iPad Mini Preview
UPDATE: The iPad mini is now available to buy in the UK. We're currently working on the full review, and will have it up on the site as soon as possible. For now, here's a primer on the new Apple tablet.
IntroductionSo the iPad mini has been revealed, finally putting to bed long held rumours of a new smaller sibling to the iPad 3.
The new tablet was unveiled alongside a new iPad 4, a new Mac mini and a stunning new 13in MacBook pro Retina display, and will be arriving well in time for Christmas and Thanksgiving thanks to an iPad mini release date of 2 November.
As we expected, the new tablet is essentially a smaller version of the iPad 2, with the same screen resolution and A5 processor, and a slightly tweaked, flatter design. Plus of course it is cheaper. So is the new iPad mini a Kindle Fire HD or Google Nexus 7 killer and king of the budget tablets? Let’s take a closer look.
7.85in, 1,024 x 768 pixels, IPS panel
iPad mini - Screen
If you expect to see a screen as dazzling as the iPad 3's in the iPad mini, you may be a teeny bit disappointed. It'll use a 1,024 x 768 pixel panel, which is the same number that featured in the iPad 2 and the original iPad. Of course, sharpness will be significantly better than those old timers because the iPad mini screen is around 2in smaller - 7.85in across rather than 9.7in.
This means the iPad mini pixel density is 163dpi, which will be more than enough to keep text and images looking pretty sharp at normal viewing distances, but isn't a patch on the 264dpi of the iPad 3. The iPad 2, meanwhile is 148ppi.
This pixel density is also lower than the most obvious Android rival, the Google Nexus 7, which packs 1,280 x 800 pixels into a 7in screen. All told, it should make for a good compromise of readability and sharpness, though.
The benefit of using the familiar 1,024 x 768 resolution is that the iPad mini should have no problems running any iPad apps that aren't made exclusively for the Retina display iPad. You should be able to run just about any iPad app with no problems.
iPad mini - Body and designAnodised aluminium, iPhone 5-like black anodised option
As you’d expect the iPad mini back is hewn from aluminium giving it the same premium feel as its bigger brother. But, it has a slightly different style. It’s flatter and squarer, making it more akin to a large iPod touch – sadly there’s no Loop though. It also has either a plain sandblasted finish or a black anodised one like the iPhone 5.
As with all previous iPads the glass of the screen runs right to the edge of the device with a choice of black or white for the bezel, which is much thinner than on the full size tablet. We’d suggest it looks like the nicest mini tablet on the market, trumping the Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.
It’s light too at just 308g (0.68lkbs) – less than half the weight of the iPad 3 - and with a thickness of 7.2mm it’s mighty thin too.
iPad mini ConnectivityLightning connector, headphone jack, Wi-Fi, 4G and Bluetooth 4.0
A key feature of this new tiny tablet is that it sports Apple’s new Lightning connector which debuted on the iPhone 5. This is much smaller than the 30-pin connector as used on all previous iPads and iPhones but there has been much gnashing and wailing over the fact it requires investing in either new docks, cables and other accessories. In particular there’s uproar that the iPhone 5 doesn’t include the £25 adapter that converts Lightning back to the old connector type, and so it is here. But, at least with the iPad mini and newly updated iPad 3 Lightning the new connectors will start to become more common, so finding a spare in an emergency will be easier.
Elsewhere the iPad mini sports the standard headphone jack on its top edge while on the inside you’ve got Wi-Fi and 4G options, as well as Bluetooth 4.0.
iPad mini - Battery Life
10 hour battery life
Apple has managed quite a feet of engineering by giving the iPad mini an impressive 10-hr battery life, which trumps its nearest rivals by a couple of hours. This despite the tablet being so thin. Impressive stuff.
iPad mini - SoftwareiOS 6
The iPad mini will use iOS 6, the version of Apple's mobile software that was released alongside the iPhone 5. It hasn't received too much love yet, though.
The main offender is iOS 6 Maps, which is so bad that Apple CEO Tim Cook has actually apologised for it. So bad that it has put some people off upgrading their iPhones to the new software.
However, it's not as big a problem for the iPad mini as the iPhone. Larger devices like iPads are rarely used as on-the-go navigation tools, and unless you're going to opt for the 3G/4G model, Maps won't be of much use at all.
iOS 6 does offer some worthwhile changes, though. It features proper Facebook and Twitter integration, letting you post directly from the pull-down notifications bar.
The App Store has been redesigned too, making it look a bit better. Yes, iOS 6 isn't world-changing (aside from Maps, which makes some decidedly dodgy changes to the world), but it's not bad. For more, check out our iOS 6 review.
Apple also unveiled a new iBooks app that includes support for 40 languages - including right to left page turning - as well as a new continuous scrolling mode for those that don't like to turn pages.
iPad mini - ProcessorDual-core A5 chip
As mentioned earlier, the iPad mini is essentially the same as a shrunk iPad 2 and sure enough it uses the same A5 processor. This should keep the tablet zipping along quickly.
iPad mini - Memory16/32/64GB, non expandable
As the first real "budget-focused" iPad, there was much speculation that the iPad mini would come in an 8GB flavour but no, the options are the same as the full size iPad with 16, 32 and 64GB versions on offer.
iPad mini Camera
The iPad mini has both FaceTime and iSight cameras, or - to put that in normal speak - front and rear cameras. The rear one offers 5 megapixel stills and 1080p video recording while the front one support 720p video.
iPad mini Release Date and Price2 November launch, starting at £269 for 16GB version
Apple has revealed you'll be able to buy a Wi-Fi only iPad mini from 2 November but you'll have to wait another couple of weeks for 4G versions to become available.
Prices start at a reasonable £269 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version, rising to £429 for the 64GB Wi-Fi version. Meanwhile the 4G iPad mini 16GB will be £369 and the 64GB version £529.