Gabriel’s Gadget of 2012: iPad Mini.

My (unblogged about) gadget of 2011 was the Amazing Kindle (a totally apt typo) and for most of 2012 it seemed like it (and its younger sibling, the Paperwhite, which I had gotten late in the year) would retain its crown. Its compactness, light weight (although slightly less so for the Paperwhite) and amazing e-ink technology made it my go-to gadget for most of the year, with my first-gen iPad being shoved on my shelf for most of the time.

And then, at the tail end of the year, I got my Mini. In the short time since I’ve had it, it’s been my indispensable companion and often takes a place in my bag, even on days when I leave the Kindle at home (yes, I know, sacrilege!). Here are three reasons why this was my top gadget of the year:

1. Its size

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Much has been made about the form factor and size of the device and I think this is really the factor that pretty much pushed it to the top of the list. Although I’ve had the first-gen iPad for a few years, I’ve never used it as my travelling companion much because it’s so heavy (for its size) and unwieldy. Whipping the iPad Phat out on the train always feels so uncomfortable and tiring after a while that it pretty much necessitates using two hands to clutch it, a luxury I can’t afford most of the time (and still can’t).

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The Mini is perfect for that, though. It’s just the right size to be able to slip into most bags unobtrusively and to hold single-handedly while standing on the bus; it’s light enough that even just gripping it with one hand wouldn’t be too straining and it can be held for pretty much an entire journey, which can’t be said for the Phat.

While the Kindle topped my list in 2011, that was discounting my phone, which I felt shouldn’t be included since it would never leave top place thanks to its sheer ubiquity in my life. The size and easy-to-whip-out factor of the Mini, however, has made it such that it even trumps the iPhone. Because it’s so mobile (and provides a larger screen on which to read from), I’ve spent more time social media-ing from the Mini than from my phone and, more often than not, I now have nothing much to do on it for except for the occasional message, call, or photo (which, I guess, means I’m back in 2007, yo).

2. Its screen

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Just like how the the size of the device actually feels better to me than its large cousins, the 7+-inch screen, too, feels like Apple finally got it just right. As I said in my original review, the Mini isn’t just a scaled- and powered-down version of the larger iPads – it’s a whole new product in its own right and, to me, is the better one.

The screen size strikes the perfect balance between mobility and readability and is not only great for reading websites, RSS and social media feeds on the go, but also awesome for things like manga. I mean, I always feel so ridiculous reading my comics on the oversized screen of the iPhats and the Mini’s screen, despite being smaller, feels way more right for it (and of course, the fact that the Mini is smaller means I’d actually read it more, too. Also, less pesky people trying to read from the sides).

In fact, I think even games feel more “right” on the Mini’s screen too. Sure, the 9″ screens of the Phats offer more screen real estate but Tiny Farm and Clash of Clans feel so much more compact and elegant on the Mini, whilst still retaining an adequate amount of space.

Sure, a retina screen would have made things much better. Still, I think the lack of one is actually not as bad as people think (although, like I’ve mentioned, it could be that I’m not expecting too much since I’m upgrading from a non-retina iPhat). The manga I was reading was slightly blurry around the edges and games would look even better with the added pixel density but it’s not like it’s unlookable as it is right now.

3. 3G

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Sure, the original iPads already have this and it’s not like all Minis have this either, but, while I had been swaying back and forth about getting a micro-sim for my iPhat, it was almost a given for the Mini thanks to size and mobility making it much more of a mainstay in my bag. I stuck to wifi for the first few weeks and, after confirming that I really do bring it around with me all the time, I took the plunge and applied for the extra card and haven’t regretted having to foot out an extra S$10 a month at all.

It’s so much better than the iPhone for surfing, gaming and using social media on the go (and it also makes sure that I put less strain on the phone’s already terrible battery i.e. putting my eggs in two baskets).

I’m just so thankful that I’m still on the old 12gb free data plan instead of the new 2gb LTE plans that the telcos offer. Sure, it might be quite a bit slower but at least I won’t have to pay extra for exceeding the limit (something which I did the very first month I got the multi-SIM).

Sure, the Mini has a few small issues (the lack of retina and a relatively high price, for example) but, in terms of usage, it has definitely given me a bang for the buck, so much so that I’ve read so much more manga on it than I have books on my Kindle, which is not so good for my resolution (but hey, since I read for escape and leisure, it doesn’t matter what I read, right?).

The iPad Mini (which I churned this entry out on) – my gadget of 2012 by far, and, barring any newfangled amazingness popping up, looks set to remain as my top gadget of 2013.

Pictures from: Apple

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