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The Best, But...
November 15, 2013 - Dave Hecei
Ok, the shock is over. The shock is Apple’s release of the iPad mini Retina days, or to some weeks, earlier than expected. As the specifications hinted at, the iPad mini Retina is the best mobile device available today. I say this of course with a big but.
When Apple held their press event back on October 22, they announced several new product updates. This included new MacBook Pros along with an all-new full-sized iPad, the iPad Air. The ‘Belle of the Ball’ was the new iPad mini finally with the exquisite Retina type high-resolution screen.
The new thinner and much lighter iPad Air was available shortly after the announcement. It hit the store shelves on November 1. The iPad mini Retina had no release date set, just ‘end of November’. Usually, this is tech-talk for the very last Friday of the month.
Well, it’s not even the middle of November and there are iPad mini Retinas on store shelves and even in customer’s hands. While the day of availability might have been a shock, the amount of inventory is not. As expected, the mini with Retina is in very short supply. The higher-end models seem to be in the tightest supply. The more basic models, ones with just WiFi, seem to be more readily available.
So, let’s talk about the new mini. I think it is the best tablet available today. That is a very bold statement and I strongly stand by it. Last year’s mini was the perfect size. At 7.9-inches, it really is a great size for what a tablet is made for. While it doesn’t have a wide-screen type display, I think the more traditional 4 by 3 type display works better.
If you just want to watch TV and movies, then by all means, go get a wide-screen 7-inch tablet from Google or Amazon. The problem with the wide-screen format (16:9) is that it doesn’t really work when holding it vertically, which is how I like to read and surf the Internet. The iPad display has a ratio of 4:3 and works great when held either vertically (portrait-mode) or horizontally (landscape-mode). And now that the new mini has a Retina display, it is unbelievably crisp and colorful.
Unfortunately, last year’s mini was a compromise. The smaller size also came with an older processor and weaker graphics when compared to the then released iPad 4. This year’s mini Retina is no compromise. The new mini has the exact same processor as its bigger brother. The Retina based display on the mini shows the exact same number of pixels as the Air. Because of this fact, the new mini now has one of the highest pixel-per-inch count of any mobile device.
There is so much to love in the new mini. Now we get to the ‘but’. It’s the price. The problem with a smaller tablet is that it will always be compared to those from Google, Amazon, and Samsung (and others coming very soon). This is really unfair because the mini is not really a ‘mini’ tablet. It really is just a smaller version of the iPad Air. So why should you compare the $400 mini to a $230 Google tablet. They really are not in the same league.
The Google Nexus and the new Kindle Fire are great Android devices that are best suited for consumption. This is not to say that they cannot be used for creative endeavors, they really are suited for watching and playing. The new mini is just like an iPad Air, it just has a smaller screen. It can be used to edit video, photos, and now with the new versions of iLife and iWork apps it can do it in style.
So the ‘but’ is really just price. To get the most out of a tablet you really no need to ignore the WiFi only model and get the LTE cellular model. This adds an extra $130 to the price tag, which now starts at $399 up from $329. So if you were to choose a middle-class mini, one with 32GB of storage, with cellular data and then throw in a smart cover it’s going to cost you just under $670 before tax.
Now I’m a huge fan of the iPad. I love mine and don’t leave home much without it at least being in the car. But for almost 700 bucks I can’t really justify replacing my current iPad with a shinny new mini. For those who don’t own an iPad yet, you are the lucky ones. The new mini really is the best of both worlds. Super fast speeds along with an amazing new Retina display make the new iPad mini one of the best tablets out there. It’s small enough to take with you everywhere and able to do everything a full-sized iPad can do. If you already own an iPad, it might be hard to part with the bucks necessary to get all this goodness.
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