We put Apple's new iPad mini to the test - and no wonder it costs more than other small-screened tablets


It goes on sale this Friday. David Phelan tested it extensively to bring you our definitive review

The iPad mini, Apple’s first tablet to feature a smaller display, is very light. So light that when I picked up the box it crossed my mind there was no iPad mini inside, just a charger plug, cable and, you know, gubbins.

But there it was nestled into the lid. Lightness, of course, is one of the elements Apple designed it for because some people had found the full-size iPad too heavy for extended use. Especially if that use is focused on reading electronic books. It’s not as light as a monochrome ebook reader like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, but it beats the other 7in colour-screen tablet contenders.

It’s these rivals, the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, that Apple built the iPad mini to address. After all, they are both selling well. Apple set its eyes on those smaller-tablet dollars.

So being lighter than these rivals is a big deal. If you’re going to hold an ebook, the lighter the better. And the iPad mini is thin, too, way thinner than the Nexus or Fire HD.

Looks are a matter of personal taste, but the iPad mini, I’d say, is pretty spiffy. Where rivals are glass and ridged plastic, Apple’s model is glass and aluminium. Choose the black version and the back is a dark, smokey colour while the fashion-forward white edition has a lighter, silvery back. It is far and away the glitziest small-screen tablet with exceptional build quality and rich details like the chamfered edges that give the frame a pleasing finish. This is a high-end gadget.

The iPad mini beats its rivals in another way: the bezel that frames the iPad mini screen is very narrow. On the Kindle Fire HD it’s pretty wide. There’s good reason for this: if your thumb rests on a touchscreen the tablet thinks you’re turning the page or highlighting text or something.

So the iPad mini – in one of the killer innovations of this gadget – has something called thumb rejection. This tells the software that if it senses a press on the edge of the screen that’s not really moving, that it’s safe to ignore it. This is a brilliant solution that Apple has implemented perfectly. Regular iPad users will be glad to know that this software feature is now on full-sized iPads, too. Which, fingers crossed, may mean that future iPads have wafer-thin bezels, too…

The thin bezel makes the mini look better because it’s nearly all screen and means the display can be 7.9in against rivals’ 7in (which Apple claims results in 35 per cent more screen). It’s still a good size in the hand, mind. It’s narrow enough to be a comfy fit in all but the smallest of adult hands.

The iPad mini doesn’t beat its rivals in every specification, note. The screen resolution, for instance, is higher on the Nexus 7 and Fire HD. Both manage 216 pixels per inch, while Apple’s screen is just 162ppi. Amazon’s screen is the best of the three, with a bright colour palette.

But in most usage, the iPad mini display is way more than good enough. It makes video playback look tremendous and you can zoom in on widescreen movies so they fill the screen – something Amazon’s LoveFilm app doesn’t permit. Open iBooks or the iPad Kindle app and the display makes print look sharp, crisp and highly readable.

After all, this new machine’s screen has crammed all the pixels from the iPad 2 into a smaller space, so of course it’s sharper, and few people complained about the iPad 2 screen being less than attractive.

In fact, the main way the iPad mini is wanting comes when you look at iPhone apps – ones that haven’t been optimised for iPad. They either sit in the middle of the screen in window that looks weirdly smaller than the iPhone or if you expand them to fill most of the display, look decidedly blocky.

True, many more apps are optimised for iPad than on Android phones, but you really want to avoid these phone-only apps if you can.

The new machine uses the same processor as the bigger, older, pricier iPad 2. It’s effective, with no hint of slowdown whatever you’re doing. But in other ways the mini beats the iPad 2. The rear camera is 5 megapixels with a wide open f/2.4 aperture, so it’s good for still shots as well as video. Of course, it’s a flat piece of metal so ergonomically not good for photography, but it manages snaps capably (though it lacks the Panorama effect of the latest iPhone and iPad). Note that neither the Kindle Fire HD nor the Nexus 7 has a rear camera at all.

And the mini has Siri, Apple’s occasionally erratic but largely delightful voice recognition personal assistant, which the iPad 2 lacks. Oh, and if you plump for a “wi-fi and cellular version”, you can get the blisteringly fast 4G LTE speeds promised by EE when its network goes live this week.

If all this makes the iPad mini a no-brainer of a purchase, it very nearly is. The only other reason to pause is the price. On Friday, a wi-fi only iPad mini with 16GB of storage will cost £269. That’s exactly £100 more than a similar Google Nexus 7. Actually this is thanks to a £30 price drop announced on Monday which will leave those who bought last week fuming (though, please note, Apple customers who bought the iPad last week may have had a similar experience now the fourth-generation iPad, with a better processor but an unchanged price).

The Fire HD is even better value: £159, though you do have to accept adverts on the lock screen or pay £10 to make them vanish.

So, really, why would you pay more for Apple’s device when the others have better displays?

If you only want it for reading ebooks, watching movies, playing selected games and listening to music, choose the Kindle. Its clever editing of the Android operating system makes it a spectacular media consumption device. Note though that even here that the lightness and slimness of the iPad mini means the Kindle is only just out in front.

But if you want to do more, such as writing documents, editing spreadsheets or making the most of a significantly wider range of apps, then it’s Nexus 7 or iPad mini for you.

And if you value an interface that’s entirely unbeaten in terms of intuitive accessibility, the facility to shoot video and take high-quality photographs plus a big selection of apps that are actually designed for a tablet screen, then the iPad mini wins out. All it lacks is a Retina Display, for which we may hope next time.

Aesthetically, the iPad mini is the most attractive tablet from any manufacturer yet, including Apple. It feels better in the hand than other small-screened tablets. The materials alone mean it’s no wonder it costs more and – I’d say – it’s worth it.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Graduate BI Consultant (Business Intelligence) - London

    £24000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate BI Consultant (B...

    Service Delivery Manager (Product Manager, Test and Deployment)

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager (Product Ma...

    Technical Product Marketing Specialist - London - £70,000

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Cloud Product and Solutions Marketin...

    Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

    £18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam