The New iPad mini: size does matter

Bien Perez compares Apple's two latest iPads, the iPad Air and the iPad Mini

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 12:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 December, 2013, 12:11pm


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

For Apple enthusiasts in Hong Kong, the holiday shopping season likely started in earnest about three weeks ago when the new and much-improved iPad mini was officially released.

That followed the wide availability of the thinner, lighter iPad Air in October. So the question shoppers must ask themselves is this: Which iPad to buy?

A report in Forbes after the US launch of the two iPads in October offered a suggestion. Responding to a technology columnist’s comment that he was now torn about which iPad to purchase, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said: “Well, you want to buy both."

Of course, most people do not have the means to spend on two media tablets at one go. Nonetheless, it’s a suggestion to keep in mind.

This reviewer suggest that you pick the iPad that best suits your lifestyle or work. Whichever one you choose, you win.

For this reviewer’s money, size still matters in the tablet market. The new iPad mini is an amazing device that would make a brilliant Christmas gift to myself.

It now features everything that the full-sized iPad Air has. It is a bit more convenient to carry around, weighing 331 grams to the larger iPad’s 469 grams. Both new iPads are 7.5mm thin.

Unlike the first iPad mini released last year, the latest model has Apple’s high-definition “Retina” display, which is the same brilliant screen found on the iPad Air and the iPhone.

Its 7.9-inch display offers about 3.1 million pixels — a million more than what a typical high-definition television has. This means the text you see is sharp and images  are rich with detail. Also, the size of the iPad mini’s display is 35 per cent larger than the 7-inch tablet from competing brands. It may be small, but it does not feel small.

A side-by-side comparison with this reviewer’s old iPad mini showed just how much everything looks better on the new model with Retina display, whether reading an e-book, watching the latest movie trailers on, looking at photos, checking my e-mail, or just browsing the web.

Watching a full-length movie, however, is more satisfying on the iPad Air and its generous 9.7-inch Retina display.

The iPad mini’s high-definition display works as an excellent viewfinder to frame the perfect shot with the device’s 5-megapixel iSight camera. The mini now supports the so-called high dynamic range option of its built-in camera app.

Making a FaceTime video call on the front-facing HD camera provides a great example of how much well-illuminated images are on the Retina display. This reviewer tried calls in low-light conditions and found chats to be brighter than expected.

The side-by-side comparison with this reviewer’s first-generation iPad mini also showed how much quicker the new model runs with the Apple-designed A7 chip, the same processor that powers the iPad Air and the iPhone 5s.

A desktop computer-class processor, the A7 chip delivers four times the processing power and eight times the graphics performance of the A5 chip in the first iPad mini, according to Apple’s estimates. The A5 chip was the processor used on the old iPad 2.

Just like the iPad Air, the new iPad mini has Apple’s M7 motion coprocessor, which is the one measuring motion from the tablet’s built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. The combination of the A7 and M7 chips keeps the iPad mini power-efficient, delivering 10 hours on a single charge, and provides a better experience when playing gaming apps. Yes, that includes the old "Tetris" for iPad game.

Except for its physical size, you won’t be cutting corners anymore in terms of performance with the new iPad mini.

Wi-fi connection on the new iPad mini is vastly improved from the old model. It uses two antennas, instead of one. This reviewer experienced the fast hook-up when checking e-mail and browsing websites on the device in his daily commute via ferry to and from Lantau island.

The new iPad mini will keep you more connected if you choose to buy the model with 4G mobile network connectivity. Mobile network operators SmarTone and Three Hong Kong are both providing 4G data support to local users. These can be faster than typical home or public transport Wi-fi connections because 4G networks provide theoretical download speeds of 100 megabits per second.

It cannot be downplayed how important Apple’s new iOS 7 operating software is in providing a great experience with the new iPad mini. AirDrop, for example, has become a feature that this reviewer is using often to share pictures and other content with a friend in the immediate vicinity.

No, users don’t have to bump phones like what they do with Android devices. I can choose a contact through the app, then simply drag and drop content to my intended recipient’s compatible iOS device via Wi-fi connection. 

Available in grey and silver, the new iPad mini with Wi-fi starts at HK$3,088 for the 16-gigabyte model. Its high-end version with 128GB capacity costs HK$5,488.

The 16GB version with 4G and Wi-fi connectivity costs HK$4,088, while the 128GB version is priced at HK$6,488.

The new iPad mini may be more expensive than comparable Android or Windows tablets, but consider the bigger ecosystem that supports the device.

Apple’s online App Store has more than 475,000 iPad-specific apps designed to take advantage of every single one of the 3.1 million pixels on the device. These are not just smartphone apps stretched to fill a bigger screen.