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Tuesday, November 06, 2012, 09:10 am PT (12:10 pm ET)

Review: Apple's iPad mini


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Big iPod touch, but iPad features



Handling the iPad mini, it doesn't feel as much like an iPad as a big iPod touch, likely because of its skinnier margins around the screen. Other 7 inch Android tablets typically mimic the iPad's large screen margin, resulting in a significantly smaller screen in a device that's very similar to the iPad mini's overall size (but much thicker).

iPad mini


However, despite resembling the iPod touch (or an iPhone) in both its screen-to-device ratio and its thin profile and light weight, the iPad mini is very much an iPad, running Apple's enhanced version of built-in apps such as Mail, Clock (above), Calendar and Notes; larger, more engaging experiences when using Safari or Maps; and having a huge library of iPad-optimized third party apps to choose from. 

The reduced size of the screen has an impact on the size of text and button targets, similar to the MacBooks offering higher resolution display options. The scaled down display didn't seem to present significant problems in using any iPad-optimized apps, even for a user like me with huge hands. 

iPad mini unboxing


However, the reduced size of the device makes touch typing quite cramped, to the point of not really being possible (you can, but it's very much like typing on a cramped netbook keyboard: you'd only do it if you were a salesman tying to prove one can, not because it's actually something anyone would actually want to do). 

When Apple introduced iPad, it presented it as being a productivity tool you could type out documents on (including iWork apps at its launch). Realistically, however, if you want to use iPad as a notebook replacement and do serious typing on it, you'll probably want to pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard. The same thing applies to iPad mini, even more so because of its significantly reduced-size, on-screen keyboard (unless you've filed off your fingers with sandpaper, or have tiny fingers already).

Alternatively, thumb typing on the screen of a full sized iPad (in either orientation) is a bit clumsy because of its size and weight. It's hard to hold up an iPad and type any long amount of text in, far more so than typing on an iPhone. 

iPad mini


With iPad mini however, the vast reduction in weight means that, while you can't really comfortably touch type on it like a notebook, you can hold it with two hands and thumb type, more comfortably than an iPhone and much easier than a full sized, relatively heavy to hold-and-type-on iPad. 

iPad mini


Combined with its skinner margin around the screen, this makes the iPad mini feel much more like a fusion of the iPad and iPod touch than I expected. It appears the iPad mini will be very popular for gaming, portable point of sale tasks, and other applications where its light, thin profile makes it far easier to use on the go than the iPad, but its screen resolution makes it better suited to sophisticated apps than an iPod touch. 

iPad mini unboxing