final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Features Between the surprisingly decent camera and support for LTE, I can't think of too many other hardware features I could ask for in a tablet. great!
  • Display After being ensconced by Retina displays over the last six months, the iPad mini's screen definitely pales in comparison. Text just isn't as sharp. More below. so-so
  • Battery life Three hours of usage and 5 hours of standby has brought my iPad mini down 10% in battery life. That seems pretty good to me. great!
  • Ease of use The setup of this particular iPad was kind of a pain, and was wrought with issues, mainly because of iTunes' clunkiness. good
  • Storage capacity 32GB is adequate. After 64 of my apps, 1,200 photos, and about 350 of my most listened to songs, I'm left with 15.8GB of available space. Pretty good. good
  • Design and form factor As everyone else has said, this thing is absolutely beautiful. The best designed product Apple has ever produced, in my opinion. great!
  • Portability (size / weight) Depending on the pants, this thing is literally pocketable. While it looks really silly, it simply serves to understate just how portable the iPad mini is. great!
  • Durability While it seems more robust than the aluminum backing of the iPhone 5, I am still hesitant to set this thing on too many surfaces haphazardly. good
Detailed review
The feeling of picking the iPad mini up for the first time immediately brought back memories of picking up the iPhone 5: this is impossibly light. Having used the 9.7-inch iPad quite a bit, the iPad mini feels like a portability revelation. You know the commercials Apple does for each of their products where they have several actors using them to do different tasks? Well, this is the first Apple product I've picked up that felt just as effortless to use as portrayed in those commercials. That might sound silly, but it's true.

The display is notably sharper than the iPad 2, but distinctly less sharp than any of Apple's Retina display products. On the other hand, the screen is a bit of an oddity - text isn't as sharp, but when I loaded up a movie on HBO GO, I was taken aback at the quality of the display. I know this is cliché, but the video really seemed like it was raised above the glass. The viewing angles are superb, and colors/white balance seem natural.

I haven't done any empirical tests on battery life, but as I've been using it throughout the day, I've noticed that it hasn't been dropping as fast as I would have expected. I'm at 77% after 15 hours of mixed usage. Very pleased with that.

The LTE antenna works as advertised, and I received the same speeds and signal strength as I do on my iPhone 5.

At this point, I'm just beating around the bush. The individual specs of the iPad mini are nothing compared to the user experience. I've not held a device (other than maybe the iPhone 5), that feels as well made and as sleek as the iPad mini. It's just that nice. Yes, the screen is less sharp than the Nexus 7, and it has inferior processing capabilities compared to its rivals, but no one can touch the build quality of this device.

There isn't a tablet on the market right now that I would rather own. The 9.7-inch iPad is too big and heavy to make carrying it and a laptop worth the trouble, and I'd rather have full-featured tablet apps at 1024x768 than phone apps at 1280x800.

When Apple puts a Retina display in the iPad mini's shell, I think we will have found the ultimate tablet.