[By Nic Lindh on Thursday, 15 November 2012]
Remember when the iPad first came out and the denser members of the tech chattering classes declared it just a larger iPhone Apple is doooooomed! No? Good for you. But it did happen.
And now the iPad mini is out and the same crowd of course declared it just a smaller iPad Apple is doooooomed!
Thus completely and utterly missing the fact that the size is the most important factor for this class of devices, followed by software and build quality. Size matters.
So what can be said about the size of the iPad mini? IT’S THE GODDAM STAR TREK SLATE! Yes! Holding an iPad mini is like holding one of the slates from Star Trek TNG. You find yourself looking for a bald man in an uncomfortably tight uniform to hand it to.
For a more prosaic comparison, it’s very similar to an e-ink Kindle to hold. And yes, by comparison the original iPad is steroidal and clunky.
But the form factor isn’t perfect. Since Apple came up with a clever hack to avoid forcing developers to target a third size by literally just shrinking the pixels on the existing iPad, things are smaller, small enough that it’s very, very close to the line of being unusable. It’s not, quite the opposite, but it’s oh-so-very-close.
Especially if, like me, you have big peasant fingers, you’ll find yourself having to focus a bit more with some of the smaller touch targets.
The biggest drawback is the lack of retina display. Although it should be said that affects different people different ways. For myself, the retina display is the greatest thing since fire and I hate giving it up. But it’s worth it for the size and the almost ridiculously light weight of the mini. I’ll be first in line to update when the inevitable next version with retina display hits the street.
For some people the retina display matters not one whit. To find out if that’s you, go to a reseller and compare the iPad 4 and the iPad 2. Spot the difference? If not, congratulations, you just saved yourself a bunch of money.
Another drawback, and one that annoys me surprisingly much is that the Apple Cover for the device is much chintzier than the one for its bigger brother. It doesn’t snap to the device as authoritatively as the big cover and the half-size last piece seems a bit, well, odd.
For some reason, the new cover is not available in leather. I know, I know, the food here is terrible and the portions are too small. But I like leather. It ages well. Polyurethane ages like a plastic suitcase. Wabi-sabi, etc.
So should you buy one? If you already have an iPad 2 or 3, no, you probably shouldn’t. What you have is fine. Wait for the next generation. Unless of course you have small hands or you carry a purse around. The mini will fit a lot better in a purse than a full-sized iPad.
To sum up, the iPad mini sure is a nice artifact from the future.