Small but perfectly formed: we put the iPad Mini through its paces

Apple’s great skill lies in creating products you didn’t know you needed. Nobody thought they wanted a little metal box with all their music on it, but when it arrived, the world went all doe-eyed and declared its undying love. Tablets had been around for years and made no impact on the public consciousness. “Fingerprints,” we complained. “What about all the fingerprints?” And then came the iPad. Enough said.

Now, in the face of the first serious encroachment into Apple’s near-monopoly of the tablet market by a new generation of seven inch devices, comes the iPad Mini: a form factor Steve Jobs infamously rejected as being too small.

Apple really needed to work its magic this time, too, because, as an iPad owner, I’m inclined to agree with Steve Jobs. Sure, the iPad Mini is cool – that goes without saying – but where does it fit into my life?

I’d assumed it would be marginally bigger than my Kindle Touch but there is actually a huge amount of extra screen space. At 7.9 inches, it feels more closely related to the iPad than, say, the 5.3 inch Galaxy Note. The extra space – helped along by the tiny bevel around the screen – means watching movies or playing games that require a lot of screen space (such as the wonderfully addictive Solipskier) never feels cramped.

This also has its drawbacks: in my mac test (and by mac I mean the type of jacket favoured by FBI agents and flashers, rather than Apple’s range of computers), my Kindle fits snugly into the over-sized breast pocket, but the Mini is far too big. This may seem like an arbitrary criticism, but the ability to carry the Kindle in your pocket is part of its appeal to commuters – if you need to carry it in your bag, why not just go for the standard iPad?

It is, though, incredibly light. The lack of a retina display (meaning the resolution is the same as the iPad 2 but less crisp than the latest iPhones or the new iPad) means Apple has been able to throw out a lot of the bigger version’s weight (for the lowdown on the updated iPad see our review, right). If you’re working on a presentation, for example, and need a combination of screen size and portability, this would be ideal.

All things considered, the iPad Mini is yet another wonderfully crafted device but one that feels like it exists to plug a gap in the market rather than a gap in your life.

• iPad Mini, from £269, apple.com/uk

IN SUMMARY

■ Who is it for? People who want a cheaper jumping off point into the tablet world than the £399 iPad but still want Apple’s seal of quality; people with very big pockets or very small bags; anyone who needs a lightweight tool for presenting.

■ What’s it got going for it? It is incredibly light, has a surprising amount of screen space and is £130 cheaper than the entry-level iPad.

■ What are its drawbacks? It’s too big to fit in your pocket; has no retina display.

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