Tablets Guide

Apple iPad Mini Wi-Fi (16GB) review

Apple iPad Mini - The Mini Cooper of 7-inch Tablets (Updated)

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Launch SRP S$448

Overall rating 8.5/10
Design:
9.5
Features:
8.5
User-Friendliness:
9
Performance:
8.5
Value:
8
THE GOOD
Super thin and light design
Solid build quality
iPad optimized apps
Overall usage experience
THE BAD
Premium price
Lower-res display
Middling battery life


Performance and Conclusion

Performance

On the surface, the iPad Mini is equipped with the same A5 dual-core processor as the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. However, Apple quietly tweaked the processor to fit the requirements of the device - to be smaller. A recent teardown by Chipworks reveals that Apple built the A5 processor of the iPad Mini on a 32nm production process. In case you don't know, the first gen-A5 chip was built on a 45nm manufacturing process technology.

Apple uses the improved 32nm process technology to produce a smaller A5 chip to fit into the 7.2mm thin chassis of the iPad Mini. Moreover, the improved process technology of these chips make them more energy-efficient and would help to reduce excessive heat emission, which is a nagging issue on the third-gen iPad.

Even though the iPad Mini ships with only 512MB RAM, the user experience was snappy and in no way inferior to the 1GB RAM-touting Android tablets. Compared to the third-gen iPad, the speed of operation was noticeably slower especially when opening graphics-intensive apps such as games. Even so, it's not really downgrading your experiencing and we feel that there is no reason to doubt that you are getting sub par usability on the iPad Mini.

 

Web Browsing 

How the Tablets Stack up
Device Apple iPad Mini  Google Nexus 7 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Toshiba Regza AT270
CPU Apple A5 dual-core (1GHz) NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core (1.2GHz) TI OMAP 4430 dual-core
(1GHz)
Exynos dual-core
(1.4GHz)
NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 
(1.2GHz)
GPU PowerVR SGX543MP2 12-core GeForce PowerVR SGX540 Mali-400MP 12-core GeForce
RAM 512MB 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB 
OS Apple iOS 6.0.1 Android 4.1.1 Google Android 4.0.4 Google Android 4.0.4 Android 4.0.3

 

Once again, Apple proved that good performance has no co-relation with having the latest and best hardware. In the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark where each tablet is assessed on its browsing performance, the iPad Mini managed to surge ahead of the NVIDIA Tegra 3-powered Google Nexus 7 and Toshiba Regza Tablet AT270. It is on par with the Galaxy Tab 7.7, which recently had its software updated to Android 4.0.4. Number crunching aside, the web browsing experience on the iPad Mini was generally smooth. 

 

Multimedia Performance

One of the most talked about aspects of the iPad Mini is no doubt its 7.9-inch display. With a resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels, the iPad Mini is clearly behind the competition in terms of display resolution. 

Having reviewed other tablets with higher display resolutions, the difference is obvious to our eyes - text and graphics looked a little pixelated. We can't blame critics or consumers who are disappointed with the display of the iPad Mini. After all, Apple has spoilt everyone with the eye-popping Retina displays on the iPhone 4/4S/5 and third/fourth generation iPads. Here's a comparison of display resolution between the 7-inch tablets: - 

  • Apple iPad Mini - 1024 x 768 pixels (163ppi)
  • Google Nexus 7 - 1280 x 720 pixels (216ppi)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) - 1024 x 768 pixels (170ppi)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 - 1280 x 800 pixels (196ppi)
  • Toshiba Regza Tablet AT270 - 1280 x 800 pixels (196ppi)

Despite having a slightly bigger display, the iPad Mini does not necessarily show more content in portrait mode. During the launch of the iPad Mini, Apple demonstrated on stage that the iPad Mini could display more. Well, it depends on how you see it or how you use the tablet.

 

As seen from the photos we've put together, the iPad Mini has its advantages sometimes - depending on the app optimization and the task at hand. Videos are generally better handled by the widescreen Android tablets due to their 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratio screen designs that ensure you see more of the widescreen videos without the dreaded black bars wasting screen space. Browsing websites has pros and cons - pro because the screen easier to read with a lower resolution, con because it's not sharp and shows lesser content as opposed to higher resolution Android tablets. 

Apple also proudly boasted about having more than 275,000 apps optimized for use on the iPads (the iPad Mini's screen resolution is identical to the first and second generation iPads) whereas Android tablets suffer from having only a handful of such apps. Tablet optimized reader apps on the Apple ecosystem are more intuitively designed and offer best screen space optimization, thus they are better than the Android equivalents. Elsewhere like in Facebook, the tablet optimized apps do pay off in multimedia viewing experience as they are more enjoyable on the iPads than on other tablets. We illustrate the couple of examples that we've sighted:-

 

Imaging Performance

The iPad Mini is equipped with a 5-megapixel rear autofocus camera with backside illumination and five-element lens with f/2.4 aperture. It seems that Apple is standardizing the same advanced optics across its iPhone and iPad devices with the exception of the megapixel count. 

 

 

Battery Performance

Apple claims that the 4400mAh battery of the iPad Mini is able to provide up to 10 hours of web surfing, watching videos or listening to music. We are in the midst of conducting our standard battery test and will update this section as soon as the battery test ends. So check beck again tomorrow for the full performance findings. For now, the iPad Mini seems to be holding up quite well.

*Updated as of 7th November 2012, 2:30am:-

We ran the iPad Mini on an intensive battery test, which involves a video with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels being looped on the unit. The test is performed under specific parameters such as:-

  • Screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

Test Tablets Compared
Specifications/Device Apple iPad Mini Google Nexus 7 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Toshiba Regza Tablet AT270
Processor
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Quad-core 1.2GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Dual-core 1.4GHz
  • Quad-core 1.2GHz
Display Size
  • 7.9-inch
  • 7.0-inch
  • 7.0-inch
  • 7.7-inch
  • 7.7-inch
Display Type
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD
  • LED-backlit IPS LCD
  • PLS LCD
  • Super AMOLED Plus
  • AMOLED
Display Resolution
  • 1,024 x 768 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
  • 1,024 x 600 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
Dimensions
  • 200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm
  • 193.7 x 122.4 x 10.5mm
  • 193.7 x 122.4 x 10.5mm
  • 196.7 x 133 x 7.89mm
  • 204.5 x 135.2 x 7.85mm
Weight
  • 308g
  • 340g
  •  344g
  • 340g
  • 350g
Battery Capacity
  • 4440mAh
  • 4325mAh
  •  4000mAh
  • 5100mAh
  • 3940mAh



 



 

To our surprise, the iPad Mini only managed to last slightly over 7 hours despite its 4,440mAh battery. We ran the battery test twice and results turned out to be similar. Although the iPad Mini has the biggest display (7.9-inch) among the tablets compared, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. managed to last a whopping 11 hours and 44 minutes on its 7.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus display.

Perhaps the more power-efficient AMOLED screen and larger battery capacity (5,100mAh) gave the Galaxy Tab 7.7 extra juice to last that long. Apple, which was once known for its power efficiency, doesn't seem to fare as well as some of the compared tablets in this aspect. Even the third generation iPad faltered in our battery test too. The Power Consumption chart reinforces our assumption that the iPad Mini does indeed have a higher power draw.

The iPad Mini took a dive in the Portability Index, where each device is assessed on how well it balances battery life with their physical attributes (weight and volume). Despite being the thinnest and one of the lightest tablets in its class, the uninspiring battery mileage of the iPad Mini caused it to slip behind its main competitors (the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab 7.7) by significant margins. 

During normal day-to-day usage, the iPad Mini was able to last more than a day of emailing, web browsing, surfing social networking sites and some games. Fortunately for the iPad Mini, we did not encounter any unusual heating issues on the back of the device. As always, actual battery mileage will vary depending on actual usage conditions.

 

Conclusion
 

*Updated as of 7th November 2012, 2:30am

Retailing at S$448 (16GB), S$578 (32GB) and S$708 (64GB), the Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi) is priced at a premium over competing tablets. For example, the Google Nexus 7 (16GB) Wi-Fi is priced at S$399 while the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) 3G 16GB model comes in at S$498. 

Both Android tablets offer users the flexibility and freedom to customize the user interfaces. Moreover, Android users are not tied down by a program (iTunes in Apple's case) to transfer multimedia content unlike the Apple iPads. 

However, Apple has its strong ecosystem of developers and tablet-optimized apps to justify the premium prices that the iPad Minis are commanding. In addition, you cannot discount the fact that the iPad Mini is leaps and bounds ahead of any competing tablet in terms of design and build quality. 

To put things into perspective, this situation is similar to the automobile industry where the Mini Coopers are considered quite expensive for its class. Other cars, which offer more passenger space, leg room and features at lower prices are better deals for people who are looking to stretch their dollar value. However, there will still be people who prefer the Mini Cooper because of its uniqueness, branding and retro image.

Having said that, the iPad Mini is still an impressive tablet that will appeal to consumers who prioritize design, looks and quality of apps over the price factor.  The biggest nitpick we've noticed is the often mentioned comparison against the Google Nexus 7 where the iPad Mini has a lower screen resolution, lack of direct connectivity via USB, higher price and from our testing, less than expected battery life. Common aspects between both of the devices are that they both lack expandable storage options and 3G/4G support (for which the iPad Mini will debut this edition later in the year at a more notable premium). However, the iPad Mini's advantages over the Nexus 7 are its various built-in storage capacity editions, much better handling, sleeker and lighter build, larger screen, better optimized tablet apps of greater quantity, superior camera capabilities and better overall usability. Despite the improvements on the Android platform, the fluid usage experience on the iPad and iPad Mini is unrivaled.

So yes, the Google Nexus 7 comes out better only in price, better screen resolution and a much longer up-time. If you're not looking for anything more than these intrinsic values, it's definitely a better choice. However, the iPad Mini chalks up plus points elsewhere in usability, handling and another set of features that can vouch for its own price point. Aside from its lower-resolution display, middling battery life and higher price points, there's not much to dislike about the Apple iPad Mini.  What we have to iterate is that the iPad Mini is best experienced to form a personal opinion rather than reading technical specs that may not convey its strong emphasis in design and usability. As we've shown earlier in the article, even the amount of effort put in by the app developer can make a big difference to your tablet usage experience that's currently Apple's forte.

If the Apple iPad Mini had come with a higher resolution or a Retina display and a longer lasting battery, it would without a doubt been "the competition's worst nightmare". For now, we deem the iPad Mini as Apple's warning shot to the competition to show who's the real boss in the tablet scene.

For those waiting out for the iPad Mini edition with 3G/4G data connectivity, it remains to be seen how it would be priced to compete - if at all the price is adjusted once it's made available (which is quite unlikely). For one, it's far more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) 3G edition, but we reckon that the iPad Mini is generally superior to it for any direct competition. However, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Toshiba Regza AT270 are much more closer competitors at its price point. We'll assess these comparisons once the data connectivity enabled iPad Mini are made available in the near future. For now, our verdict is solely on the Wi-Fi edition only.