The new iPad Mini Retina from Apple takes smaller tablets to a higher ground.
All the action seems to be happening in the smaller tablet space, and the iPad Mini Retina is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. There are no end of low cost, reasonable value, 7” tablets on the market, many of which are really good. The Apple iPad Mini is a premium tablet device that can’t be called low cost. Steven Ambrose puts the newest iPad Mini with its Retina display to the test.
The iPad Mini is instantly recognisable as an Apple device, from the now iconic construction to the Apple Logo on the back, combined with impeccable industrial design, and class leading construction. The latest iteration of the iPad Mini range, features a high resolution screen or Retina display, per Apple parlance. High resolution displays are now becoming the norm in smaller and larger tablets, and competitive devices from Amazon, Asus, and Google abound.
The iPad Mini may not have the highest resolution of current tablets, yet its screen boasts a superb balance of resolution, colour accuracy, and brightness. One look and it’s hard not to be impressed. Apple have essentially taken all the technology from its top end iPad Air, and shrunk it into the new iPad Mini Retina. The Mini Retina features the same 64 bit A7 processor as the Air as well as the multi band capable LTE mobile radios on certain models.
Apple also maintained the exceptional battery life of the original iPad Mini, with around 10 to 11 hours of solid use in most scenarios. The iPad Mini Retina has gained a few grams in weight and around 1mm in thickness, though these trade-offs are hardly noticeable, and more than make up for the older Minis lack of screen resolution and overall speed.
A hidden and often ignored new feature is the enhanced Wi-Fi, mobile radios, and antennas. The new Retina Mini is far better with Wi-Fi and much more versatile across global 3G and LTE bands. Reception on my Wi-Fi network was much faster, and much more consistent, than the older iPad Mini.
Higher resolution cameras front and back, which are identical to the iPad Air, make the Mini more capable for video or still picture taking. Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi with mobile options are available along with varying amounts of memory from 16 gig to 128 gig. My recommendation is the Wi-Fi plus cellular option, with 32 gig memory. This offers all the connectivity options possible, along with sufficient memory for the vast majority of uses.
Like all other mobile Apple devices, the iPad Mini runs iOS 7. iOS is still one of the most intuitive and easy to use mobile operating systems available. Many bemoan its “walled garden approach” and whilst Android is vastly more flexible and customisable, which may work for some committed geeks, iOS is curated, polished, and extremely consistent.
The user interface geniuses at Apple seem to understand the what and why of using their devices, and the end result is a consistent, intuitive, and reliable OS, that anyone can master really quickly.
The Apple App store is also leagues head of their competitors with regard to the number and quality of their tablet optimised apps. There is essentially an app for anything you could possible think of, and with some exploration, tons for stuff you would never ever have imagined.
Overall the apps available on the Apple App store, as well as their basic polish and functionality, still set the gold standard for tablets. The Android ecosystem of apps and services has grown very quickly both in quantity and quality, but app for app the iOS versions appear a touch faster, slicker, and more consistent in use.
The new Retina iPad mini may just be the best sub 10” tablet on the market right now. It is supremely easy to use, and the Apple ecosystem of music, movies, and not least of all apps, makes this a well-tended “walled garden” that just delivers for most of us. The hardware is beautifully constructed, and the basic technology included is right at the top of the spec game.
The small consideration is that very similar functionality, if not similar experience, can be had from far lower cost Android based competitors. Apple have once again created a superb product, one that delivers consistently and offers a tablet experience that is one of the best on the market at present. You decide if that is worth the Apple premium.
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