Yes folks, it's arrived: Apple's new iPad mini. As you can see, it's certainly smaller than the regular iPad, although at 7.9 inches it's not as small as you'd expect — compared to something like the Nexus 7, it does feel more hefty in your hands, though the thinness of the device seems to make up for a bigger surface area. To be clear, it's an incredibly thin and light design, with a lean profile despite being larger than some of the devices it challenges.
Like most Apple products, the build of the smaller tablet is excellent, easily surpassing the competition on the market. By comparison, the Nexus 7 and Fire HD feel like toys. Other manufacturers are going to have to up their game with this product in town. It's just a striking difference in materials and solidness.
So in short, the $329 iPad mini seems a lot like an iPad... just smaller.
The thinness and sleekness of the casing cannot be overstated. It feels as high-end as the new iPhone, but even sharper in the hand — like a slice of solid aluminum. The chamfered edges present on the iPhone 5 have been continued here, as well as the all-black treatment seen on the latest phone. The display on the mini looks incredibly sharp, and even though the resolution is lower than the 3rd and 4th generation full-size iPad, it doesn't immediately seem like a 1024 x 768 display. The smaller, 7.9-inch surface area certainly helps squeeze the pixels.
Inside the device is an A5 CPU, which might be a cause for concern considering the fact that it's most definitely a last generation chip (actually, two generations old now thanks to the A6X). Performance on the tablet, however, suggests that it will do just fine with the current crop of iPad software. Applications I tried out seemed to run as snappily as anything on the 3rd generation iPad. Titles like Real Racing 2 seemed to take a little bit more time to boot up, but gameplay was fine and stutter-free. My suspicion is that fewer pixels to push around onscreen makes for speedier performance overall.
One thing that's really interesting to note is that the keyboard feels a little bit more squished when you're using it in portrait, but a little more comfortable in landscape (at first blush at least). Clocking in at somewhere between the full size iPad and the iPhone, for big hands like mine it seems like almost the perfect size, though the key height could stand to be cranked up a little for portrait typing.
We won't know the full details about the iPad mini until we put it through its paces in a proper review, but at first glance, it's an impressive device that helps to remind the industry just how very good Apple is at two things: creating gorgeous hardware, and creating a spectacle.
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