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Review: Apple's iPad mini

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Most popular iPad ever?

In fact, it seems like the iPad mini has the potential to become Apple's most popular iPad. Its light weight and thin profile means users will want to take it on the go more so than a full sized iPad. Its price reflects its 66 percent scaled down screen: $330 for the iPad mini versus $500 for the entry level full sized iPad 4. 

If you want a cheaper experience, the only option from Apple is the $200, previous generation iPod touch (the latest model is actually $70 more expensive than the entry level iPad mini, albeit packing 32GB of storage; equivalently sized versions of the two devices leave the iPad mini separated by a $130 premium over the new iPod touch: $430 vs. $300).

Alternatively, other vendors are offering $200 to $250 mini-tablets, Web-books and netbooks, providing either a stretched smartphone experience or a scaled down browser-only environment. Historically, however, these types of devices have repeatedly failed to gain much traction in the market place at any price.

Over the last several years, consumers have consistently picked $500 iPads and $1000 MacBooks over $200 netbooks, making it hard to understand why large numbers of shoppers would suddenly start picking $200 to $250 ebook readers and web-netbooks over the $330 iPad mini, Apple's cheapest iPad offering ever. 

Hardware performance

Unsurprisingly, the performance of the iPad mini is very close to the iPad 2, which shares the same processor and has the same display resolution. Apple's latest iPad 4 has a significantly faster A6X chip, but also drives four times the pixels. 

While the overall usability of iPad mini (and other A5-class devices, including the iPod touch and iPhone 4S) isn't slow or laggy, there are areas where the faster A6 and A6X of the newest iPhone 5 and iPad 4 are put to good use; one notable area where CPU speed is evident is in the loading of games or other substantial apps.

iPad mini unboxing

The iPad 4's benchmarks are significantly higher. This indicates Apple is pushing the performance of iPad 4 along with its larger screen as a premium tier above the iPad mini. 

iPad mini

At the same time, the iPad mini gets many of the other updates of the new iPad over last year's iPad 2: a Lightning port, vastly improved FaceTime HD and iSight cameras, Wi-Fi with channel bonding (HT40) up to 150Mbps, Bluetooth 4, AirPlay Mirroring and support for 1080p AirPlay, and optional support for enhanced 3G/LTE/DC-HSDPA service based on the newest silicon shared with the new iPhone 5.