Unboxing, hands-on, first impressions/review: iPad Mini (LTE + Wifi).

After weeks of waiting and wondering when it would ship, the iPad Mini finally landed on my doorstep, although of course it would come on the morning of my first of two exams over a two-day period.

Finally got to unwrap and set it up after I finished my second exam (never mind that I still have another exam in the following week). It’s been a few days since then and, I tell, it’s been an absolute wonderful few days using it.

Since many (way more professional) reviewers and blogs have handled every single technical aspect of the iPad Mini way better and more comprehensively than I ever can, I’ll just tackle the areas that are key to me. I’ll be using it mainly for on-the-go web-surfing/social-media-ing (hence the LTE version) and portable gaming, so I’ll mainly focus on the feel of the Mini as a portable device and its controversial non-retina screen.

The feel

Apple products have always been known for being incredibly polished and this one is no different. From the smooth matt finish on its slate back to the chamfered edges, the Mini reeks of quality and, having handled its competitors before, it’s clear why this one is so much pricier. The Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are decent and economical choices but this one is on its own different level. If you buy this, you’ll be paying a premium but you’ll feel every bit of that increase in quality.

As would be expected of something of this size, the Mini is substantially lighter than its larger cousins and, upgrading to this from a first generation iPad, the difference is amazing. No longer do I worry about straining my wrists if I decide to hold the iPad with one hand and it really makes for a much more portable experience. While I haven’t had many chances to bring it out yet, I’m pretty sure that the much lighter weight and more wieldy frame will make it much of a mainstay in my backpack than the iPad Phat.

The screen

One of the most highly-debated aspects of the Mini has been its (non-retina) screen and, having dealt with it for a few days, I really don’t think it’s as big of a problem as most people make it out to be (as I thought it would be for me, too, initially).

Although it has the same resolution as the iPad 2, the fact that the screen itself is smaller means that it’s actually clearer and more crisp than on the older, larger devices. Plus, it’s not like the iPad screen was all that terrible in its pre-retina days.

Would it have been better if it was a retina screen? Sure, it would. But, as it is, I don’t think it’s all that bad. Beautiful apps still look beautiful, if a little fuzzier around the edges.

One might not be able to read on it for prolonged periods (which might make it not that great for those yearning for this as an ereader) but, having been using a Kindle for a while now, I won’t even be able to read on a retina-screened iPad for a long time anyway. For most other uses (web-surfing, games-playing), it’s more than up to the challenge.

(Of course, one should keep in mind that I’m basing my opinion based on having upgraded from an iPad of identical resolution and that, although I do have a retina-standard iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 5th gen, I don’t think it’s visually comparable).

When I initially laid my hands on the 7.9” display, I wondered how it would feel as an intermediary between the iPhone and full-sized iPad series. After using it these few days for tasks ranging from web browsing to playing games to watching videos, I have concluded that, rather than feeling like less portable iPhone with bigger screen space or a more mobile but less expansive iPad, it’s in a whole separate category of its own.

While it might require a bit more fingers holding it than the iPhone (and even then, not all that many more), the more generous screen real estate is definitely worth it. There’s no way I can go back to micromanaging my village in Clash of Clans or swinging my animals in Tiny Farm around with wild abandon on the iPhone after having used this.

At the same time, it is so much lighter and more mobile than the full-sized iPad but, surprisingly, the smaller screen doesn’t feel like a compromise at all. In many cases, the screen space is more than enough for whatever purposes I need it for and it actually makes the 10” screen of the original feel a bit superfluous. In fact, in many cases, playing games on the Mini’s screen actually feels better than on the full iPad’s because it looks more compact and right, while at the same time still having plenty of space for controls and, y’know, seeing things.

Extras

I got the official Apple smart cover for it and, if you’ve used one before, you’ll know exactly how this one is. It feels of a decent make (unlike the decidedly cheap feeling case they made for the first-gen iPad), fits perfectly and has a pretty strong magnetic pull.

On a side note, I was a tad disappointed in the colours available for the iPad Mini range of smart covers. I was originally eyeing a red one but it turned out to be this ghastly, way-too-intense, way-too-saturated, way-too-saturated, paint blotch red so I got the dark grey. Was a bit disappointed with the final result, though, because it looked so much darker in the packaging. Here, it just looks faded and dull.

Wrap-up

Despite its lack of a retina screen (a situation I’m sure Apple will remedy in, oh, say three months or so), I think that the iPad Mini is still a really good product, given its high-quality finishing and feel, as well as its apps ecosystem (which, say what you will about how Android has improved, still has the best range and the more polished apps).

True, it might not have the fastest processor in the iPad range but I don’t think there are many apps out there that the Mini’s A5 chip cannot pull off satisfactorily. I’ve run a whole gamut of apps on it from Garageband to graphic-intensive games like Asphalt 7 and Street Fighter x Tekken and it’s been able to handle all of them without any lag or glitch.

I haven’t had the chance to get my 3G sim card ready for the Mini yet (and, really, that was my primary purpose for it – data connection on the go on a screen I actually won’t die reading from) but already the Mini has impressed me many times over.

While many complain that Apple is taking its customers and fans for a ride, charging such a high price for a product that is arguably inferior to many of its existing ones, I’d argue that it’s still worth the buck and, despite its technological lackings, it’s still head and shoulders above its direct competitors and, in my opinion, is actually better than the full iPad line as well. Sure, it has some things which can be worked on, but the iPad Mini is not an iPad Lite. It’s an iPad Right.

ps. As with some of my other Apple product reviews, I have to stress that, despite the fact that I own and use several Apple products on a regular basis, I’m not actually a rabid fanboy who will gobble up everything that the company offers without a thought. It’s just that, having tried out many products, the ones I do own are still the ones that best satisfy my specific needs and wants as a consumer.

I agree that other people might not look for the things that I do; that other competitors’ products have their own strengths and might better suited for those consumers; and that Apple products have their own weaknesses. I hope that I have outlined here, in a relatively satisfactory way, why I think the Mini is still an excellent product despite its limitations (which it assuredly does have) for consumers like me.

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7 thoughts on “Unboxing, hands-on, first impressions/review: iPad Mini (LTE + Wifi).

    • Poke My Mon says:

      Oh wow I’m so sorry I took so long to reply! Thanks for the well-wishes!

      How has the Mini been for you so far since you got it?

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