Geek Speak: Hands-on review: The iPad Mini

Steve Dinneen
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From £319 for 16GB wi-fi only
Four Stars

TWO weeks ago, I wrote a big review of the iPad Air, which I said was the best tablet on the market, despite not incorporating all the latest tech from the iPhone 5S. Now, I’m going to have to do it all again, because the iPad Mini is exactly the same as the iPad Air, but smaller (7.9 inch screen instead of 9.7 inch). If you read the last review, why don’t you save yourself a few minutes and do something else? Say hello to the person next to you, or have a quick nap. Plan for a presentation or just stare into space for a while; whatever, how should I know what you like doing with your spare time, I don’t know anything about you.

The fact that the iPad Mini is the same as the iPad Air is, though, interesting in itself. The last generation Mini, which you can still buy, didn’t incorporate the super-sharp retina display, nor did it have the same processing firepower as the equivalent iPad; it was, to an extent, a budget option if you couldn’t quite bring yourself to splash out on the bigger one. For that reason, my old iPad Mini has lain gathering dust in a cupboard – looking at the grainy, low(er)-resolution display is the technological equivalent of having sand thrown in your eyes.

So while the iPad Air took a big step up from the iPad, the Mini with retina display has taken two big steps up, and it’s still quite a bit cheaper than the bigger version. The cheapest option is £319 for the 16Gb one, but this isn’t going to go very far if you plan on downloading lots of apps that take advantage of that retina display. The next step up is £399 for the 32Gb model, which is more sensible. When you consider the iPad Air with 32Gb of storage is £479, the iPad Mini starts to look like a very cost-effective option (well, until you compare it to the Google Nexus 7, which is £239 for the 32Gb version, but it ain’t half as pretty, nor does it have the processing clout of Apple’s A7 chip). So if you’re buying the iPad Mini as a gift, you’ll be both popular and marginally less poor, and it has the added advantage of fitting inside a stocking.

So, about that size: I’m yet to be convinced by the 7.9 inch iPad. It fails the fundamental test of being able to fit inside my jacket pocket (some people dispute this, and they may indeed have bigger pockets than me, but it’s not a competition to see who has the biggest pockets, it’s a subjective test based on my own wardrobe). If it doesn’t fit into my pocket, I have to carry a bag, in which case I may as well carry the full-sized iPad. The new Mini doesn’t solve this problem – I have both new iPads and, while I’m impressed with the leap forward Apple has made with the Mini, I still find myself turning to the Air. The flip-side is that the 7.9 inch display gives you 35 per cent more screen space than a standard 7 inch display like that on the Nexus, and you really notice the difference.

The area the Mini really excels in, though is weight. Apple managed to trim the iPad Air down to an impressive 469g but the new Mini is just 331g, which is as light as you’ll ever need a tablet to be.

So, in the same way the iPad Air is the best full-size tablet, the iPad Mini with retina display is the best device in its size-bracket in terms of build quality, software (of which I’ve harped on about enough in previous reviews) and real-life processing power. It has some serious competition, though, especially when it comes to price, and bear in mind the lack of a thumb-print scanner and inferior camera set-up to the iPhone 5S. When it comes down to it, I like it a lot, but I don’t quite love it.

Everything Everywhere is offering an iPad Mini for £29 when you sign up to a two-year, £31-a-month deal, which gets you a monthly 5Gb of data.

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