Although, unlike the recently released iPhone 5, the iPad mini does not play host to a multimedia friendly 16:9 aspect ration, the compact tablet still holds its own in terms of audio and video playback with more than acceptable image quality paired with surprisingly impressive audio abilities.
Despite featuring some location based issues when playing app based games, the integrated iPad mini speakers are in fact, for the large part, a surprisingly impressive affair. During music playback, audio is strong with little distortion or crackle, even at the top end of the volume spectrum. What’s more, thanks to their position on the angled lower edge of the 7.9-inch tablet, the inbuilt speakers are unaffected when the device is placed on a flat surface with no muffling or depletion of output.
All that said, they still pale in comparison to the stereo speakers employed by the latest Samsung Galaxy Tabs, BlackBerry PlayBook and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.
Building on its iPod pedigree, the iPad mini audio playback through headphones is some of the best we have experienced on a tablet device with a well-rounded sound stage covering everything from deep bass rich notes to the twang of an acoustic guitar. Although output could be a bit stronger at the top and bottom ends, it is hard to fault what is otherwise a hugely impressive audio performance from a compact 7-inch tablet.
Strangely for an Apple iDevice, and one which has such a strong audio standing, the iPad mini does not come boxed with a pair of the company’s new Apple EarPods headphones, or any headphones for that matter. Whilst not the biggest omission, this does seem a little penny-pinching from one of the world's most valuable companys.
Following Apple’s trademark storage options the iPad mini is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities with the tablet’s price jumping rapidly from £269 to £429 between this trio of options. As ever this can't be expanded by adding a memory card as on some rivals.
Although present, the iPad mini photo editing abilities are extremely limited with little more than red-eye reduction, auto-enhance and the classic crop option on offer. With the plethora of photo editing applications, both paid for and free, that are available to download, however, this is only a small concern.
Further bolstering the iPad mini multimedia capabilities, the fast access music player controls that feature on the multitasking menu bar are a time saving joy to use. Providing playback controls without having to delve into the full music player, the remote panel allows users to play, pause and skip tracks as well as make on-screen volume adjustments at will.
The claimed 10 hour battery life of the iPad mini rings near enough true during general day-to-day use. This predicted figure clearly doesn't account for the consumption of high-end, performance demanding games such as EA's latest NFS offering, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, however. What’s more, when the battery is depleted, getting it back to full juice again will take a considerable amount of time with an overnight charge the least obtrusive way to recharge the device following heavy usage.
Currently only available in Wi-Fi form with a cellular enabled, 3G and 4G compatible device to launch later in the year, the iPad mini follows on from the iPhone 5 and 2012 iPod Touch refresh in ditching the Apple’s dated 30-pin connector in favour of the new, faster, smaller 8-pin Lightning port.
Although commendably smaller than its predecessor, and with the useful ability to be plugged in either way round, the need to buy extra adapters and cables to make the connector work with existing docks and chargers is a costly annoyance. The iPad mini does come with a mains charger and Lightning cable in the box but no other adapters are included.
Also notable is that while the Lightning port can be converted into HDMI, USB and SD ports for connecting to a TV, camera and SD card respectively, no such connections are already on the device and the adapters can be quite pricey. Most alternatives do offer one or more of these connections without the need for adapters.
Wi-Fi is of course onboard, with networks up to the 802.11n standard supported. We found connectivity to be strong with no occasions of drop off or unexplained loss of connection recorded during our time with the device.
Bluetooth 4.0 is also included but otherwise that's your lot, with no NFC included for instance. Although not currently available, the iPad mini cellular options which is tipped to be released in the coming weeks will host support for GSM, EDGE, HSPA and LTE networks.
Certainly the most desirable 7-inch tablet on the market, the iPad mini’s £269 starting price is considerably higher than the competition but for that outlay you get a device that, although not specs superior, is a far more enticing option than much of what is already on the market.
Combining a brushed aluminium back with seamlessly curved edges and a fascia that will be familiar to full-sized iPad owners, the iPad mini is a device that looks and feels every penny that you pay for it. A step on from the plastic backed likes of the Google Nexus 7, the iPad mini is unrivalled in terms of build quality and style.
More than a simple piece of eye candy, however, the iPad mini is a joy to use and one which, thanks to its slightly larger 7.9-inch display is immersive and perfectly sized for a combination of business and pleasure purposes. If you have recently splashed out on a full-sized iPad 3 or iPad 4 then this might not be for you. If, however, you are looking to make the plunge into the tablet market for the first time and can live without an HD display, it’s hard to look past the new iPad mini.