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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.

I also found that some--but, to be clear, not all--webpages feel cramped on the iPad mini's smaller screen. This has also been my experience with other 7-inch tablets I've tried, so it's not unique to the iPad mini, but with cluttered websites and sites that use lots of tiny text and links, the experience feels more like browsing on an iPhone than on a full-size iPad.

The iPad mini's onscreen keyboards are also significantly smaller than those of the standard iPad. Unless you have tiny hands, I think the landscape-orientation keyboard is too small for comfortable, accurate ten-finger touch typing. You'll want an external keyboard for extended typing sessions. I tested a number of Bluetooth keyboards with the iPad mini, and all worked exactly as they do with a full-size iPad. (Several companies have announced keyboard cases for the mini, but most seem to use compact keyboard designs. I recommend a standalone full-size keyboard.) Also, the iPad mini's screen doesn't show much of your document with the landscape keyboard visible, but, again, it shows you no less than the iPad 2 does.

On the other hand, I'm a fan of the iPad mini's portrait-orientation keyboard. On a full-size iPad, this keyboard is too small for ten-finger typing but too big for easy thumb typing. On the iPad mini, the portrait-orientation keyboard is nearly perfect: small enough to let you reach all the keys, but large enough that you don't regularly hit the wrong keys. You still won't want to do extended onscreen typing in portrait orientation, but I think many people will prefer it to landscape on the mini.

The iPad mini is also a very nice device for watching video. It's not 1080p (even 720p video is scaled down slightly), but video looks great on it--again, sharper than on the iPad 2--and the mini's size means you can easily hold it for extended periods or prop it on an airline tray table while still getting an image that's large enough to be enjoyable. And though I dislike bringing both my MacBook Air and iPad on trips, I have no such qualms about bringing the Air and iPad mini thanks to its smaller, thinner size.

Similarly, the iPad mini has also become my favorite iPad for playing most games. The smaller size and lighter weight make it easier to hold for long gaming sessions, and it's especially well suited for arcade-style games with onscreen buttons and D-pads--the lighter weight makes it easier to use those controls while holding the iPad upright than on a standard iPad. The mini is also great for games that use the iPad itself as a controller, such as the aforementioned driving games: The mini is light enough for extended use as a steering wheel, but its screen is still large enough to make your racing game's supplemental display useful.


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