Ahead of the iPad Mini and fourth-generation iPad becoming available to customers Friday, early reviews of both devices have hit the web. You can see in the collection below that the reviews are fairly positive, discussing how great the build quality is, the lightness of the tablet, and how well it fits in your hand. Starting with the iPad mini:
I use my iPad mini for tasks rather than watching videos or playing games, but I use it a lot. This is a Wi-Fi model, which was on all the time and I have yet to see anything cause a significant drain on the battery. The battery is lasting days for me and it is on 24/7.
In fact we found the brightness and color reproduction to be improved over the iPad 2, comparable to the latest Retina displays. Colors are very pleasing to the eye and viewing angles, as ever with an Apple display, do not disappoint. You can line up as many friends as you like and sit them shoulder-to-shoulder, they’ll all have a bright, clear picture. Yes, mini owners may have to make do with some resolution envy, but they at least won’t be lacking in any other regard.
And it does raise the floor here. There’s no tablet in this size range that’s as beautifully constructed, works as flawlessly, or has such an incredible software selection. Would I prefer a higher-res display? Certainly. Would I trade it for the app selection or hardware design? For the consistency and smoothness of its software, or reliability of its battery? Absolutely not. And as someone who’s been living with (and loving) Google’s Nexus 7 tablet for a few months, I don’t say that lightly.
While we’re on the subject of the screen, let’s not beat around the bush — if there is a weakness of this device, it’s the screen. But that statement comes with a very big asterisk. As someone who is used to a “retina” display on my phone, tablet, and even now computer, the downgrade to a non-retina display is quite noticeable. This goes away over time as you use the iPad mini non-stop, but if you switch back a retina screen, it’s jarring.
On the other hand, what will make some think twice about buying an iPad mini is the price. Starting at £269 for a WiFi only model, this is £100 dearer than the Kindle Fire HD or the Nexus 7, which is now available in a 16GB version for £159.
Whether it’s worth it depends on how much of a premium you put on great design and a vast ecosystem of apps. Apple will sell a lot of these little beauties, that’s for sure.
Even though this screen isn’t state of the art, it’s O.K. If you’ve ever laid your eyeballs on the ultra-smooth text rendered by the Retina iPad, its text will look fuzzy by comparison, especially at teensier type sizes. But the tradeoff it presents compared to the 7-inchers — fewer pixels, but more space — is reasonable enough.
In shrinking the iconic iPad, Apple has pulled off an impressive feat. It has managed to create a tablet that’s notably thinner and lighter than the leading small competitors with 7-inch screens, while squeezing in a significantly roomier 7.9-inch display. And it has shunned the plastic construction used in its smaller rivals to retain the iPad’s sturdier aluminum and glass body.
What will surprise you is the weight. The specs already show that the iPad mini is lighter than the Kindle Fire, 308g v 395g (and 340g for the Nexus 7); even if you add on a Smart Cover, it’s still lighter than the uncovered Kindle Fire. It’s thinner too. This is a device that will be ideal for holding in one hand for reading on train rides or other commuting; or you might even forget it’s in that coat pocket.
Apple quotes up to 10hrs of wireless browsing over Wi-Fi for the iPad mini, or up to 9hrs if you’re using the tablet’s cellular connection. In practice, with a mixture of browsing, some video playback, games, music – both locally-stored and streaming – and messaging, we comfortably exceeded Apple’s estimate. In fact, we exceeded 11hrs of use before encountering a battery warning.
Those tablets don’t have the complete experience that the iPad does. Come on: The iPad is still the gold standard for tablet computing after all. With stellar hardware and hundreds of thousands of apps, the iPad is the Kleenex of facial tissue. The Tivo of DVRs. It has all the perks of using an iOS device: AppStore, iMessages, FaceTime, etc.
Moving on to the 4th gen iPad:
If you were going to get an iPad before, obviously, you’ll want to get this one now. In fact, you don’t even have a choice — Apple has discontinued the third-generation model. The prices remain the same across the board as do all of the other features (WiFi/LTE, Retina display, etc).
Yes, it is kind of lame for those of us who bought third-generation models that Apple updated the line so quickly, but well, that’s Apple. To me, the fourth-generation leap doesn’t seem to be nearly as big as the leap from the first to second generation or from the second to third generation, so perhaps take some solace in that.
The third-generation iPad arguably didn’t need refreshing; in fact, if Apple hadn’t opted to change to Lightning, it could realistically have held off changing its largest tablet until early 2013, as per its typical yearly refresh cycle. That makes for a reasonably straightforward upgrade decision if you’re a 3rd-gen iPad owner. Unless you’re desperate for Lightning – perhaps you’ve also got an iPhone 5, and want to use all the same accessories rather than buy the adapter dongle – then we’re yet to see apps that really demand the potent A6X chipset.
The fourth-generation iPad is the very definition of an iterative change: Apple made important things better, but neither overhauled nor revolutionized anything. If the iPad’s history is any indication, the fourth-generation iPad’s advantages over the third-gen model will be most apparent two years from now, when apps are designed for the better processor and the Lightning connector has spawned a much larger universe of accessories. Then you’ll want the extra power and the adapter-free lifestyle.
For now, if you’re within your return window you should probably swap for the newest iPad, but if not? Rest assured you’re not really missing that much. Not yet, at least.
In my testing, battery life seems to have remained the same despite the processor, and so have the cameras. In fact, the camera is one of the places where the impact of the A6X processor can be seen: taking pictures is an astonishingly fast and picture quality is improved thanks to the A6X’s image signal processor.