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 and (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.
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.
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 iPhone 5., 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Like the iPad 3, the mini has a 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than a stretched 16:9 display like the iPhone 5. That means all the 275,000 iPad-specific apps on the iOS app store will fit perfectly on screen.