Usually with every new Apple device that’s released, we usually expect faster performance. Unfortunately for the iPad mini, this is definitely not the case. The iPad mini is powered by the iPad 2’s A5 processor that came out a year and a half ago.
When using this tablet in comparison with the third-generation iPad, there is a difference in feel on how fast the apps launch and how they run. The difference is much more clear when you compare this with the latest iPad when playing graphics-intensive games such as NOVA 3 and Modern Combat. They both work fine on the iPad mini, but you will experience slower load times, and they don’t run as smoothly. Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja both work perfectly on the Mini.
In terms of real world, day-to-day usage, it’s not that big of a deal — despite some people are crying bloody murder. If you are mainly using the iPad mini to go online, read books or check Facebook, then you probably won’t even notice a difference. Navigating through the OS and switching in between apps and screens was as snappy and responsive as the Retina iPads.
The iPad mini comes in two flavors in terms of wireless capabilities. The WiFi-only version supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz) with Bluetooth 4.0. The Cellular model supports all of the above, plus GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) and LTE. If you are on Verizon and Sprint, add CDMA EV-DO Rev A and B on top of all of that.
Connecting to my wireless network was very simple, and thanks to the new Advance Wi-Fi technology, data speeds were noticeably faster than my third-generation iPad.
At the time of this writing, Apple has not yet released the LTE version SO I can’t test the 4G access yet, but on other device in the Los Angeles Metro area, I normally manage to get 16MB down and 3.5MB up on AT&T. With Verizon, I can get up to 30MB down and 18MB up; it’s just a matter of how good your network coverage is. But based on my tests, Verizon seems to be the best choice for most people.
The iPad mini runs on this year’s iOS 6, so anyone who is currently running this on their iPhones or iPads should be no stranger to the operating system. Apple’s operating system is very responsive and snappy on the Mini, even on the A5 processor, and it more or less feels as quick as the Retina iPads.
The tablet comes with the standard iOS 6 apps including Scott Forstall’s greatest hits: Game Center, Maps, and Siri. Photo Stream and iCloud are also present, along with all the other apps you would find on the Retina iPads so you won’t be missing anything.
Apple’s reasoning for having the 1024 x 768 was for the apps. According to them, a Retina display would not be ideal for a tablet of this size so they went with the iPad 2’s resolution, which supports over 250,000+ apps and counting.
Apps in general ran without a hitch, as expected. Everything runs exactly as it would on an iPad 2, it just looks smaller — but that was expected and it definitely wasn’t an issue. What was an issue, as I mentioned earlier in this review, was the text on some of the apps optimized for Retina display and the larger iPad screens. They look blurry and muddled, like the Newsstand magazines. Luckily, books and PDFs in iBooks are more readable, and the text is satisfactory and not so hard on the eyes like the magazines.
Again, there are 250,000+ apps for this device, so chances are there is something for everyone. Aside from the apps, with a lower resolution, lack of Retina display, and slower A5 processor, does it make the iPad mini less fun? Absolutely not.
The Mini handled all my entertainment apps just fine. I streamed videos from my desktop to my Apple TV using Stream to Me, which handled HD videos without any hiccups. I watched anime on Crunchy Roll, and listened to music with Slacker Radio.
While we are on the topic of sound and music, the iPad mini has built-in stereo speakers that sound fairly good, like the fourth-generation iPad, which was something I didn’t expect. If you don’t have external speakers handy, the iPad mini’s speakers are adequate enough to accommodate a small conference room.
I have no real complaints on watching videos on the Mini, which handled streaming and pre-loaded just fine. Of course, having a Retina display would help a lot, but when I was watching movies and anime on this, I didn’t even think about it.
I don’t really use the camera features on tablets. Even with the vast improvements Apple made to the cameras on the third-generation iPad, the camera was seldom used. I think it’s weird when I see people take photos with their iPads in a museum, but taking photos with tablets seems to be a trend these days.
The smaller form factor of the iPad mini makes taking pictures on a tablet less awkward looking than it does on larger tablets. Powered by a 5MP rear-facing camera, the Mini does very well for a tablet in capturing photos and videos at 1080p. It’s no iPhone 5, and doesn’t have a built-in flash, but it does take decent pictures even in low light situations.
The front-facing camera is something that I do use on the tablet. In order to conserve the battery on my iPhone, I sometimes resort to FaceTime on an iPad. Being as small as the Mini is, it’s a great device for video chat, and it helps even more having a FaceTime HD camera for video chatting.
Like all the other iPads, the mini has fantastic battery performance. I took the iPad off the charger on Friday morning and have used it excessively through the weekend in writing this review, surfing the Web, watching videos, Facebook, Twitter, listening to music, and talking to some relatives in Hong Kong. It’s Monday afternoon right now and I still have 20% battery life left without even charging it.
Apple claims that the iPad mini will last 10 hours and I totally believe it based on what I’ve seen so far.