Where most Android tablets have opted for 16:9 and 16:10 aspect ratios, making for taller and narrower screens, Apple's stuck with the 4:3 form factor of the rest of the iPad lineup. The iPad Mini's 1024x768 resolution screen mirrors the number of pixels in the first and second generation iPads (and the pixel density of the original iPhone 3G/S). Of course, those pixels are smaller, crammed tightly together into a 7.9-inch, rather than 9.7-inch, panel.
But that's just one aspect of the iPad Mini's design. This is a tablet built to compete with the Nexus 7s and Kindle Fires of the market, which have found success in sales as cheap and light one-handed reading devices. Apple's gone light, but they haven't exactly gone cheap. At $330, the iPad Mini is actually Apple's cheapest non-iPod product, and it's just 30 bucks more expensive than the new 5th generation iPod Touch. But it's $130 more expensive than any other 7-inch tablet on the market.
What's the iPad Mini offering for that extra hundred and thirty dollars?
Content consumption is the most common use case on current tablets, but apps like Kindle and Netflix distribute books and films pretty evenly across devices and OS boundaries. Sales are partially driven by how visible and accessible companies make that content look, and partially driven by the device itself. Google, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have one major advantage over the iPad Mini: Price. Apple, meanwhile, has an ace card of its own: iOS apps.
The iPad Mini runs on last year's dual-core A5 processor, the same chip running in the iPad 2. Old news, compared to the quad-core Tegra inside the Nexus 7, but the GPU in Apple's SoC is actually faster than Tegra 3 and much faster than the Kindle Fire HD's older SoC. The Nook HD's new TI OMAP, on the other hand, should give the A5 a run for its money. But that goes to show that age isn't everything: the A5 is still more than a match for hardware being released today.
The same goes for Apple's design. Despite its larger screen, the iPad Mini weighs less than any other 7-inch tablet. But it's skirting the line between one-handed and two-handed use thanks to its wider body. Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng found it barely small enough to hold with one hand; The Verge's Joshua Topolsky noted that the body felt far more solid and sleek than other 7-inch tablets, which are typically made with plastic to cut down on cost and weight.
Unlike the 10-inch iPad, the Mini has a narrow bezel around the left and right sides of the screen--even narrower than on the Nexus 7. We've seen this design choice make it a bit harder to comfortably grip tablets with one hand without accidentally thumbing the screen--so even if the iPad Mini looks absolutely gorgeous, holding the device isn't necessarily as comfortable or functional. Perhaps iOS has been updated to take gripping thumb touches into consideration.
Judging by the spec breakdown, build quality and the Apple ecosystem are the big--and perhaps only--reasons to opt for an iPad Mini over the much cheaper Android tablets.
|iPad Mini||Nexus 7||Kindle Fire HD||Nook HD|
|Display||7.9-inch 1024x768||7-inch 1280x800||7-inch 1280x800||7-inch 1440x900|
|Processor||Dual-core A5||Quad-core 1.3GHz Tegra 3||Dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4460||Dual-core 1.3GHz TI OMAP 4470|
|RAM||Unknown (likely 1GB)||1GB||1GB||1GB|
|Ports||Lightning||micro USB||micro USB, HDMI||micro USB, microSD, HDMI|
|Camera||1.2MP front, 5MP rear||1.2MP front||1.3MP front||N/A|
|Battery||16.3 watt-hour (likely equivalent to ~4400 mAh)||4325 mAh||4400 mAh||4050 mAh|
|Weight||10.8 ounces (308 grams)||12 ounces (340 grams)||13.9 ounces (394 grams)||11.1 ounces (315 grams)|
If you want take photos with a small tablet, the iPad Mini is the obvious choice. If you're already invested in iOS or want to play mobile games on a very light tablet, the iPad Mini is the obvious choice. If you're out to read books and comics, watch movies, and check your email, you could keep an extra Benjamin in your pocket and do all of those things just fine with a cheaper tablet.