GADGET DESIGNER Apple's Ipad Mini went on sale in the UK on Friday with less fanfare than normally accompanies an Apple launch but generating lots of excitement nonetheless, as it's the firm's first foray into the smaller tablet market.
Trade was brisk at the three Apple stores we visited in London on Friday morning, with the 16GB models totally sold out, and white versions only available in the 64GB model. The INQUIRER has managed to get its hands on one of the Ipad Mini 32GB WiFi-only models to see whether it lives up to Apple's usual high standards or the firm has been forced to compromise with its lower priced, smaller tablet. We'll have our full review posted early next week, but for now these are our opening impressions on having used the Ipad Mini for a few hours.
The Apple Ipad Mini features a 7.9in LED-backlit multi-touch screen with IPS technology, and the 1024x768 resolution display offers 163ppi pixel density. Apple has stopped short of bringing its gorgeous Retina display with 3.1 million pixels to its smaller tablet, no doubt to achieve the lower price tag.
The display is still nice and bright with good colour detail, but text is slightly fuzzy around the edges, especially when you compare it to the screen on the new Ipad or competing 7in tablets from Google and Amazon, which both feature HD screens with 1280x800 resolution at 216ppi.
However, Apple goes some way to making up for the lower display quality with the extra screen real estate. As Apple has pointed out, with its extra 0.9in and uncluttered display, the Ipad Mini offers 29.6 square inches of screen, or 35 percent more screen real estate than other 7in tablets at 21.9 square inches. There's also up to 67 percent more usable viewing area when browsing the web in landscape mode, or 49 percent in portrait mode, due to the tabbed browsing feature and navigation buttons on Android devices.
We definitely preferred having the slightly larger screen during our initial tests, as you're able to squeeze in a bit more of any websites you're visiting without scrolling down, while video playback is always a better experience on the biggest screen possible. However, it's worth noting that, since Apple went for a 4:3 aspect ratio, widescreen footage will display with a thick black bar at the top and bottom of the display, unlike devices with a 16:9 aspect ratio such as the Google Nexus 7.
The first thing you'll notice about the Ipad Mini is the low weight and high-end build quality.
The Ipad Mini measures 200x135x7.2mm compared to the 199x120x10.5mm Nexus 7 and the 193x137x10.3mm Kindle Fire HD. However, despite its larger frame, the Ipad Mini weighs a mere 308g, a much lighter device than the comparatively hefty 340g Nexus 7 and the practically obese 395g Kindle Fire HD.
The Ipad Mini feels really light in the hand, and wouldn't cause any problems if you were holding it for long periods to watch a film or read a book, for example. This means you could also ditch the Ipad stand often needed when travelling or using the tablet for media playback, meaning one less accessory to buy.
The Ipad Mini also carries on the Apple tradition of being as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside, with its aluminium unibody casing around the glass screen. It feels really sturdy and has a very high-end look, especially compared to the cheaper plastic-coated 7in tablets out there on the market.
The Ipad Mini has a dual-core A5X processor, the same as the Ipad 2. Apple didn't reveal the memory size. We did a bit of web browsing and watched some BBC Iplayer footage in our initial tests, and experienced nippy browsing and a smooth media playback experience.
The Ipad Mini is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models, with 5GB of free Icloud storage.
On first glance, we'd say that Apple has another hit on its hand with this lightweight, high performance model, but we can see the Ipad Mini becoming a key competitor to the full-size Ipad any more than 7in tablets from Google and Amazon. At around £100 more than the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, £269 is still a hefty price tag for this small tablet, especially considering the 32GB version at £349 is only £50 cheaper than the full-size 16GB Ipad with Retina display.
We'll be posting our detailed review early next week, so check back then to read our full assessment. µ