Is It Worth Buying the New Apple iPad Mini?

By Seaver Wong

On Oct 23rd, at the Apple event we saw the introduction of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, an updated Mac mini, a thinner iMac display, the 4th Generation iPad, and the new iPad mini.

While the new iMac was a big surprise, the 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro being nothing to scoff at (even if it was obvious after the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display was announced), and the 4th Generation of the iPad with global 4G LTE support, the new Lightning connector, and the faster A6X processor playing catchup with the iPhone 5, the new versions of iBooks with continuous scrolling and iBooks Author, as well as the Mac mini’s hardware refresh, the real story was the 7.9-inch Mac mini that Apple has used to target the education sector. Apple went against Steve Jobs’ wishes of not wanting Apple to create a 7-inch tablet (as stated in his authorized biography) and decided to make a pass at the 7-inch tablet market. The question now is, is it worth buying an iPad mini?

First we need to look at who Apple is aiming for with the iPad mini. They’re clearly aiming for the education sector, but also what sort of use will the iPad mini be good for? Reading books. If you wanted to play games, you’d get the newest iPad or stick with the iPad you have now. You want the faster A6X processor which will handle graphics better and also be stunning to look at on the Retina Display. If you wanted to watch videos, the Retina Display on the two newest iPad iterations with the 9.7-inch screen size will be more than enough. The iPad mini is running an A5 processor which is still usable, but the smaller screen size might be a turn off for some. If you just want to read books and do some casual surfing and YouTube watching, great apps that the iPad has for a smaller screen, or if you’re looking for your first tablet, you can’t go wrong with the iPad mini. It’s light, thin, and able to be held in just one hand.

For the negatives, the iPad mini simply falls into a niche. It can be useful, but at the same time, it feels like it’s more of a “me too” kind of thing that Apple just pulled. It is the first major innovation that they’ve done since the regular sized iPad was introduced, but was it really worth it? There is no Retina Display here. You do get the iPad apps at a smaller screen size, but with iPad 2 specs and features that everybody else can pull off and do better, I really don’t see the benefit of purchasing this tablet unless you’re a student, you’ve brought into the Apple ecosystem, or if this is your first tablet ever. Even if you fall into the last category, the regular iPad trumps it in terms of hardware specs. I think Steve Jobs was right in not catering to a 7-inch tablet. What we’re seeing is that other members of the Mac family make the iPad mini largely irrelevant. The starting price is at $329. If you want this, price is no object to you and you’re going to get it anyway. For people on the fence, there are a lot of other 7-inch tablets out there that can do what the iPad mini does with better specs and a better display. The Nexus 7 can do exactly what the iPad mini does with better hardware internals for a cheaper price starting at $199. Since this is the first iteration of the iPad mini, it might be better to wait it out for a bit to see what the second iteration will hold. Buyers of a first generation item are implied to be guinea pigs, so if you want to play it safe, wait for the 2nd generation iPad mini.

Now for the positives, the iPad mini supports all the iPad apps on a smaller screen. That’s a testament to Apple and the way they try to run things. This is a reason to get an iPad mini over an Android tablet because iPad apps will make good use of the screen size. Also, there won’t be any apps that are simply scaled up from phone size. Since the iPad mini is mostly intended for book reading, this is Apple’s answer to the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7. For students, this should be a must have, especially if your school uses the iBooks format. Storage hogs will be happy to know that the iPad mini comes in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB formats, which is another reason to buy one if you want all your music and apps in one place together. The processor is the same as the iPad 2, but the iPad 2 is still on sale, so it’s still has some life left in it if you really don’t care about having the latest and greatest items. The smaller size is definitely good in terms of ergonomics. You also have a smaller sized Smart Cover which brings the functions from the 9.7-inch iPad to the iPad mini in a variety of different colors. For those that don’t know, the Smart Cover protects the screen and turns off the screen with the help of an embedded magnet inside the cover when not in use, thus preserving battery life. Plus, it makes for a good conversation starter…maybe, no promises. There’s also 4G LTE support from Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and other international carriers. This is a major plus if you want to take your tablet with you on the go with the fastest speeds.

Get the iPad mini for iBooks compatibility if you’re a student, if you’re in the market looking for a tablet that has cellular support, or if you’re looking for your first tablet in general. If you’re looking for quality iPad apps on a smaller screen and want to be able to hold your iPad with just one hand, the iPad mini isn’t a bad idea. It’s a niche item that you really need to ask yourself if it’s worth getting by doing lots of research on its strong and weak points. Also, really understand how you’re going to use the iPad mini and what you’re going to use the iPad mini primarily for. That’s the main key in evaluating whether the iPad mini is a good purchase or not, pricing notwithstanding.

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