Apple is arguably not the best smartphone manufacturer anymore, Samsung’s Galaxy S sales are almost exceeding that of the iPhone and the HTC One and Moto X are both being crowned as better smartphones in 2013 than the iPhone 5S.
One market may be stronger in competition, but when it comes to tablets it still feels like Apple has a significant edge over their biggest rivals. Amazon may have done some good in the low-end market, but reports say the original iPad Mini made big holes in the Kindle Fire sales.
The iPad Mini with Retina Display shows Apple has made a decision against the previous formula and decided not to marginalise the performance on the mini version of the iPad this year, stacking in the best performance into the iPad Mini with Retina Display for a more expensive price-tag.
iPad Mini with Retina Display
The iPad Mini with Retina Display is Apple’s idea of the best tablet experience on an 8-inch display. The iPad Air is Apple’s crowning jewel, but the iPad Mini is probably the one that will be grabbing most the sales and almost all the attention, with the slightly cheaper price tag.
On the specs side this years iPad Mini is exactly the same as the iPad Air, with the only change being on the screen size. This makes it almost a preference choice whether you enjoy the 8-inch form factor or the 10-inch, we believe most prefer the former.
We picked up the 16GB iPad Mini with Retina Display in silver and picked the blue Smart Cover alongside and have stocked it full of games and applications.
Following up from the original, the second generation iPad Mini looks exactly the same as last year. Apple has decided not to change anything, from the back aluminium to the front glass cover, everything is the same in terms of design.
That doesn’t make a difference to us, Apple still has the winning formula when it comes to designing tablets. There is no wacky edges like on the Kindle Fire HDX and the premium aluminium beats the rubber plastic on the Nexus 7 (2013) in our opinion.
Personal preference will come into play when it comes to design, but from a usability perspective the iPad Mini with Retina Display is just big enough to not be considered one of those huge Android phablet phones and offers a nice build to hold for more than five minutes.
Moving onto the display, the previous generation was packed with the same display as the iPad 2. It wasn’t that great and against the 1080p competition it did not look like a high-end tablet, it looked more like a half-baked solution, where other Android tablets were pushing the limits.
Apple decided this year they would not make the half-baked solution, but add a full-throttle retina display onto the iPad Mini. This gives it a resolution of 2056 x 1536, better than the 1920 x 1200 on the Kindle Fire HDX and Nexus 7 in terms of raw pixels on the screen.
In day to day use the display on the iPad Mini is incredible – in every case the display just makes everything come alive. Text on the iPad Mini looks crisp and there is no blur or pixelation, when it comes to gaming and video every color is vivid and there is no bad color saturation.
Apple has not just slapped a retina display on the iPad Mini and said “see you next year” they have also packed in the latest A7 chipset. This is only currently available on the iPhone 5S and iPad Air, showing the high-end bridge the iPad Mini has crossed this year.
The A7 chipset offers a lot more performance than the previous iPad Mini, games run smooth and the tablet can run multiple applications without freezing up. There is still minor lag on some applications, but we cannot figure out if this is because lack of juice or something on the developer end.
The iPad Mini with Retina Display has had a big bump in performance and we didn’t have any expectations when it came to battery life. Surprisingly it isn’t that bad, the tablet can run solidly for around 6 to 10 hours, depending on usage.
This is on par with most tablets out there and while it is not great, it holds up and never seems to be too problematic, even when having dozens of applications open and watching a full HD movie.
iOS7 is the latest mobile OS update from Apple and completely redesigns the OS, from the skeuomorphism we previously found on iOS devices, Apple has redesigned iOS to make it flat, removing weight on buttons and making everything one layer upon another.
The update has been criticised in certain places and the iPad version, for a time, was buggy and did not work. Gladly, Apple has fixed the problems on the iPad Mini with iOS7 and it is a joyful experience, especially with some of the redesigned applications.
Talking about applications, this is where the iPad is really still ahead. Apple made it their issue to push developers to make applications just for iPad in 2011 and have made a great field of apps built for the larger screen, where Android still holds thousands of blown up apps that look awful.
In our first day of use, we found enough apps, including video games and productivity applications, to last us a good few months. Things like Flipboard, Paper 53, iAlien, The Walking Dead, Sorcery, Deus Ex alongside all of Apple’s free iWork apps for iPad.
The experience when finding apps on an iPad is so much easier than on an Android tablet, we feel. The prominence of great, iPad built apps makes it easy for us to enjoy content and find games and applications that really make us want to use our iPad Mini with Retina Display for hours on end.
Still the best?
We would still say the iPad Mini with Retina Display is the best small tablet on the market today, beating the likes of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX and Google Nexus 7. It is obviously personal preference which you like better, but if the reason for picking up a Google device is for using their services, they are all on the iPad Mini and work remarkably well.