200mm long and 135mm wide. That's exactly the same length as the Nexus 7, but adds 15mm onto the width. We found we were just about able to slide the Nexus 7 into our jacket pockets, but we're not convinced you'll be able to do the same with the iPad mini -- it's more of a purse or small bag-sized device.

The mini has a much slimmer bezel than the Nexus 7, or even the larger iPad, so the bigger screen hasn't pushed out the size of the chassis any more than is necessary.

We worried that the slim bezel would cause us to accidentally start an app or turn a page, but Apple has baked in some finger-rejection tech that seems to counter this problem. When reading books, holding onto the side of the tablet wasn't a problem, but when we started typing, the entire edge-to-edge surface became sensitive to our touch.

The iPad mini takes design cues from the new iPod touch , down to the curved wrap-around aluminium casing and flat back. The white model has an aluminium rear, while the black version has a slate-coloured anodised-aluminium back, like the black iPhone 5

iPad mini size comparison with iPad and iPod touch
Apple's non-iPhones from left to right: iPad, iPad mini, iPod touch.

It's only 7.2mm thick, making it thinner than the iPhone 5. The Nexus 7 is 10mm thick, which seems positively portly by comparison -- indeed, this is the slimmest and lightest small-size tablet around. It also weighs around 310g, making it about half the weight of the iPad 3.

Construction feels solid, and the mini is fun to wrap your mitts around. The home button clicks crisply and despite being cheaper than a full-sized iPad, it doesn't feel any less well-built.

The smaller Lightning dock connector sits at the bottom, and although it's easier to connect than the earlier 30-pin charger, it won't fit with any of your existing iPad speaker docks and peripherals unless you buy an adaptor.

iPad mini typing
Typing on the mini's screen is a little more cramped than the iPad -- you might find one-handed prodding more comfortable.

The iPad mini's neatest trick is that it handles all the larger iPad's duties despite the smaller size. In CNET's tests, ebooks and magazines, media-editing apps, virtual board games with tiny buttons and games that have on-screen touch controls were all usable and comfortable.

To type, you can hold the mini in portrait mode and use two thumbs, as you would on a smart phone. Typing in the traditional style works better than expected in landscape, but takes some getting used to, as the 7.9-inch display isn't as wide as your average laptop keyboard.

Camera

At the top of the mini you'll spy an HD camera for FaceTime and there's a 5-megapixel camera around the back, which can shoot video in 1080p.

iPad mini camera
You get an HD camera for video calls on the front and a 5-megapixel effort around the back.

We found this snapper is an improvement on the dodgy camera inside the iPad 2, but doesn't measure up to the lens on the latest iPod touch. Photos snagged using the mini are better than most budget tablets can muster, and the small size makes this gadget more practical (read: less embarrassing) than the larger iPad for taking photos in public. Be aware that some features are curiously absent however, including HDR and iOS 6's new Panorama mode.

iPad mini photo test
The mini's 5-megapixel rear camera is more than adequate for the occasional snap.

Screen

The iPad mini's 7.9-inch display offers a resolution of 1,024x768 pixels. That's the same resolution offered on the old iPad 2, although its smaller screen size means its pixel density is higher, at a middling 168ppi -- significantly less dense than Apple's retina displays.

Based on CNET's experience, how you feel about the mini's screen will depend on how many retina displays you've been exposed to. In other words, if you've spent much time with a recent iPhone or third-generation iPad, you'll think the mini's screen is blurry.

It's a lower resolution than the Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, despite being slightly larger than those tablets. Competition aside, this is the least impressive screen in Apple's clutch of iOS gadgets, with the iPod touch, iPhone 5 and latest iPad all brighter and crisper to look at. The viewing angle is impressive though, so you'll be able to crowd more than one person around this tablet.

iPad mini ebook reading
The iPad mini's 4:3 screen ratio makes ebooks more book-like than on other 7-inch tablets.

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Where to Buy

Apple iPad Mini

Part Number: MF432LL/A
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity IEEE 802.11a
  • Type Apple iOS 7
  • Weight 308 g
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