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iPad mini gives you most of an iPad at half the size

Dan Frakes | Nov. 7, 2012
When the iPad debuted, many called it "just a big iPod touch." Most soon realized that such claims were misguided, as the iPad turned out to be much more: more powerful, more capable, more useful, more everything. Instead of being arithmetically bigger than the iPod touch, the iPad offered exponentially more of what was good about it.

Does all this sound like the old "for consumption, not creation" saw? A little. But while the iPad has clearly shown that it can be great for both, I think the iPad mini leans more towards the consumption side. You can use it for creating, and especially for creative pursuits that don't require a lot of typing, but a full-size iPad is probably a better bet for those tasks.

Also on the positive side, my young children absolutely love the iPad mini's smaller size. It's true that smaller isn't necessarily better for kids, but assuming your kids are old enough that the smaller screen won't present fine-motor-skills challenges, the iPad mini's lighter weight and more-compact size made it easier for my kids to hold and carry than a full-size iPad. They especially liked that it was easier to hold up to use the cameras. (One of my two test iPads spent a lot of time as a Toca Tailor machine over this past weekend.)

Accessory compatibility

Because it uses Apple's new Lightning connector, the iPad mini--like the iPhone 5 and latest iPod touch--is incompatible with older 30-pin dock-connector accessories unless you use one of Apple's Lightning-to-30-pin adapters, which work with most audio, charging, and syncing accessories.

Otherwise, the iPad mini supports the same types of accessories as full-size iPads do, including the Lightning-connector versions of Apple's SD Card Camera Reader and USB Camera Adapter. It also supports video output using Apple's soon-to-ship Lightning Digital AV Adapter and Lightning to VGA Adapter.

To buy or not to buy

The iPad mini feels like a smaller iPad only because it came second. If you weren't familiar with the iPad, and someone handed you an iPad mini and a fourth-generation iPad, it would be easy to think that the mini was the "standard" model with a super-sized version available for a premium. And I think that may very well be where Apple is headed with the iPad line. I wouldn't be surprised if the iPad mini eventually becomes, iPod mini-like, Apple's best-selling tablet, with only those who really need the extra power and screen size opting for the standard iPad.

Is it too expensive? Some people have criticized the iPad mini for its higher-than-Android-tablets price. Apple is quick to point out that the third-generation iPad, starting at $500, is Apple's most successful iPad to date, and the best-selling tablet in the world by a large margin. The implication here is that people clearly aren't buying tablets based on price--they're buying iPads. In Apple's view, the iPad mini lowers the cost of entry for buying an iPad, while maintaining the iPad experience and offering a bigger screen than its competitors. And as much as I would have liked a $199 or $249 iPad mini, I have to admit that Apple has a point here. Having used the iPad mini's most capable competitor, the Nexus 7, for an extended period, I think the iPad mini's combination of better overall hardware, fit and finish, iOS, and app and accessory ecosystems will be worth the price premium for many people.


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