I’m probably not going to write a proper review of the iPad mini as there are plenty of reviews out there already. Instead I’m going to share some of my notes from day to day usage.
Long battery & Quick charging
Charging the iPad 3 is really slow. It has a massive battery to power the retina screen and that battery take 9 or more hours to charge. I could only charge it over night, a 10 minute “top up” charge would be pointless.
However the iPad mini charges like a phone, if its low on power (sub 20%) then a 10 minute top up will make a noticeable difference to charge.
The iPad mini also charges from low power USB sockets like the one on my MacBook Air, so thats one less
charger i need to pack when i travel.
VoiceOver on the iPad mini feels a little laggy compared to the iPhone 5. It feels about the same as the iPad 3. I find the text on the web rotor to be a little small but it works. It’s taken me a while to get the ‘turning’ motion right. The smaller screen seems more sensitive to finger placement.
I have recently started expeirmenting with using voiceover with a bluetooth keyboard on the iPad. This has been pretty interesting. It works but its clunky and sometimes very slow.
As my newest toy I have carried the iPad into work with me every day. In work I mostly use it for checking email, paying media and running the panic status board application.
To be entirely honest, I still mostly use my iPhone while in work. The iPad duplicates what I have been using my iPhone for. If I had to choose between them the iPhone would be an easy winner.
My biggest issue in work is that I don’t have a decent iPad mini stand yet, I’m going to make one from lego. That will make having it as a dashboard more appealing.
(Update: I have now got a fetching pink Apple Smart Cover. Will see how well it functions in work over the next week or so!).
(Update 2: The smart case works very well as a dashboard, three weeks later and i am still using it as such.)
I feel comfortable tossing the iPad mini into my rucksach as its much cheaper and lighter than the iPad 3. It sits nicely between the Lion’s paws where it is protected ‘enough’.
Untill now i have carried a MacBook Air or an iPad. With the iPad mini i can carry both without my bag getting to heavy.
My last two iPads had 64gb of storage. However I wasted the storage most of the time. I filled them up with content I never used. For this iPad I went for the base 16gb model.
It has been somewhat limiting but I am getting use to living within the budget I have. Primarily, the big space eater has been video. I have trimmed back my collection to a couple of favourite movies and tv shows.
My media collection consists of 1080p and 720p videos. On the iPad mini these files are very wasteful. I’m experimenting with difference quality down converts to squeeze more vidoes into the space i have out of the space availabilble. I have found the iPhone preset in handbrake is a nice balence between file size and quality.
This does annoy me slightly. I would vastly prefer to only have one version of each video file, but it seems the only way to work around the space limitation. I will see how it feels after a few weeks.
Perhaps in the future it may get fast enough to use QuickSync to convert vidoes on the fly when syncing them to the iPad.
Games & Books
I never really gamed on the iPad 3. It was big and heavy and the interface always felt like a stretch. However, I have more than a dozen games on the iPad mini and they all perform superbly.
My favourite so far has been lego Star Wars chronicals. I have also enoyed some of the interactive story books and film tie ins such as Iron Man 3 and Toy Story.
I’m still in two minds about the non retina screen. Sometimes I miss the clarity, for example when reading small text I can’t resize. However more often than not I don’t really notice any pixelation anyway.
When i am writing on the iPad (either on my desk or in bed) the screen appears sharp and clear. It’s a noticable better screen than the one in the 11” MacBook Air.
Writing Using most CMS systems on the iPad mini is a fiddly frustrating pain in the arse. Neither textpattern nor perch seem all that usable for editing content. I have worked around it a little by increasing the font side in my textpattern admin theme but reality it’s just a sticky plaster.
My current workflow is to write in byword and then copy into textpattern once editing is complete. I really should put some time and effort into the Dropbox based text publisher I was working on.
I have written quite a lot on the iPad, I have found a few comfortable positions so far. For example, on a desk slightly raised and sat with bent legs on my bed. I can also type pretty will with just my thumbs without resting the iPad on anything.
It’s not as good as the keyboard on the MacBook Air, but it’s better than the iPhone and full size iPad.
I’m writing this article using a bluetooth keyboard and it works well enough.
Value The discussion of value on the iPad mini is difficult. The base mini I have cost me £269. That’s not cheap. However, I paid almost double that for my last two iPads (64gb wifi).
The iPad costs more upfront than a comparable android tablet like the Nexus 7. However iPads seem to hold thier value pretty well. I assume when I come too sell this iPad on, I will get back around half of my investment. Whereas the resale value of android devices seems to be pennies on the pound.
Beside the cash value there is also the ecosystem factor.
This is my third iPad, I’m invested in the ecosystem in terms of DRM’d content, iPad only apps and tooling like iTunes. For me Android does not offer a compelling reason to ditch my current investment.
I have returned more Apple products than I have kept over the last 12 months, much to the amusement of my partner. However, I think the iPad mini is a keeper. It’s not perfect but it’s (relatively) cheap and useful.
The true test will be long term usage. If i am still using it in 3 months time, then its winner.