Ever since the iPad mini went on sale Nov. 2, I have been asked by friends and family what I really thought of it. Oh, yes, they'd read my somewhat technical review ("Who Should Buy an Apple iPad Mini?"). But somehow, my initial first-impressions account wasn't as personal as me telling them.
Allow me to rectify.
Since first gripping the iPad mini, I have used my full-sized iPad only once.
I will take the original iPad with me on planes and on other long trips because its size makes it better for movies than the mini.
But for everyday knock-around use and everything else I heretofore used the full-sized iPad for, I am now using the mini.
Size and weight.
It's the logistics, stupid
iPad mini's cuteness (my wife still covets it in a way that makes me quite jealous) – and ultimate usability emanates from its thinness and feather-weightiness.
iPad mini fits in the outside pocket of my jackets, sports and outer. It's light and flat so it neither bulges nor throws off my clothing pocket balance – you know, when you're carrying something too heavy in one side pocket and it sort of drags your jacket down on one side? One of those tiny Seinfeld-ian annoyances.
A full-sized iPad, on the other hand, has to be stowed in a bag or backpack. Even if it did fit in a jacket pocket, iPad is more than twice as heavy as iPad mini (1.44 pounds vs. .69 pounds). Oh, the clothing imbalance humanity!
The logistical upshot of this size and weight difference is I can use the iPad mini far more often than the full-sized iPad simply because I can get at it easier.
I can whip the mini out standing on a train platform, waiting on a long line, even just while tra-la-la-ing down the street.
Since my mini is in a side pocket, it's actually easier to access than my iPhone, usually buried deep in my pants pocket, to check the time, my email, messages, location, etc.
And because it's so flat and light, I can hold it in one hand for lengthy stretches, especially for reading or game-playing while standing on a crowded subway. You cannot hold the original iPad in one hand for long, or at all. In fact, at 11 ounces, mini is only four ounces heavier than Amazon's non-LCD screen Kindle Paperwhite e-ink e-reader.
Ironically, the original iPad now feels clunky, heavy and awkward. It's like comparing the original brick-sized cellular phones to today's small, sleek smartphones. iPad mini just feels – new and modern.
When I initially reviewed the iPad mini 10 days ago, I naturally compared it to other so-called 7-inch Android tablets – the Samsung Tab 2 7.0, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, the Barnes & Noble Nook HD, the Google Nexus 7, the Kobo Arc.
What I noted originally was that Apple squeezed a more spacious 7.9-inch screen into the physical area a tablet with a 7-inch screen.
In other words, the iPad mini with a 7.9-inch display measured diagonally, is just about the same physical size as these 7-inch screen devices.
For instance, despite its larger screen, at just 5.3 inches wide, iPad mini is actually not as wide than the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HD (5.4 inches), and is both flatter (.28 inches) and lighter (11 ounces) than all its smaller-screened competitors.
But it wasn't until mini became more intimately integrated into my daily activities, and I started being asked about it by friends and family, that I realized the choice for many consumers isn't iPad mini vs. other 7-inch tablets.
The choice is between the iPad mini vs. the original iPad.
And in my eyes and hands, iPad mini wins out easily.
Why I hate iPad mini
If I didn't make it clear the first time, allow me to clarify here: you lose nothing by stepping down. The iPad mini is simply a smaller, lighter version of the original iPad and $170 cheaper.
iPad mini runs all the 225,000 iPad-optimized apps the original iPad does, has all the same controls and buttons – everything is the same except the screen size and physical dimensions and weight.
But while you're losing a bit of screen space compared to an iPad, you're gaining a lot more screen real estate compared to a smartphone, which is why I still carry both.
As you can see in the photo, you're really not losing much with the mini when compared to a full-sized iPad, but a lot gaining compared to an iPhone 5.
Except screen resolution. And here's what chafes my loins.
iPad mini screen displays "only" 1024 x 768 pixels, the same as the iPad 2 and half that of the iPad 3 and (new) 4. All the 7-inch tabs have higher screen resolution, mostly 1280 x 800 pixels, topped by Nook HD's extra-crispy 1440 x 900 display.
That's right, I said chafes my loins.
While stuff on iPad mini's screen looks fine, I do have to increase the size of smaller text, especially for book reading. Older iPhone-only apps look jagged and low tech when blown up to fill mini's screen.
And you really notice what you're missing sharpness/crispness-wise when you switch from a mini to the iPad 3 or 4.
My guess, the next refresh of the mini in a year from now (or maybe less) will include the 2048 x 1536 pixel Retina screen found on the iPad 3 and 4. And when it comes, I'll be able to gift this first cute iPad mini to my wife to clutch lovingly to her bosom.