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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.

Flip the iPad mini around, and you'll see that unlike the tapered, brushed-aluminum back of the full-size iPad, the iPad mini's unibody enclosure is more squared-off at the edges, like the original and latest iPod touch models. The color of the back varies, as well: On the black iPad mini, the back and sides are matte, slate-black aluminum with matching aluminum buttons and switches; the white-bezel iPad gives you a matte, silver-aluminum back with matching controls. And like the iPhone 5, the iPad mini has polished, chamfered edges between its body and the glass front.----

Putting aside for a moment the technical specs (I'll get to those soon enough), the iPad mini feels incredibly solid. There's absolutely no give or flex to the body, and the fit and finish are as good as with anything Apple has ever done--the design and construction are that impressive. I thought Google's Nexus 7 tablet (which I've been using for the past few months) felt sturdy, but even though the iPad mini has a 24-percent-larger footprint across roughly half the thickness, it feels much more solid than the Nexus 7, which flexes and creaks when you twist it firmly.

Black or white? I generally prefer black iPads, because I find the black bezel to be less distracting than white. The black bezel seems to just get out of the way, letting the screen draw me in. But with the iPad mini, I also like the black better for purely aesthetic reasons. As Macworld's Jason Snell pointed out in his iPhone 5 review, this new black design, with its matte, slate-black finish, matching buttons and switches, and glossy-black Apple logo, looks stunning. It looks better than the full-size iPad in black because, well, everything is black. You don't see a thin, silver edge around screen, and even the little squarish icon on the Home button is darker on the iPad mini than on the full-size iPad. Everything, front and back, just blends together. Don't get me wrong, the white iPad is beautiful--especially the aluminum buttons and switches, which look much more upscale than the black-plastic versions on the standard iPad--but it doesn't impress me quite as much. My only complaint with the black iPad mini is that the matte back really shows fingerprints, skin oil, and grease. You don't want to eat potato chips while holding it. I also suspect (but haven't tested) that the black model will show scratches more easily, as with the iPhone 5.

To protect the iPad mini from such scratches, there are plenty of third-party iPad mini cases on the way, but Apple offers a matching iPad mini Smart Cover, in a variety of colors, for $39. Like the original Smart Cover, the mini version attaches to the left-hand edge of the iPad mini using magnets, protecting the screen when you're not using it, folding behind the iPad mini when you are. The Smart Cover also folds into a triangular stand for video- or photo-viewing or for onscreen typing, and magnets in the cover work with the iPad mini's magnetic sleep/wake feature. Unlike the original Smart Cover, the iPad mini version uses a plastic-and-fabric hinge. We'll be covering the Smart Cover separately, but my initial impression is that this hinge is more comfortable against your hand than the metal version, and it won't scratch your iPad as easily.


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