The iPad Mini: First impressions

The smaller iPad is priced higher than competitors, but it appears to have what it takes to help Apple maintain its lead in the market for lower-end tablets.

By TheStreet Staff Oct 24, 2012 12:27PM

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The iPad Mini displayed in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 23, 2012 © Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP PhotoBy Chris Ciaccia

 

Apple (AAPL) announced a slew of new products on Oct. 23,  including the long-awaited iPad Mini. 

 

After demoing the product, as well as Apple's new fourth-generation iPad, it's clear that the tech giant still has a lead on its tablet competitors.

 

The smaller iPad Mini, which starts at $329 for the 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi version, looks exactly like the larger iPad, but there's a whole lot more to it. The iPad Mini has a screen size of 7.9 inches, significantly larger than the smaller tablet from Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG) when you take into account actual viewing size. 

 

It's 49% larger when viewed in a portrait setting, and 67% larger in landscape mode, said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, during the company's presentation of the Mini.

 

The first thing I noticed was how light it felt. Apple CEO Tim Cook said it was as light as a pad of paper, and at 308 grams, it feels light and airy in your hands. It doesn't feel flimsy or like a toy, however. Apple did an excellent job of reducing the thickness (7.2 millimeters) while making sure it feels sturdy. 

 

"It's as thin as a pencil," Schiller said during the presentation.

 

The tablet doesn't have Retina Display and uses the A5 chip Apple used on the iPad 2, so it's not the greatest tablet ever made, but it's definitely a step above the competition for lower-end tablets.

 

Apps and Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 6, continue to look stunning and are as responsive as ever. Each of more than 275,000 apps designed specifically for the iPad will work on the iPad Mini. I encountered no problems during the few minutes I had to play with the Mini. Apple continues to make products that work.

 

The screen resolution, at 1,024 by 768 pixels, is comparable to the other smaller tablets. The screen packs 163 pixels per inch (ppi). The screen quality isn't as nice as the new fourth-generation iPad, which has 264 ppi and a screen resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, but, for the price, it's good value.

 

The iPad Mini is a little light in terms of memory, at 512 megabytes of RAM, but that is comparable to the other lower-end tablets at comparable prices.

 

Apple turned a few heads by announcing iPad Mini pricing from $329, when the fourth-generation iPad starts at $499, and the iPad 2 starts at $399. Some where expecting $299 or lower.

 

At $329, Apple is appealing to those who think $499 is a bit much for a tablet, while keeping its premium pricing mantra alive. Apple has never competed on price, and it doesn't look as if it's going to start anytime soon. The iPad Mini, along with the fourth-generation iPad, will be available for pre-order on Oct. 26 and will go on sale Nov. 2.

 

A 10-hour battery life 

It's not surprising that Apple was able to make the Mini significantly smaller while maintaining the production quality. What is a surprise, though, is that Apple announced LTE capability on the iPad Mini, something which drains battery life. The battery on the iPad Mini is 10 hours. It's an impressive technological feat for something so small and so light to have LTE capabilities.

 

Apple announced that, in addition to AT&T (T) and Verizon Communications (VZ), the iPad Mini, as well as the fourth-gen iPad, will be available from Sprint Nextel (S).

 

The 7.9-inch tablet is a good value at $329, and it likely will cannibalize some sales of the 9.7-inch larger iPad, especially given pricing levels. It's too early to say whether consumers will choose one over the other, but I suspect that will be the case more often than not. 

 

Apple seems hell-bent on expanding its market share and opening up its ecosystem to new users, and the iPad Mini is poised to do that. The company has reportedly ordered the production of up to 10 million units for the fourth quarter.

 

While this may not be as Earth-shattering as the new iMac that was announced, or the iPad and iPhone when the world first gazed upon those devices, Apple has again put out a premium product and refused to compromise on quality, while making it sleek and sexy-looking. 

 

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6Comments
Oct 24, 2012 4:49PM
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Factchecker to the rescue!

You had to go and bring percentages into it, so:

Cons:

75% of the screen resolution of other Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7.

50% of the RAM of the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. Tabbed browsing should be fun, eh?

Pros:

72-90% of the weight of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, respectively.

70% of the thickness of the Nexus 7/Kindle Fire HD.

"... for the price" it's not a great value. Even worse once the newest line of Nexus products roll out on October 29 (32GB Nexus 7 for $250, among others).

Lower your prices, Apple!
 
Oct 25, 2012 10:46AM
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Gee, I wonder if this was written by an apple rep.  Resolution of the mini ipad is inferior to the new Nook HD, and it has a slower processor.  There is also no expandable memory as the Nook HD has.  Plus it's $130 more!  Nook HD is a clear winner in my opinion.  This guy must be drinking the "apple kool aid".
Oct 24, 2012 1:10PM
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I am very interested to see how it is calculated to make the 0.9" to produce "49% larger when viewed in a portrait setting, and 67% larger in landscape mode".
Nov 2, 2012 12:13PM
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Very obviously a paid product review!!  no mention of real differentiating factors and bogus throwoff comparsion on screen resolution within apple products only - does not mention that competitors 7" tablets have much higher PPI on their screens at ~50% less cost.  How about you actually mention competting products like the Kindle HD and the Nexus 7, or how about the Nexus 10 which has a 10" screen for just about the same price??

Oct 25, 2012 8:25AM
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