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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.

At the same time, if you're coming from an iPad 2 or an original iPad, the iPad mini's screen looks considerably better. That's because these older iPads offered 1024 by 768 pixels in a 9.7-inch (diagonal) screen, whereas the iPad mini has the same number of pixels in a 7.9-inch screen--the 163-ppi pixel density of the iPad mini is considerably higher than the 132 ppi of the older iPads, as well as that of every non-Retina Apple laptop, iMac, and display. For example, I spend my days using a 2010 27-inch iMac, and the iPad mini's screen has a higher pixel density and makes the same text look better. In other words, if you're coming from an older iPad or Mac, the iPad mini's screen will be a clear (no pun intended) upgrade.

I should also point out that while the iPad mini's screen looked noticeably non-Retina to me when I first started reading on it (after seven months of daily use of Retina iOS devices), I did acclimate. I went cold turkey with the iPad mini, using it as my only iPad for three days, and by the end of that test, I still noticed the lower pixel density, but the difference wasn't nearly as glaring, even though I was still using an iPhone 5 alongside it. That won't be the case for everyone, and I will of course welcome a Retina iPad mini when it comes along; I'm just saying that the non-Retina display wasn't a deal-killer for me. I still enjoyed long sessions reading the Instapaper, Kindle, iBooks, and Reeder apps, and I liked the iPad mini's smaller size and weight more than I disliked the fact that it didn't have a Retina display.

A reality check: Most people in the world--and the overwhelming majority of people who don't already own a recent iPad or iPhone--have never used a Retina-quality display, let alone used one regularly enough to find the iPad mini's screen lacking. I showed the mini to a few people who haven't yet joined the Retina club, and they were thoroughly impressed by the iPad mini's screen. These are the people Apple is marketing the iPad mini to, not those of us who already have one or more recent iOS devices.


Despite the Retina controversy, giving the iPad mini a screen resolution (1024 by 768 pixels) identical to that of the iPad 2 was perhaps the savviest decision Apple made when designing the mini. It means that any iPad app compatible with the iPad 2 (which Apple still sells) works with the iPad mini with no extra effort on the part of the developer. And since even the latest iPad apps are written to work on both Retina iPads and the iPad 2, this means that the iPad mini has several hundred thousand native apps ready and waiting for it.


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