final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Features It's as good as the big iPad, which means "very", but the OS is also getting a bit stale and behind in several areas good
  • Display The display isn't bad, but it's not great. There's a lot of light leakage and the resolution is below average for tablets at this time. good
  • Battery life Easily a couple of days of heavy use, it's about as good as it gets great!
  • Ease of use Can't get easier than this, though it's not quite 10/10 - more like 9/10. The homescreens are super-simple but sharing options are convoluted, for instance. great!
  • Storage capacity It's good. I've also owned the first 3 gen's of iPad with 16 GB and never run out of space, same goes here. Moderately responsible? You'll be fine. good
  • Design and form factor It's a thing of beauty, but also much easier to handle than the big iPad and competing tablets. Thinness, weight is a feature. great!
  • Portability (size / weight) Exceptional. Using the iPad 2 (which previously felt moderately light) is impossible now. This is absurdly portible. great!
  • Durability As always is the case with Apple products, they are far more durable than the competition - but more prone to superficial wear. It'll take a drop, but scratch. good
Detailed review
It's hard to sum up the iPad Mini experience, seriously. If I could, I would, but it's weird. It's a product that is a result of compromises rather than trade-off's (which isn't very Apple-like modus operandi) but in most aspects, those compromises make for a far better product than the other iPads. In other ways, it's a lesser product.

The resolution is an obvious downgrade, but in terms of pixels, this still beats most laptops that people use without a problem. So it's something of a non-issue, although people will cry loud about it. What's more important is how the OS, built for the big iPad, fits and frankly, it's not a slam dunk. Tap targets are often too small (don't listen to the "it's the same as the iPhone" crowd, because you don't use a tablet and a phone at the same distance) and some buttons, particularly upper-right and upper-left corners, are almost impossible to use if you're quick. These are fairly few and far apart, though, but the problems are real and they exist, even in Apple's own apps such as App Store. For the most part, you won't notice this.

Apart from those minor niggles, the device is less suited as a laptop replacement or an "input" device. If you adapt your workflow, you can easily replace a PC with a (big) iPad, but that's not necessarily true here. A small screen, with a small keyboard, makes for a poor typing experience. Further, the smaller screen makes it less ideal for viewing at a distance - which is one of the main things I do, e.g. I have the iPad on a desk and look at it from a few feet away to read my notes as I lecture. Perhaps that's an edge case, perhaps not. On the flip side, it's as easy to bring along as one of those hipster notebooks made out of fried bambu-infused kangaroo leather, so whether it'll increase or decrease your productivity depends on what you use a tablet for.

Personally, I use it as much for input as output (I create presentations, write documents, send e-mail etc) so for me it's a noticeably worse experience. But still leaps and bounds better than any Android tablet, and even for me, I value the light weight and the form factor over size. So I'll probably adapt my iPad workflow to be more output/less input.

I was a lot happier when I bought the iPad 2 (no compromises, at the time) but the iPad Mini is substantially better than the iPad 2, and I'm very happy with the purchase. I suspect most people would be perfectly happy with the iPad Mini and I wouldn't recommend any other tablet on the market today, at all, over it.