Retina iPad Mini Review

I said I didn’t want an iPad.

Well, I caved and bought one a few months ago.  I’ve been using it for a couple months now and I absolutely love it.  I loved my Nexus 7 (it has a happy home at my friend’s place now) but I had a couple issues with it, namely lack of decent accessories (I know, that’s a stupid excuse) and the nagging feeling that Google will discontinue support now that they are encouraging OEMs to make Google Play editions of devices.

I wanted an update to my tablet (been almost two years) and I felt like the best option for me at the time was the iPad Mini Retina 32 GB.  I got the “smoke grey” version and a blue iPad smart case because I wanted to protect the thing (it was expensive!).  And just today I picked up a Logitech “hinge” case that allows for more options when propping the tablet up for watching films and whatnot.  It actually kind of looks like I covered my iPad with a carpet, but you’ll see that in the pictures.

Speaking of… pictures:

2014-06-16 18.27.11Everyone’s seen an iPad mini by now, but here’s my setup start screen.  You can see the relatively small bezels on the sides.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I really don’t mind them at all.

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These next two are the cases.  I got the smart case at first and I love it, but I don’t see a lot of protection save for scratches and very short drops (like from the couch to the carpeted floor).  I went to Best Buy tonight and found the second case.  It’s a Logitech “hinge” case that is highly adjustable and has more options for propping the tablet up than the smart case.  The smart case is significantly lighter than the Logitech case, but I think the advantage in extra protection is worth it.

Anyway, this little machine went with me to Supreme Session in Omaha and was my main device to take notes and check email on.  I accomplished this with Evernote (I sprung for Premium; totally worth it when I didn’t have any online connectivity).  I love Evernote and I’m using it much more, but that’s another post for another time.  Anyway, I also picked up a stylus but I’ve not used it as much as I thought I would.  I was going to try to use Penultimate but it’s actually faster for me to type my notes directly into Evernote from the on screen keyboard than it is to try to write them in Penultimate.

In the next two pictures, you can see how the tablet is propped by the different cases.

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So, dear readers, you’re probably wondering where my pro and con lists are.  Right… here.

Pros:

  • Size.  I love this size.  I wouldn’t be able to wrangle an iPad Air easily, but this I can fit in one hand and poke at with the other, much like I could with the Nexus 7.  I like the 7″-8″ form factor; it’s perfect for reading, playing games, watching Netflix/Hulu in bed, and taking notes in Evernote.
  • The screen.  Oh my.  The screen is beautiful.  I’m glad I held out for the retina version and splurged on it instead of the cheaper original mini.
  • Speed.  This thing blazes.  I have a few beefs with iOS but that’s me, not the operating system.  I prefer some things related to Android (the notification shade, for one) but I’ve gotten used to iOS.  It works and generally gets out of your way.
  • Weight.  This thing is light.  It’s a hair heavier than the Nexus 7, but it also has a metal backing instead of plastic (I’m not knocking plastic here, but it’s something to consider) and a slightly larger screen.  Anyway, it’s lighter than the 11″ Macbook Air that I have (not that it’s heavy by any means).
  • Build quality.  Holy shit this thing is built well and has awesome fit-and-finish.  As a mechanical engineer, I really appreciate good fit-and-finish.
  • Battery life.  Holy whoa, I get almost two days between charges, more if it sits in standby.

Cons:

  • iTunes.  This program is really shitty on Windows.  It’s slow and bloated, but luckily, I can manage most of my stuff from the iPad itself and I don’t have to deal with the program.  I could transfer everything to my Macbook, but I’m limited on space there, so I don’t really want to.  I cheat and use dropbox a lot.
  • The aforementioned lack of decent notification shade, which is something I love coming from Android.
  • No back button.  You don’t realize how much you get used to that hard-coded back button on Android till you go to iOS.

So.  This is a definite buy if you’re looking for a new tablet.  If you’re happy with Android, get the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S, but be aware that the storage situation is slim.  I think it starts with 16 GB and doesn’t increase it, but you can expand to more with an SD card.  I’ve never had luck with that, though, so you’re mileage may vary.