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Hands on with the iPad mini

Dan Moren and Jason Snell | Oct. 25, 2012
The iPad mini doesn’t arrive in stores until November 2, but we got to spend some time with one on Tuesday after Apple’s media event at the California Theater in San Jose. Our conclusion: Yes, it’s a small iPad—but there’s more (and less) to it than that. Here are our hands-on impressions.

In landscape orientation, the larger bezels are on the sides, giving you plenty of room to grab on with those opposable thumbs of yours.

However, while the iPad mini is small and light enough to hold in one hand, we do wonder how easy itll be to use singlehandedly. Swiping and tapping with a thumb, as you might on an iPhone, is possible but awkward.

(We also wonder whether the more limited range of motion on a one-handed iPad mini might lead app developers to redesign their interfaces; an Apple representative we talked to suggested that the new continuous-scrolling mode in Apples own iBooks app may have been introduced specifically to make it easier for iPad mini users to read without having to stretch their thumbs to make a page-flip gesture.)

The iPad mini is narrow enough that its easy to thumb-type on its software keyboard in portrait orientationits kind of like a giant iPhone. Thumb typing on the full-sized iPad is a lot less comfortable unless you have the hands of an NBA player. We didnt have much chance to test ten-finger typing, but given the smaller size of the iPad mini's screen, wed imagine its going to be a little harder to touch-type on this device than on the full-sized iPad. Even if youve already mastered iPad typing, you may have trouble doing it on the iPad mini.

A smaller screen

Anyone accustomed to using an iOS device with a Retina display will immediately notice that the iPad mini doesnt have one: Pixels are clearly visible. Its very much like looking at an iPhone 3GS. Its a good, bright screen, but if youre a Retina convert, you will not be pleased.

We looked at photos and text on the screen, and both looked good. By keeping the same number of pixels as found in the iPad 2 while decreasing the physical size of the screen, the result is a higher-resolution display; as a result, everything looks a bit better than on the iPad 2. We tried a variety of apps and didnt have any trouble hitting what we wanted to tap on, despite the fact that every interface element on the iPad mini is slightly smaller than on a full-sized iPad.

Whats really amazing about the iPad miniperhaps its most surprising traitis that while it has a much larger screen than its 7-inch Android-based competitors, its lighter than they are. Thats a big deal, because it means this device wins in two dimensions: Its somehow managed to pack a bigger screen that can fit powerful tablet apps into a package that weighs less. (Its $80 more expensive than the comparable Nexus 7 and $115 more than the comparable Kindle Fire HD, thoughyou cant win em all.)

 

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