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Apple iPad Mini hands-on review

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Ipad Mini with Smart Cover IOS 6The iPad Mini went on sale in the UK on Friday, with less fanfare than normally accompanies an Apple launch, but generating lots of excitement nonetheless as it’s the firm’s first foray into the smaller form-factor tablet.

Trade was brisk at the three Apple London stores we visited on Friday morning, with the 16GB models totally sold out and white versions only available in the 64GB model. V3 has managed to get its hands on one of the 32GB Wi-Fi-only models to see whether the Mini lives up to the usual Apple high standards, or the firm has been forced to compromise with its lower-price smaller tablet. We’ll have our full review posted up early next week but, for now, these are our first impressions on having used the iPad Mini for a few hours.

The Apple iPad Mini features a 7.9in LED-backlit multi-touch display with IPS technology, and the 1024x768 resolution offers 163 pixels per inch (ppi). Apple has stopped short of bringing its gorgeous Retina display with 3.1 million pixels to the smaller version, no doubt to achieve the lower price tag.

The display is still nice and bright, with good colour detail, but text is slightly fuzzy around the edges, especially when you compare it to the screen on the new iPad or competing 7in tablets from Google and Amazon, which both feature HD screens with a resolution of 1280x800 at 216 ppi.

However, Apple goes some way to making up for the lower screen quality with the extra screen real estate. As Apple has pointed out, with its extra 0.9in and uncluttered display, the iPad mini offers 29.6 square inches of screen, or 35 per cent more screen real estate than other 7in tablets at 21.9 square inches. There’s also up to 67 per cent more usable viewing area when browsing the web in landscape mode or 49 per cent in portrait, due to the tabbed browsing experience and navigation buttons on Android devices.

We definitely preferred having the slightly larger screen on our initial tests, as you’re able to squeeze in a bit more of any websites you’re visiting without scrolling down, while videos playback is always a better experience on the biggest screen possible. However, it’s worth noting that as Apple goes for a 4:3 aspect ratio, widescreen footage will display with a thick black bar at the top and bottom of the display, unlike devices with a 16:9 aspect ratio, such as the Google Nexus 7.

The first thing you’ll notice about the iPad Mini is the low weight and high-end build quality.

The iPad Mini measures in at 200x135x7.2mm, compared to the 199x120x10.5mm Nexus 7 and the 193×137×10.3mm Kindle Fire HD. However, despite its larger frame, the iPad Mini weighs a mere 308g, a much more svelte option than the comparatively hefty 340g Nexus 7 and the practically obese 395g Kindle Fire HD.

The Mini feels really light in hand, and wouldn’t cause any problems if you were holding it for long periods to watch a film or read a book, for example. This means you could also ditch the iPad stand often needed when travelling or using the laptop for media playback, also meaning one less accessory to buy.

The iPad Mini also carries on the Apple tradition of being as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside, with its aluminium unibody casing around the glass screen. It feels really sturdy in hand, and has a very high-end look, especially compared to the cheaper plastic-coated 7in tablets out there on the market.

The iPad Mini runs off a dual-core A5 processor, the same as on the iPad 2. Apple didn’t reveal the memory size. We did a bit of web browsing and watched some BBC iPlayer footage in our initial tests, and experienced nippy browsing and a smooth media playback experience.

The iPad Mini is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models, with 5GB of free iCloud storage.

On first glance, we’d say Apple has another hit on its hand with this lightweight, high-performance model, but we can see the iPad Mini becoming a key competitor to the full-size iPad more so than 7in tablets from Google and Amazon. At around £100 more than the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, £269 is still a hefty price tag for this mini tablet, especially considering the 32GB version at £349 is only £50 cheaper than the full-size 16GB iPad with Retina display.

We’ll be posting our detailed review early next week, so check back on V3 then to read our full conclusions.

02 Nov 2012

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