24 hours with the Retina iPad mini – First Impressions

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Although it’s been out for a few days now, I only managed to get hold of the newest version of the iPad mini yesterday morning. Many (and I mean many) sites and tech bloggers will post their full reviews after just a day with their new device, but I’ve always tried not to operate that way. There are elements of the product you can’t fully grasp after just 24 hours. So, instead, I want to round up my initial impressions having spent a day with the second generation mini.

I suppose it’s worth noting right from the outset that there’s very little difference on the design front between this and the first model. It has the same flat back and diamond-cut chamfered edges as its predecessor. The only obvious aesthetic difference is the inclusion of the black/space gray combination vs. slate. I went with white so, to the untrained eye, it looks exactly the same as last year’s device. But I still noticed some differences. Although it’s not much thicker and heavier, you can tell the difference. I certainly could. Having spent the last 6 months using the iPad mini as my main tablet, I’ve held it every day, and became accustomed to the way it feels in hand. The Retina model feels different. It’s only half an ounce heavier and a fraction of a millimeter thicker, but I could still tell. It definitely doesn’t feel as light as the last version. I’d suggest the difference is very small, some haven’t even spotted the difference. Still, it’s massively lighter than the iPad Air.

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The big talking point here is the display. It packs in the same 1536 x 2048 resolution as the iPad Air, but squeezes it in to a much smaller panel, giving it a higher pixel density. At 324ppi, it’s double the density of the original iPad mini, and sharper than the iPad Air. That said, the difference between the iPad Air and mini is barely noticeable, at least when you compare sharpness in real daily use. I find that I tend to hold the mini closer to my face than the iPad Air due to its size. As we all know, the distance something is from your eyes determines how sharp it looks. Although its specs read the same as the iPad Air, I did notice slightly lower color saturation levels and brightness on the iPad mini compared to the Air. Some of you may know that I’ve been using the iPad Air for a couple of weeks now. I’ve used it for gaming, work, browsing and reading comics mostly. So, to try and spot any differences, I’ve done the same on the iPad Air. When loading up Real Racing 3, I noticed that the colors were a tiny bit faded on the iPad mini. It’s not massively noticeable, and I don’t think you’d notice it unless you had both either. Still, as a display, it may have technically better sharpness, but its size still makes it more difficult to read small text like that found on popular comic book reading apps.

Is comparing it to an Air fair? Perhaps not. If we’re comparing the iPad mini with Retina to the first generation mini, in every way it’s better, except (perhaps) weight. It’s faster, and the new, sharper display is so nice to look at. I remember writing in my original iPad mini review that it would be the perfect tablet if it had a Retina display. Now it has. And it really does seem rather special. But so is the Air. And I think now I have a real conundrum. I don’t know which of the two is my favorite. I love the iPad mini’s smaller size, and the sharper display. But now that the full size iPad is much slimmer and lighter, easier to hold, I find myself drawn to that a lot more than I thought I would be once the iPad mini with Retina arrived.

I couldn’t give you an accurate report on battery life yet. One day is nowhere near long enough to determine how this thing performs battery-wise. In terms of speed, ease of use, responsive-ness and lag, I’d say it performs identically to the iPad Air. Browsing the web is particularly quick, and loading up games using the A7 chip’s power is fantastic. Especially when compared to the original iPad mini.

In short: So far, the iPad mini with Retina is basically just a smaller version of the iPad Air. It performs well, looks fantastic and has a much better display than the older model.

If you have any questions for me to consider while I’m preparing my full review, please feel free to use the comments section, or tweet me: @TiP_Cam

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