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iPad mini gives you most of an iPad at half the size

Dan Frakes | Nov. 7, 2012
When the iPad debuted, many called it "just a big iPod touch." Most soon realized that such claims were misguided, as the iPad turned out to be much more: more powerful, more capable, more useful, more everything. Instead of being arithmetically bigger than the iPod touch, the iPad offered exponentially more of what was good about it.

In fact, on a few high-end games, the iPad mini--like the iPad 2 before it--at times performed as well as the third-generation iPad in terms of maintaining smooth graphics, because the third-generation Retina model has to push four times as many pixels. (The fourth-generation iPad, with its much better processor and graphics capabilities, outperforms the iPad mini pretty much everywhere.) The iPad mini also never got uncomfortably hot during heavy use--just warm.

Thanks to its enhanced Wi-Fi capabilities, the iPad mini offers noticeably better performance than the iPad 2 when loading webpages or streaming video--at least if you're connected to a 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi network. However, as with the iPad 2, the iPad mini's 512MB of RAM means that you'll experience more Safari-tab reloads than with a newer full-size iPad.

In terms of battery life, Apple says the iPad mini can last as long on a full charge as the standard iPad: up to 10 hours of Wi-Fi Web surfing, watching video, or listening to music; or up to 9 hours of Web surfing over a cellular-data connection. In our standard battery test, which involves looping a full-screen video at specific volume and screen-brightness levels, the iPad mini lasted 9 hours and twelve minutes, compared to 9 hours and 21 minutes for the fourth-generation iPad.

Battery life: iPad mini

Speaking of charging, the iPad mini includes Apple's 5-watt USB charger, like the iPhone 5, rather than the 10-watt or 12-watt chargers you get with full-size iPads. This initially surprised me, but it makes a little more sense when you consider that while the fourth-generation iPad has a 42.5-watt-hour battery, the iPad mini uses a 16.3-watt-hour battery, so it will actually charge, using the 5-watt charger, more quickly than the latest iPad with its 12-watt charger. On the other hand, the iPad mini's battery capacity is three times that of the iPhone 5's, so it will take considerably longer to charge the mini than an iPhone.

The iPad mini actually surpasses the latest full-size iPad in one specification: Along the bottom edge, bookending the Lightning-connector port, you'll find two speakers, rather than just one. However, you shouldn't expect a lot from these speakers. You don't get much stereo separation, given how close together the speakers are. (It would have been interesting if Apple had put one speaker on the bottom and one on the top, providing some minor stereo separation with the iPad in landscape orientation.) The iPad mini's audio also sounds tinnier than that of the full-size iPad, likely because either the mini's speaker drivers are smaller or, thanks to the thinness of the mini, have smaller enclosures around them, or both. (We didn't peek inside, and it's tough to tell from iFixit.com's iPad and iPad mini teardowns.) The full-size iPad plays louder, and it sounds better than the mini at the loudest levels; the tinniness of the iPad mini's audio starts to get a little grating at higher volumes. Overall, the iPad mini's speakers are closer in performance to that of the iPhone 5, although the iPad mini sounds a bit clearer than the iPhone.

 

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