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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.

If you're used to reading on a Kindle, the iPad mini can't match the light weight of the standard Kindle (six ounces) or the Paperwhite (7.5 ounces), but 11 ounces is still light enough for long reading sessions. Over the past few days, I used the iPad mini for several two-hour stretches of reading, and I had no complaints about the weight or size. It was a welcome change from reading on the standard iPad, which for me usually entails resting the iPad on my lap rather than holding it in one hand at a comfortable level. After using the iPad mini for a few days, my iPad 3 felt bulky and heavy.

Speaking of holding while reading, one concern I had about the iPad mini was that its thinner long-edge bezels would result in unintended touchscreen actions. Apple says iOS 6 on the iPad mini can differentiate between touching and holding, and I found this to be true. For example, the Instapaper app lets you go to the previous or next page of an article by tapping the left or right edge of the screen, respectively. If you hold an iPhone by placing your thumb along the edge of the screen, you'll either select text or, when you remove your thumb, flip the page. But holding the iPad mini by the edge of the screen does nothing--except let you hold the tablet comfortably. In my testing, touching the edge of the screen for a little less than a second and a half is interpreted as a tap; longer touches are ignored.

And while I'm on the topic of reading, a number of Macworld readers have asked about the iPad mini's maximum and minimum brightness levels. Compared to my third-generation iPad, the iPad mini's screen doesn't get quite as dark at the dimmest screen-brightness level, and it's not quite as bright at the brightest level. But these are very minor differences that you probably wouldn't notice unless, like me, you had the two devices side by side.

It's a smaller world

Though any iPad app will work with the iPad mini, the mini's smaller screen does have some ramifications. One issue I experienced is that if an app uses especially small buttons and controls, those items may be more difficult to tap or drag on the iPad mini because of their smaller physical size. Text that was already small on the standard iPad may be too small on the mini. (For example, when reading comics in Comixology's Comics app, I tended to use Guided mode, where the app presents one frame at a time, more on the iPad mini than I do on a full-size iPad.) Apple says developers will have the option to target the iPad mini--meaning the app can display a different interface if it detects it's running on an iPad mini, just as universal apps can currently target an iPhone or iPad--so I suspect that some developers will choose to tweak their apps to be more usable on the iPad mini.


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