Oct. 23, 2012 — Apple served up a twofer in the tablet space today with its unveiling of the fourth-generation iPad and its brand-spanking-new little brother (or sister) the iPad mini. Given all the hullabaloo that the oft-rumored iPad mini has caused all year long, it’s only natural for people to be curious about it. So is Apple’s more petite iPad the little engine that could? And would you need to file your fingers in order to use it? Here’s a quick look at some of the key features of the tablet, which is available for pre-order on Oct. 26:
The screen size: Much of the buzz about the iPad mini had to do with its smaller size, particularly since Steve Jobs famously panned the merits of making a tablet that was smaller than the standard iPad’s 9.7-inch screen. In the iPad mini’s case, Apple has settled on a 7.9-inch screen as the optimal size for its new tablet. Unlike the iPhone 5’s controversial decision to increase its screen size by changing its dimensions in a way that caused apps to be letterboxed, the iPad mini is using a resolution of 1,024 x 768 — the same as the iPad 2. While this is great for users who hate having black bands on their screen, it’s especially good news for developers who don’t have to rejigger their apps to meet yet another change in resolution. Another advantage that comes with the smaller size is the ability to more comfortably hold the tablet with one hand. It’s chubbier than Google’s 7-inch Nexus 7 but actually a smidge less wide than the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD despite its bigger display thanks to the iPad mini’s thinner bezel. Display resolution is 163 pixels per inch compared to 264 pixels per inch for the iPad 3 and fourth-generation iPad and 326 pixels per inch for the iPhone 5. That isn’t quite “Retina display” territory but knowing Apple’s propensity for incremental upgrades, I wouldn’t be surprised if that shows up as a new feature for the iPad mini 2.
The brains: In addition to its non-Retina display, the iPad mini is also using Apple’s dual-core A5 chip. Sadly, this is a “last-gen” chip compared to the fourth-generation iPad’s A6X chip or even the third-generation iPad’s A5X chip. On the flip side, the older internals allow the iPad mini to maintain Apple’s standard 10-hour battery life.
The connector: Like the iPhone 5, the iPad mini is launching with the new Lightning connector. This means that you will have to get an adapter if you want it to work with your Apple-related peripherals that use the old connector, including speaker docks and the like.
Wireless capability: Apple touted the iPad mini’s dual-band Wi-Fi, which the company claims is twice as fast as any previous-generation iPad. Since I don’t have a chance to test the device at this point, I’ll just have to take their word for it. I must say that as someone who’s had Wi-Fi issues with older iPads, any improvement on the tablet’s Wi-Fi capabilities is a good thing. The iPad mini is also LTE capable — provided you sign up for the requisite plan from a wireless provider. Participating carriers include AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.
Other features: As is now customary with Apple’s products, the iPad mini will launch in two colors: black and white. The front camera can take 1.2-megapixel photos and 720p video while the rear-facing camera takes 5-megapixel shots and can record 1080p video. Folks who like talking to a virtual assistant will be happy to know that the iPad mini is Siri-capable.
Pricing: The iPad mini starts out at $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model and goes all the way up to $659 for the 64GB model with Wi-Fi and LTE.
So there you have it — a quick rundown of the new iPad mini. Basically, this tablet is geared toward folks who like Apple’s tablet ecosystem but think the iPad is too big or even consumers who prefer a “mini” tablet that sports a bigger display than rivals such as the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. At the same time, the non-Retina display and older processor might make some people more likely to hold off for the next iteration, especially those who may have felt burned after buying an iPad 3 just earlier this year. If you don’t have a tablet yet and are in the market for a smaller Apple slate, then the iPad mini is certainly an option. Personally, though, I’m more inclined to wait for the next one, especially given how fast things change in the tech space.