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Apple iPad mini: hands-on

We take a closer look at what the new iPad mini is like to use

These were our thoughts and reactions on the night the iPad mini launched. Our colleagues Jason Snell and Dan Moren at MacWorld in the US attended the Apple launch and able to get some hands-on time with the iPad mini.

Exactly as the world expected, Apple has introduced a smaller version of the iPad. It's called, unsurprisingly, the iPad Mini and we've gone hands-on.

iPad mini price

For starters, price was one of the only unknown elements of the tablet before the launch event. Would Apple drop as low as the likes of Google and Amazon or not? Was the killer question. Well, the answer is no, and we're not very surprised. Although the price isn't a low as a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire, at £269 it's still very tempting. Of course, if you want more storage and the addition of 4G cellar data then you'll need to pay up to £529.

iPad mini size

The iPad Mini is mini in a number of ways. For starters the screen is, as rumoured 7.9in compared to 9.7in of all previous iPads. Apple says this means you can old it in one hand. It's also considerably thinner and lighter than its bigger brother. At 7.2mm and 308g for the Wi-Fi only model its 23 thinner and 50 percent lighter. This means that anyone who has avoided the iPad because of its size has no excuse any more.

"Apple made a trade-off when it designed the original iPad with a 10-inch display: that big screen (and its weight) made the original too bulky to be held in one hand. It was and is a great two-handed device (or a one-hand-and-propped-on-your-lap device), but it isn't palmable," our colleagues opined.

"The iPad mini most definitely is. If you’ve got small hands and want to hold it in landscape orientation, you may find it a bit of a stretch. In portrait mode, it’s easy to grip the bottom bezel between thumb and finger, the way you might hold a book. The iPad mini is so light that holding it this way feels perfectly natural. It’s so small and light that we think kids will love it."

 iPad mini portrait Facebook

"Unlike previous iPads, the iPad mini’s bezel isn’t the same size all the way around: In portrait orientation, the left and right bezels are substantially thinner, as on an iPhone. Putting your thumb on it means touching the touchscreen. We suspect that Apple felt slimming down the bezel was an acceptable option, given that the iPad mini is light enough to hold in one hand."

"In landscape orientation, the larger bezels are on the sides, giving you plenty of room to grab on with those opposable thumbs of yours."

"The iPad mini is narrow enough that it’s easy to thumb-type on its software keyboard in portrait orientation—it’s kind of like a giant iPhone. Thumb typing on the full-sized iPad is a lot less comfortable unless you have the hands of an NBA player. We didn’t have much chance to test ten-finger typing, but given the smaller size of the iPad mini's screen, we’d imagine it’s going to be a little harder to touch-type on this device than on the full-sized iPad. Even if you’ve already mastered iPad typing, you may have trouble doing it on the iPad mini."

Colour options are the classic Apple black or white. However, this time the iPad Mini matches the iPhone 5 styling so the white version has a silver trim while the black has slate trim.

iPad mini screen

There's not much dazzling going on with the screen since it's not a Retina display like the most recent iPad. Instead it uses the same 1024 x768 resolution as the original iPad and iPad 2. This means it has the same 4:3 aspect ratio, ensuring apps and other content fits correctly.

According to Macworld: "Anyone accustomed to using an iOS device with a Retina display will immediately notice that the iPad mini doesn’t have one: Pixels are clearly visible. It’s very much like looking at an iPhone 3GS. It’s a good, bright screen, but if you’re a Retina convert, you will not be pleased."

 iPad mini against iPad Retina

"We looked at photos and text on the screen, and both looked good. By keeping the same number of pixels as found in the iPad 2 while decreasing the physical size of the screen, the result is a higher-resolution display; as a result, everything looks a bit better than on the iPad 2. We tried a variety of apps and didn’t have any trouble hitting what we wanted to tap on, despite the fact that every interface element on the iPad mini is slightly smaller than on a full-sized iPad."

"What’s really amazing about the iPad mini—perhaps its most surprising trait—is that while it has a much larger screen than its 7-inch Android-based competitors, it’s lighter than they are. That’s a big deal, because it means this device wins in two dimensions: It’s somehow managed to pack a bigger screen that can fit powerful tablet apps into a package that weighs less."

iPad mini hardware

Under the covers is the same Apple A5 processor which the iPad 2 runs on. It's a dual-core chip and perfectly capable of running iOS. Storage options match the iPad with Retina display at 16GB, 32GB or 64GB. Needless to say, there's no option to add to this with something like a microSD card.

Other specifications are well-rounded with a 5Mp iSight rear facing camera, a 1.2Mp FaceTime HD  webcam, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n with 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Those opting for the Wi-Fi and cellular data model will be able to access 4G LTE in the UK. As expected, the iPad Mini uses the same Lightning connector found on the iPhone 5.

iPad mini software

Of course, the iPad Mini runs on iOS 6 and some users will be pleased to hear that this includes Siri. Apple claims the battery will last for up to 10 hours. Come back for our full review and we'll up date you on whether we found this to be the case or not.

iPad mini Smart Cover

Our colleagues had plenty to say about the iPad mini's bespoke cover and stand: "The iPad mini we tried came with an additional product: an iPad mini Smart Cover. In general, this accessory worked more or less like the full-sized iPad Smart Cover. Its metal hinge has been replaced by one that’s covered in the same material as the cover, so the design is a bit more cohesive. It was easy to snap on and off, and is so small that it adds very little bulk or weight to the already-small iPad mini."

"In general, we’re somewhat skeptical about cases for devices as small and light as the iPad mini, but the Smart Cover seems to be a good match for its device. Paired together, it feels like you’re carrying a small paper notebook in your hand. A bulkier case would mask the thinness and lightness of the device."

 Apple iPad mini Smart Cover

iPad mini conclusion

"If you think the iPad mini is just a small iPad, well, you’d be right. But it really needs to be seen to be understood. It’s tiny, light, and has great fit and finish. Its screen is good, but most definitely not of Retina quality. When you see one, and hold one, you’ll know if you want one. We’d direct you to your nearest Apple Store to check one out for yourself...but until November 2, you won’t be able to."

Chris Martin

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