The iPad Mini: You Should Probably Wait Until The Second Generation [Review]

The iPad Mini: You Should Probably Wait Until The Second Generation [Review]

The iPad mini. It’s small, it’s thin, it’s light, it’s beautiful… it’s got a terrible screen.

Here are the two things you need to know about the iPad mini. The form factor’s perfect, it’s beautifully designed, you will love holding it… but the screen’s awful and the performance is lacking, especially in graphics. Even at the price, it’s a deeply disappointing product that most people should think twice about buying right now.

The iPad Mini: You Should Probably Wait Until The Second Generation [Review]

The iPad mini isn’t that much bigger than a small paperback book.

Let’s get this out of the way: inside the cool new design, the iPad mini is basically just a shrunken down iPad 2. Sure, it’s got some bells and whistles strapped on — new stereo speakers, Siri support, the iPad 3/4’s better camera and LTE support — but where it counts, this is an iPad 2 with four iPhone 3GS screens duct-taped to it.

What does that mean? Compared to the iDevices Apple has released in the last year — the iPhone 5, an iPad 3 or an iPad 4 — the iPad mini feels as if it’s sluggishly wading through molasses with many graphically intensive tasks. There’s notable lag pretty much everywhere, especially when it comes to loading  graphically intensive apps.

Update: Originally, this review said performance across the board was worse, but this seems to have been a hiccup with my review unit: a reboot vastly improved performance across the board. We’ve updated this review to soften our take on the iPad mini’s horsepower: while it is still lacking when it comes to graphics, it’s about as fast as an iPad 3 when it comes to launching apps and the like, although still a little slower due to the fact it only has 512MB of RAM to the iPad 3’s 1GB.

No one expects a $329 product to match the performance of an iPhone or iPad that costs at least a couple hundred bucks more, but the differential could be less profound, especially when it comes to graphically intensive apps.The issue, of course, is that the iPad mini uses Apple’s old A5 chip, which is just ancient at this point in the graphics arena. An A6 chip in the iPad mini — even underclocked — and a full gigabyte of RAM would have made all the difference in the world.

The iPad Mini: You Should Probably Wait Until The Second Generation [Review]

Text on the iPad 3 is much sharper than on the iPad mini. Top: iPad mini (to scale), Bottom: iPad 3.

But the performance isn’t nearly as disappointing as the screen. Boy, it’s just awful: so awful you can’t believe Apple would actually sell a new product with this display in late 2012.

You can’t believe Apple would actually sell a product with this display in late 2012.

Everyone knows at this point that the iPad mini doesn’t have a Retina display, and that’s definitely a problem: from the second you boot up the iPad mini, you’ll know the difference. Text is the biggest issue: letters appear murky, fuzzy and unclear. Your eyes have to work harder to resolve them. The result is an optical fatigue that I had completely forgotten about in the past two years. I’ve been spoiled by Apple’s Retina-ized products. The pixel density is a step up from the iPad 2, but just barely, and it’s notably worse than the quality of not just the last three iPhones and two iPads, but the likes of the Kindle Fire HD 7 and Galaxy 7.

The problems with the display don’t end just at resolution, though. Onscreen objects seem to be farther away behind the glass than on the iPad 3 or the iPhone 5. There’s a visible air gap between the glass and the LCD underneath. If you’ve spent time with an iPhone 5, in which onscreen objects appear as if they have been physically painted on top of the glass, using the iPad mini is like seeing everything far away through a thick, slightly dirty window.

The iPad Mini: You Should Probably Wait Until The Second Generation [Review]

Upscaled iPhone apps are even worse. Top: iPad mini (to scale). Bottom: iPad 3. Woof.

I can’t tell you how much I dislike this display. It’s inexcusably bad. I’m a person who stares at computer screens all day long, and after using my iPad mini for an hour, I  found that my eyes were actually hurting. I actually wanted to get away from the iPad mini’s display. That’s a big problem: Apple makes immersive products that suck you in. The iPad mini’s display actually pushes you away.

The thing that makes it all so much worse is that the form factor of this thing is perfect. It’s Apple’s Kindle: a light, thin device that feels just wonderful in the hand. I want to love the iPad mini so much. I love holding it. It’s got a form factor that seems tailor made for reading… and yet reading, above anything else, is the experience that is most painful on the iPad mini.

It’s Apple’s Kindle: a light, thin device that feels just wonderful in the hand. I love holding it.

It’s mostly only text that looks truly awful on the iPad mini display. Games and the like, while not Retina, tend to look a lot better, as does video (although again, it’s important to note you’re not getting even 720HP video on an iPad mini). If you’re buying an iPad mini as a gamer, or to watch videos, or to take and edit photos, or even to read comics, you’re going to find the display a lot less of an issue than if you are mostly interested in the iPad mini to read iBooks or Kindle e-books, check out Instapaper and Twitter, read web pages on Safari, check your e-mail and so on.

The iPad Mini: You Should Probably Wait Until The Second Generation [Review]

To labor the point, Messages on the lockscreen on the iPad mini (top, to scale) and iPad 3.

It’s maddening. Why did Apple release the iPad mini with a screen this terrible, especially when it’s competing with devices like the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kindle Fire 7 and the Galaxy 7 that aren’t just much cheaper but have displays that are so much superior for reading text?

What makes all the difference is the way the iPad mini feels in the hand. The iPad mini takes all of its design cues from the iPhone 5 and the fifth-generation iPod touch, and it shows. Design-wise, this is very much an Apple product of late 2012. In fact, holding an iPad mini is such a pleasant experience that it only exacerbates our frustrations with the hardware inside the beautiful, Ive-designed chassis. Picking up an iPad mini is just bliss, but actually using it is another thing entirely.

It didn’t have to be this way. In 2013? This is going to be Apple’s best product next to the iPhone. It’ll have a Retina display. It’ll have an A6 processor. It’ll have a gig of RAM.  It’ll be light, cheap and have great battery life. It’ll be a joy to use. But that’s the iPad mini Apple should be shipping today.

In 2013? The iPad mini is going to be Apple’s best product next to the iPhone.

So why isn’t it? If I were forced to speculate, I think it’s probably because 7.85-inch 2048 x 1536 Retina displays aren’t yet affordable enough for Apple to make the kind of margins it needs on the iPad mini. Apple can’t use another resolution for the iPad mini display, because the fact that all existing iPad apps automatically work on the iPad mini is a huge advantage for both consumers and developers alike. So if they wanted to release the iPad mini this year, they needed to use an inferior 1048 x 768 display.

And that’s the thing: Apple had to release the iPad mini this year. The competition in the 7-inch market — Samsung, Google, Amazon — is gaining momentum. By 2013, it’s likely that one of these companies would be entrenched on the mini-tablet market. If Apple waited any longer, they may have lost the 7-inch tablet market entirely, and so Cupertino felt forced to make a big compromise to enter the market on-time.

The iPad Mini: You Should Probably Wait Until The Second Generation [Review]

Comics are surprisingly readable on the iPad mini, even when compared to the iPad 3.

I really want to love the iPad mini. I certainly love holding it in my hand. It makes my iPad 3 feel big, clunky and unwieldy. When the iPad mini gets a Retina display, the only people who are going to buy 9.7-inch iPads are going to be the people who are looking for a laptop replacement. But that’s next year. This is today.
Today? The iPad mini is overpriced and underspecced. It’s worst at the thing it should be best at: reading. I would recommend that most people wait until the second-generation model to buy an iPad mini. If you can’t wait, don’t spend more than the $329 entry-level Wi-Fi version. Anything else is too much.

I would recommend that most people wait until the second-generation model to buy an iPad mini.

Apple’s a company that prides itself on not making compromises. It made a big compromise with the display of the iPad mini, and the result is the most frustrating product Cupertino has released all year. When the second-generation iPad mini comes around, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s one of the best products that Apple makes. Right now, though? It leaves a lot to be desired as an Apple product.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Related
  • Gadget

    I understand what the author is talking about. I live in a retina world now with my iPhone 4S, and retina MBP. I will never buy another product with a display that is not retina. I hate looking at my old iMac and iPad 1. Doesn’t matter, they will still sell millions of minis.

  • Lady_756

    I think this is the most negative review I’ve seen of the iPad mini thus far. I have one in the box on my desk and am hoping that my iPhone 5 and iPad 3 retina screens won’t ruin it for me. If so, I’ll return and wait for 2nd gen.

  • kenderama

    This is an incredibly negative and poorly done review. The whole premise of the reviewer was to compare the Mini to it’s much more powerful brothers – and therefore he missed the point.

    You don’t compare the Ford Mustang to the Porsche 911. How about we get a review of the device itself instead of simply saying how ‘terrible’ it is? The above is like saying you shouldn’t buy a MacBook Air because the screen is SO HORRIBLE compared to the Retina MacBook Pro.

    I have been without a retina iPad for a couple weeks now – and when I look at the Mini’s display, I was finding myself trying very hard to find the flaws. It’s a *decent* screen. It’s not retina – by any shade of comparison – but it is decent for what it does, and looks decent. The form factor is nice, and while I wish it was a touch lighter – it’s much better for one-handed use than the full size iPads are.

    Please consider re-doing this review and actually reviewing the device instead of a page full of dislike simply because it isn’t what you wish it could be. Not everyone wants or needs the supercar to get around town.

  • Asszem

    “In late 2010, Steve Jobs commented on the sudden influx of 7-inch tablets by calling them ‘tweeners. He said that Apple had considered 7-inch displays for the iPad, but after extensive testing, a 7-inch screen was too small to really be useable… In other words? Steve Jobs was right. Kindle Fire? ‘Tweener!

  • fmcarvBMW5

    This review sounds more like a lame attempt by the author to justify his personal decision to wait another 12 months to buy an ipad mini with retina display. this is more like a bashing…not a review!

  • EagleLooking78

    I’ve never felt that my iPad 2 was sluggish and to be honest…I can’t really notice a difference between the display on that and the display on my iPhone 4S. This guy probably wrote a glowing review of the iPad 2 when it came out praising the display to high heaven.

  • brownlee

    I’ve never felt that my iPad 2 was sluggish and to be honest…I can’t really notice a difference between the display on that and the display on my iPhone 4S. This guy probably wrote a glowing review of the iPad 2 when it came out praising the display to high heaven.

    Uh, that was two years ago. Tech changes a lot in two years. (And I didn’t review the iPad 2 at all when it came out)

  • z0mki

    I was in the market for a dedicated ebook reader and the lack of Retina is the only reason I will be waiting for the next generation iPad Mini. There’s no way I will go back to standard resolution after being spoiled by my retina iDevices for the last 3+ years. I never expected Apple to include retina on the mini as I am sure it’s being saved for the next version 6-7 months out as with the iPad 3. I did however opted for the cheaper, easier on the eyes, Kindle PaperWhite to hold me over.

  • brownlee

    This review sounds more like a lame attempt by the author to justify his personal decision to wait another 12 months to buy an ipad mini with retina display.

    What? As you can see from the pictures above, I already *own* an iPad mini. I obviously didn’t wait to buy one, and hence, have no need to “justify” that decision to anyone.

  • wnyang

    I understand what the author is talking about. I live in a retina world now with my iPhone 4S, and retina MBP. I will never buy another product with a display that is not retina. I hate looking at my old iMac and iPad 1. Doesn’t matter, they will still sell millions of minis.

    I went to the Apple store to check it out in person – and I even compared it to an iPad 4 side-by-side. Honestly, it’s not that bad. If you look at the above items in their actual size at a standard viewing distance, it’s more than acceptable. Any image you blow up until it pixelates will look bad. I don’t even think the author has touched one firsthand before writing this review.

  • NoahK17

    I guess Steve Jobs was right about 7″ tablets after all!

  • dallanlee

    You’re an idiot, John Brownlee. Sucky article. I couldn’t even finish reading it.

  • brackintosh

    I just unboxed my 4th Generation iPad and it is sitting next to my iPad 2 that I’ve been using since the day it was launched. (I skipped the 3rd Gen because the demo unit in the Apple store seemed sluggish, ran very hot and I just didn’t get the same wow from the retina display as others did.) Well, I can say that I still don’t get the wow from the display – just hoping the new processor will alleviate the sluggishness and the heat. I’ve used a iPhone 4S since it was launched and am now on an iPhone 5, so I’m not a retina “newbie.”

    I think that the Mini will be fine. I’d love to have my iPad 2 in that form factor and have found it to be fast and responsive.

  • Drshemming

    Whilst I would agree that the IPad Mini display is no Retina, it certainly isn’t as bad as this review would have you believe, and even though there is a little compromise on the quality of the screen, the Mini’s perfect form factor more than makes up for it.

    I do think that John is right when he says that the second generation mini will be the best Apple product bar the iPhone. I love my mini and could never go back to a full size IPad.

  • CharilaosMulder

    Not so sure if the second model will have a retina display already. The third gen, almost sure.

  • Adrayven

    Wow.. umm.. is it just me, or does this author seem to be looking more for clicks and drama than real use case and reality? First off, when using the ipad 2 and 3, I couldn’t tell the difference excpt the colors looks just a bit sharper.. .. It comes to a point when a ‘normal’ persons eyes can’t see this kind of detail.

    In order to make his point, he had to blow up the screen show images.. that says something right there..

    As for sluggish? I had and iPad 2(gave to my mom last week for bday, she wanted larger screen), and I’m moving to iPad mini when it arrives. It was very responsive, even after iOS 6 upgrade.

    I’ve a retina laptop and iPhone.. other than slightly smoother displays, meh.. so what? I want light and smaller for travel.. you know.. real world reasons.. John Brownlee, learn to write something with actual VALUE, not drama clicks..

  • Chemistry76

    Thanks for the review. Non-retina display is exactly why I held off. Going from the 3GS to the 4 was an eyegasm. Same with going from the iPad 2 to the 3. I can’t bring myself to go backwards. I’m desperately waiting for a retina MBA because even the high PPI on my 11″ isn’t near enough after using a retina display.

    A cheap point of human interaction (cheap keyboard/mouse on a desktop; cheap display on a tablet) ruins the experience.

    With this display it can’t seriously expect to compete with the $199 devices with better displays. I assume the $329 price was established because that will have to be the price once the retina displays come out, and Apple doesn’t like to raise price points.

  • alirezadehghani

    Let’s say the iPad mini is half a second slower than the iPad 3 or 4. Let’s even say it is 3 or 4 second slower in launching apps (which is not that much). When you feel like two seconds is unacceptable and sluggish, I say you are spoiled and unreasonable, and iPad mini’s display is the least of your problems.

  • JohnWilson

    This review is horrible. Not fair to the device at all. If you’re going to compare it to anything, compare it to the competition at the same or lower price points. What you’re doing is basically comparing a 3-series Benz to a 7-series. Who does that? Why would you compare the mini to a full-size iPad that cost 40% more? Yes, it doesn’t match the full-size iPad in every respect. It’s not supposed to.

  • Mach Concorde

    This is an incredibly negative and poorly done review. The whole premise of the reviewer was to compare the Mini to it’s much more powerful brothers – and therefore he missed the point.

    You don’t compare the Ford Mustang to the Porsche 911. How about we get a review of the device itself instead of simply saying how ‘terrible’ it is? The above is like saying you shouldn’t buy a MacBook Air because the screen is SO HORRIBLE compared to the Retina MacBook Pro.

    I have been without a retina iPad for a couple weeks now – and when I look at the Mini’s display, I was finding myself trying very hard to find the flaws. It’s a *decent* screen. It’s not retina – by any shade of comparison – but it is decent for what it does, and looks decent. The form factor is nice, and while I wish it was a touch lighter – it’s much better for one-handed use than the full size iPads are.

    Please consider re-doing this review and actually reviewing the device instead of a page full of dislike simply because it isn’t what you wish it could be. Not everyone wants or needs the supercar to get around town.

    Correct assessment of the authors “review”. However the obsessive ipad mini screen moaning just has a tinge of link baiting ….. hope I am wrong, as it reflects badly on cultofmac, one of my favourite websites. I have no intention of buying one because I already have a iPad 1 and an ipad 3 shared within the family and the iPad 1 is still very good with what it does….. and it is used mainly a reading/surfing/games device by the children and myself as a reading device with surprise, “text” as the main content! Okay the text looks slightly jagged but only when compared with the iPad 3 next to it or you shift reading from 3 to 1 … and you get used to it in a few minutes and don’t notice it anymore.

  • buckustoothnail

    As an Apple devotee since the Apple II+, my love of Apple products for the past 30 years is perhaps matched only by my annoyance at Johnny-come-lately Apple users who know so little about technology and ride the bandwagon like high school cheerleaders riding the football team.

    So I am especially appreciative to finally read an objective and unbiased review on “Cult of Mac” that isn’t affected by Apple’s “reality distortion field”.

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? Since Steve Job’s passing, Apple no longer has the ABILITY to create the RDF, either internally within the company or externally with the public.

    With the loss of Jobs, not only did Apple lose its dynamic leader, but it also lost his “swagger”. There isn’t a better example of a modern company that marched to the swinging dick of its visionary more than Apple from 1997 to 2010.

    And with Jobs gone, so has Apple’s previously impenetrable grip on technology innovation, dictating market trends, and crushing the competition.

    Perhaps we could have saw this coming with the launch of the iPhone 4S. With the public expecting iPhone 5 and anticipation through the roof with quite funny rumored features like “laser keyboard” and “holographic display” that were believed by many, instead Apple dropped on us the 4S with hardly any new features apart from incrementally improved specs and the much-maligned Siri.

    Still, the public goodwill toward Apple coupled with Steve Job’s death propelled the 4S toward massive sales regardless, a sign that with the goodwill that Jobs built for over a decade that confidence remained high on Apple despite the reality of releasing a very arguably “disappointing” product.

    Now fast forward to recent history and the release of the iPhone 5 was more of the same. Perhaps quite telling was the fact that its reception was greeted more with what the iPhone 5 DIDN’T have than what it added.

    Yes, the new iPhone added half an inch to the screen, perhaps the most obvious physical new feature, and following the lead of marketplace. However, it’s biggest competitors like the Android phones has had larger displays for YEARS, not just a generation, and far larger than 4 inches which still seems anemic compared to the available options.

    But the biggest news was that the iPhone 5, and all IOS 6 devices, no longer supported Youtube and Google Maps. The Youtube wasn’t a huge issue because a downloadable app was made available on the App Store quick quickly. But the loss of Google Maps proved very damaging toward Apple in public perception.

    Not only did Apple removed a much beloved and used app that was already integrated in many iPhone users’ lives, but they offered their own alternative app which was not only far inferior to Google’s, but which simply did not work.

    Now with the iPad Mini, what we’re seeing is Apple blatantly copying the competition. And not only are they following the pack and playing catch-up, but they are doing so by completely going against the wishes of Steve Jobs, who famously ridiculed the 7″tablet and declared that Apple would never make one.

    But truly more troubling is Apple’s decision to gimp the iPad Mini display with a screen resolution of 1024×768, which isn’t even HD, and only 163 PPI.

    For comparison, the Nook HD is 1440×900 screen resolution for 243 ppi, and the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD 7″ are both 1280×800 and 216 ppi.

    And the kicker? All three of these models cost $199, a full $130 LESS than the iPad Mini.

    There was no technological reason why Apple couldn’t have Retina Display for this iPad Mini, not when all of the competitors in the market have it, and certainly not because it was trying to keep costs down for the consumer since the iPad Mini is still $130 more expensive that its competition all with superior displays.

    As anyone that has been following Apple for years can surmise, Apple purposely gimped this iPad Mini with the low-res display so that they can introduce the Retina Display as a “new feature” for the next model so everyone feels compelled to “upgrade” again.

    In fact, don’t be surprised at all when the iPad Mini 2 comes out in 6 months and supports, you guessed it, a Retina Display.

    And because of Apple’s contempt for their customers and willingness to hold back new features, even ones already common in the market, so that they can “introduce” them in future models, they will continue to be a technology and innovation follower rather than the industry leader for the foreseeable future.

    Now the interesting question is, how long will Apple’s customer base be content with purchasing products that are already outdated by the time they hit the market, and how many generations can Apple products be behind their competition before their customer base finally realises something’s amiss?

  • Whodakat

    My iPad 2 does not have an awful screen (and yes I do have a retina iPhone 5), and it is certainly no slouch.

  • defactomonkey

    Seems like everything is getting retina-fied. Why release a sub-retina product at all? Makes no sense except they know millions of people will buy it and explain away the shortcomings. I like the idea of a smaller tablet and will check it out, but you won’t get my money until you slap a retina display in there. It’s like Samsung releasing a really thin and small television that does everything its 9000 line does, but its just not HD. Only Apple can get away with something as silly as that.

  • defactomonkey

    Seems like everything is getting retina-fied. Why release a sub-retina product at all? Makes no sense except they know millions of people will buy it and explain away the shortcomings. I like the idea of a smaller tablet and will check it out, but you won’t get my money until you slap a retina display in there. It’s like Samsung releasing a really thin and small television that does everything its 9000 line does, but its just not HD. Only Apple can get away with something as silly as that.

  • jahsoul

    I think buckustoothnail summed it up perfectly. Honestly, if you really look at this with any type of objectivity, you could clearly see that Apple rushed a product into a market that it had no true interest in until the Kindle Fire and then the Nexus 7 proved people were interested in the smaller tablet.

    I believe that the iPad Mini 2 will be leaps and bounds better than this version. Honestly, comparing the specs to the iPhone 5, it has no choice but to be. I also believe that this is truly a beta (for lack of a better word) device. Apple might be gauging the market to see how people respond to the form factor and then go from there.

    That being said, why wouldn’t anyone want a review that tells what is wrong with the device. I’ve read too many reviews that masked the Mini’s shortcomings with the fact that it is an Apple device and the ecosystem. I’ve read reviews that spent more time talking about how the device felt instead of how it performed. Reviews talking about the app catalog instead of how those apps performed. I don’t believe in buying a device just for the device to be upgraded 6 months later. I will still go and check the iPad Mini out but seeing how Apple just did the iPad 3, I personally feel that it would be better to wait and see.

  • C17H19N5

    Several commenters have pointed out that once having owned a Retina display, they would never go back to one with a lower resolution. However, there are millions of people for whom the iPad Mini is not going back–it could be their first tablet, and they will appreciate all the positive features that were mentioned in the review, including access to thousands of apps. Although I’m sure Apple designers have their fans well in mind when they plan each new product, they surely must also be thinking of consumers for whom this may be their first Apple product, or those who own and appreciate Apple products but who don’t rush to buy each new product the day it is released. I think this is simply Apple doing some long-range strategic thinking about reaching into new markets.

  • Eric Harrington

    The title of this is dead on. I’ve learned my lesson buying 1 gen goods from Apple – and so have a lot of other people. If this trend continues, Apple will need to adjust their roadmap. Then again, they may not care since the masses seem to be ok paying top dollar for 1-2 yr old tech.

  • iKnackwurst

    As an iPad 2 owner, i feel the need to comment this article. I own my iPad 2 since launch day. I never thought that the screen looks bad and the “ancient” A5 Chip never let me down and felt slow. I have to say that the iPad 2 was the only iOS device that did not start to feel slow. It still rocks like the first day and i never felt the need to replace it. If someone would offer me to trade my iPad 2 for the Retina iPad I probably would deny. The Retina iPads are heavier, thicker, run hot and take ages to charge up to 100%. And all these negative points just for a better display? No thanks. Before anyone asks, i own the iPhone 4S and have used Retina iPads in the past, so i know how retina looks and “feels”.

    Even if no one agrees i felt the need to defend the iPad 2(and with that the iPad mini) and its technology against this rant that is unfolding all over the Internet. Of course this is only my personal opinion. iPad 2 is not the best iPad out there, thats fact. But it’s not bad either.

  • jahsoul

    Several commenters have pointed out that once having owned a Retina display, they would never go back to one with a lower resolution. However, there are millions of people for whom the iPad Mini is not going back–it could be their first tablet, and they will appreciate all the positive features that were mentioned in the review, including access to thousands of apps. Although I’m sure Apple designers have their fans well in mind when they plan each new product, they surely must also be thinking of consumers for whom this may be their first Apple product, or those who own and appreciate Apple products but who don’t rush to buy each new product the day it is released. I think this is simply Apple doing some long-range strategic thinking about reaching into new markets.

    But this is where things fall into the grey area. I’m one who believes that the iPad Mini is a tablet for those who already own Apple mobile devices and are a part of the ecosystem.

    If the consumer knows nothing about iOS or Android and they have a iPad Mini and a Nexus 7 side by side, what do you think the consumer will choose? Also, how will that consumer feel when their device will be obsolete in 6 months time. (I use 6 months because that’s how long the iPad 3 lasted and I really don’t see this lasting longer)?

    And I don’t get how this is “long-term strategic thinking about reaching into new markets” when Apple shunned this market until recently. If they were thinking about the long term, they would have brought innovation like they have with each of the Alpha (used in the sense that it was the first of its kind for the company) releases of their devices. Think about it. The first iPhone (was nothing like it) and the 1st iPad (nothing like it in the consumer market) both brought something new to the table and each subsequent release was improvements on them. While the iPad Mini has no choice but to be improved upon, what can Apple say they brought to the table with this initial release?

  • Senturion

    I am stunned.

    I pre-ordered a Mini. I was excited by the prospect of a smaller iPad that fit my lifestyle, but then I went down to the Apple Store today and took a look at one.

    Disappointed. Pre-order cancelled.

    The size, form factor and build quality are amazing, pretty much my perfect device.

    But the screen…oh that screen.

    Apple can’t go around shouting about Retina displays for two years and then drop a screen like that on us.

    I actually believe Tim Cook when he says that the Mini is priced higher because it is a premium device, the price is not a problem for me, but you can’t call a device “premium” when it has a worse screen that your closest, cheaper competitors.

    Let’s face it, a tablet is defined by it’s screen, it’s the essence of the product. The Mini screen makes me feel like my eyes are blurry after having been used to Retina on my iPad and iPhone.

    If they ever come out with a Retina version I’ll pre-order in a heartbeat but for now this Apple fan is supremely diappointed.

    Do I lose my fanboi badge now?

  • Senturion

    This is an incredibly negative and poorly done review. The whole premise of the reviewer was to compare the Mini to it’s much more powerful brothers – and therefore he missed the point.

    A tablet is defined by it’s screen.

    The Mini has a worse screen by resolution than it’s two closest competitors, Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire.

    Yes it is made out of aluminum and glass and the others are plastic but the screen is the most important thing on any tablet.

    Apple has been crowing about Retina for two years now. You can’t spend all your time bragging about screen resolution and then put out a screen like that. An iPod Touch has a better screen, that’s shameful.

  • bm

    The comparision picture of the Messages screen is misleading. 9.7/7.85=1.24 and the difference in width shown is more than 1.5

    I really miss a reference to the quality of the iPad 1 and iPad 2 screens that many of us know (and still like, despite the ‘non-retina’ness). Is the iPad mini better, worse or the same?

    From other reviews I understood it was at least as good.

  • bm

    Uh, that was two years ago. Tech changes a lot in two years.

    The introduction of the iPad2 was in march 2011, that’s less than 2 years ago. And I think the iPad mini is better in many respects than the iPad 2, apart from being a lot cheaper. For many, size and weight matter a lot. The much better 5MP camera is also more useful on a smaller device. The iPad mini is now only twice the size of a regular camera, and it had an very nice preview.

    So, unless the screen is really much worse than the iPad 2, this review is excessively negative.

  • bm

    And because of Apple’s contempt for their customers and willingness to hold back new features, even ones already common in the market, so that they can “introduce” them in future models, they will continue to be a technology and innovation follower rather than the industry leader for the foreseeable future.

    The web is riddled with so called former “Apple fans” spitting bile. You need more words than most.

    Do you really think Apple can make next years retina device today for $329,-? Only following Amazon an Google by selling at cost.

    I think the iPad mini is a very nice addition, for a reasonable price, and many people will be happy to use it for years to come.

  • bm

    Seems like everything is getting retina-fied. Why release a sub-retina product at all? Makes no sense except they know millions of people will buy it and explain away the shortcomings. I like the idea of a smaller tablet and will check it out, but you won’t get my money until you slap a retina display in there. It’s like Samsung releasing a really thin and small television that does everything its 9000 line does, but its just not HD. Only Apple can get away with something as silly as that.

    You want (or rather, demand) a retina iPad for a budget price. Well, you’ll have to wait and do without an iPad mini for 6-12 months. Because things cost money to make. Apple is not going to sell at cost.

  • lkahney

    I just got an iPad mini a couple of hours ago from the UPS guy. I took it to lunch and we’ve been playing around with it here in the office. Couple of observations:

    The screen is crappier: John is absolutely right about the quality of the screen. It is manifestly lower resolution than newer Retina Displays. I loaded several apps, eBooks and websites on my iPhone 5 and mini to compare. Text looks much clearer and brighter on the iPhone than the mini. Take email: text in email is a bit fuzzy and indistinct on the mini. It’s as sharp as a razor on the iPhone. In addition, the mini’s screen is markedly murkier. It’s darker than the iPhone’s screen, even with the brightness turned all the way up. Whites aren’t white: they are greyish white. Everything pops on the iPhone’s screen. Although I wouldn’t express my feelings about the screen quite as strongly as John does, his assessment is correct. A retina display on the mini would make it perfect.

    The screen is fine: The other thing to note is that I don’t care. I don’t care that the mini’s screen is not Retina. I don’t care if text is a bit fuzzy. Yes, I can tell that the two screens are markedly different in quality when I compare them side-by-side. But I’ve already forgotten that it’s not as high resolution. I simply don’t notice. When I’m using the iPad mini, I’m not aware of the screen’s shortcomings. I simply don’t see the fuzziness, the jaggies in text. I know that a lot of people *will* see the difference. And for a lot of people, it *will* ruin the experience. I’m not one of them.

    A couple of other observations:

    Performance: Performance is perfectly fine. Yes, it’s not as snappy as the new iPad, but it’s perfectly functional. Every app I loaded and played with performed fine. There are no significant performance lags or delays to report (so far).

    Size: The form factor is amazing. It’s the little big iPad: markedly bigger than an iPhone but small enough to hold in one hand or stash in a pocket. It’s as light as a feather and beautifully made. Like the iPhone 5, it’s almost too thin and light. Yeah, that’s a ridiculous thing to say, but I’m a bit nervous about it about clumsily knocking it out of my hands. I can see it ruined before the weekend is out.

    Typing: The screen is just big enough to work on. You can’t touch-type on it, but I’m not a touch typist anyway. So far, it’s been fine for my two-finger hunt-and-peck typing style. A already do a lot of my work on the iPad. I ditched my MacBook for an iPad several months ago. I’m curious to see if I can ditch the fullsize iPad for the mini and use it as a fulltime device. I’ll report back in a few weeks, but so far, it looks like it might be possible.

  • bm

    I am stunned.

    I pre-ordered a Mini. I was excited by the prospect of a smaller iPad that fit my lifestyle, but then I went down to the Apple Store today and took a look at one.

    Disappointed. Pre-order cancelled.

    The size, form factor and build quality are amazing, pretty much my perfect device.

    But the screen…oh that screen.

    Apple can’t go around shouting about Retina displays for two years and then drop a screen like that on us.

    I actually believe Tim Cook when he says that the Mini is priced higher because it is a premium device, the price is not a problem for me, but you can’t call a device “premium” when it has a worse screen that your closest, cheaper competitors.

    Let’s face it, a tablet is defined by it’s screen, it’s the essence of the product. The Mini screen makes me feel like my eyes are blurry after having been used to Retina on my iPad and iPhone.

    If they ever come out with a Retina version I’ll pre-order in a heartbeat but for now this Apple fan is supremely diappointed.

    Do I lose my fanboi badge now?

    Well, I have both an iPad 1 and an iPad 3 and and the iPad 1 is still a pleasure to use (though of course the iPad 3 is better). So I think you exaggerate. The screen of the iPad mini is still larger than the 7″ competition, and though the quality of the display is important, the general usefulness of the device is far more important. As long as the screen is as good as that of the iPad 2 it seems to me a perfect entry-level device. In that role it will preferred by many over the comparably priced iPod Touch.

  • Stuka_UK

    Even if no one agrees i felt the need to defend the iPad 2(and with that the iPad mini) and its technology against this rant that is unfolding all over the Internet. Of course this is only my personal opinion. iPad 2 is not the best iPad out there, thats fact. But it’s not bad either.

    You’re spot on. I have the iPad 2 and 3 and I still use the 2 more. The screen is good enough for most apps and it’s more comfortable to use. If they’d just made a 128gb iPad 2 then I’d still be happy with it.

  • jahsoul
    Even if no one agrees i felt the need to defend the iPad 2(and with that the iPad mini) and its technology against this rant that is unfolding all over the Internet. Of course this is only my personal opinion. iPad 2 is not the best iPad out there, thats fact. But it’s not bad either.

    You’re spot on. I have the iPad 2 and 3 and I still use the 2 more. The screen is good enough for most apps and it’s more comfortable to use. If they’d just made a 128gb iPad 2 then I’d still be happy with it.

    And that’s fine. I’m don’t dispute anyone regarding their enjoyment of an older device. My question is, if Apple could have kept the iPad 3 as light and thin (although really, they were very similar in in dimension and weight), would you use the iPad 2 or 3 more?

    Also, I think the BIGGEST reason for the iPad 3 being hot was the A5X and its huge die size. Man that thing was huge. With the A6x running on a 32nm technology, I don’t think the heat will be such a problem.

    But back to my main point, I believe that Apple could have thrown in the A6 from the iPhone 5 and a better screen and kept it close to it’s current price point. The more I look at this, the more I believe they will release iPad Mini 2 Q2 2013.

  • userids

    Funny thing is, Apple will sell millions of these iPad’s and 99.8% of the world will never read this bland blog! If you have never owned a iPad before, You will be happy with the iPad mini. If you are an Apple snob and want to nit pick all the specs then you will never be happy with anything!

  • Zod Buster

    Bean counters are in charge.. get used to it.. more stuff like this to come…
    testing their users to see what they can get away with.

  • lwdesign1

    Gee, how quickly we are spoiled and become petulant! I’m still using Apple’s 20″ and 30″ Cinema Displays from several years ago with their wonderful matte non-glossy screens and their non-Retina resolution, and my life hasn’t ended. I haven’t even gotten the sniffles. My eyes are just fine, even after hours and hours of work every day for many years. My MacBook Pro 17″ is from 2010 and doesn’t have a Retina display. It’s remarkable that I function at all! I do own a Retina equipped iPhone 4S but somehow my eyesight hasn’t been forever jaded on using a device with lesser resolution.

    Honestly John, from your review I’d think you were a diehard Android troll with an axe to grind. I’ll have to go out and see this ghastly screen on the iPad mini that has inspired such a tirade. Leander isn’t bothered by the mini’s screen at all, so it just comes down to preferences I guess (and possibly a tendency towards instant gratification). Shoving a retina display into the mini would have required a LOT more battery life to power it, and likely a difficult choice of resolutions so that it will work with existing iPhone and iPad apps. It also most likely would have added to the cost of the product.

    It’s OK if you don’t buy an iPad mini right away and wait for the second generation. No one will think badly of you, but to go on like Apple has betrayed your confidence and all that is good and holy is just a bit much.

  • jahsoul

    Gee, how quickly we are spoiled and become petulant! I’m still using Apple’s 20″ and 30″ Cinema Displays from several years ago with their wonderful matte non-glossy screens and their non-Retina resolution, and my life hasn’t ended. I haven’t even gotten the sniffles. My eyes are just fine, even after hours and hours of work every day for many years. My MacBook Pro 17″ is from 2010 and doesn’t have a Retina display. It’s remarkable that I function at all! I do own a Retina equipped iPhone 4S but somehow my eyesight hasn’t been forever jaded on using a device with lesser resolution.

    Honestly John, from your review I’d think you were a diehard Android troll with an axe to grind. I’ll have to go out and see this ghastly screen on the iPad mini that has inspired such a tirade. Leander isn’t bothered by the mini’s screen at all, so it just comes down to preferences I guess (and possibly a tendency towards instant gratification). Shoving a retina display into the mini would have required a LOT more battery life to power it, and likely a difficult choice of resolutions so that it will work with existing iPhone and iPad apps. It also most likely would have added to the cost of the product.

    It’s OK if you don’t buy an iPad mini right away and wait for the second generation. No one will think badly of you, but to go on like Apple has betrayed your confidence and all that is good and holy is just a bit much.

    You do realize that Retina is not a resolution but a marketing term. You brought up your 30″ Cinema Display but if I recall correctly, the 30″ from a few years ago had a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and your 2010 Macbook Pro had a screen resolution of 1920 x 1200, which exceeds HD resolution.

    I don’t get how John sounds like an Android troll because he disagrees with Apple’s approach with this product. He believes that Apple put out a subpar product to compete with in the 7-8″ market. Now, if you are one of those who think Apple can do no wrong, you fall into the category that Android users call iSheep. This article has pros and cons in it. Sadly, it seems more and more of this community refuses to see any shortcomings of Apple. Again, Retina is just a marketing term but I would have been more that satisfied with at screen that can atleast do 720 natively. And I think the only reason Leander made his article was to soften the blow of this one.

    And what do you call what Apple has done? They put out a subpar product knowing that people will buy and defend their reasoning for it. Like I stated earlier, Apple cared nothing about this market until the success of 2 Android devices and then rush this device out there. It is what it is though. I will just be on the sideline awaiting the iPad Mini 2 announcement in 5 months.

  • tewha

    JPEGs to compare text rendering? Really?

  • technochick

    I got a Mini for testing in the day job on Friday and it did a fine job for us. No real issues with speed, screen wasn’t deemed that horrid. In fact the grips etc are demanding Minis cause they fit in the back pocket of tool bags, cargo pant pockets etc where the big one didn’t. We already have an order for 50 + cell placed

  • technochick

    You do realize that Retina is not a resolution but a marketing term.

    There is math behind it but yes it is more marketing than anything else. And it isn’t based on one specific resolution or ppi.

    Even without looking at the math, the Mini is like 80% smaller than the iPad 2 screen. So you are shoving the same number of pixels in a smaller space. From 132 to 163, which means outside of zooming etc, it looks better than the iPad 2. But folks forget this and seem to think that it is literally an iPad 2 screen with an inch each side scissored off.

  • jahsoul

    You do realize that Retina is not a resolution but a marketing term.

    There is math behind it but yes it is more marketing than anything else. And it isn’t based on one specific resolution or ppi.

    Even without looking at the math, the Mini is like 80% smaller than the iPad 2 screen. So you are shoving the same number of pixels in a smaller space. From 132 to 163, which means outside of zooming etc, it looks better than the iPad 2. But folks forget this and seem to think that it is literally an iPad 2 screen with an inch each side scissored off.

    I understand that completely. The screen is going to be better on the Mini than the iPad 2 because smaller screen with the same resolution increases PPI. I use a tablet as a consumption device so the screen is important to me. I understand that some people do everything with their iPad. I’m not one of them, so majority of the things that has to be done, I do it on my Mac Pro (still grumbling about that…screw a thinner iMac..lol). I’m pretty much a black sheep Apple user. I’m not entrenched in the ecosystem because I believe in pure ownership but this is a different topic so I digress.

    I get what you are saying and I would choose this over an iPad 2 anyday. I just don’t think that this model will last that long at all and I would rather buy something a little more “future proofed.”

  • jecmiami

    I received my iPad Mini on November 2 and plan to return it. I have an iPad 3 and the retina screen left me spoiled. I can see the pixels(!) on the mini and everything has a certain “jaggedness”that annoys the crap out of me. Reading is also a chore to the eyes as this review indicates. The size, weight,portability, form factor, fit & finish is absolutely perfect – the screen is not period – if Apple adds a retina screen it will destroy ALL other tablets out there.

  • cokiespar

    The above review is for techies.

    I’ve just bought three ipad minis for my two boys and the wife and they love it to bits. I have an iPad 2 and it does the job perfectly. If you’re obsessed with specs then you want the next new best thing which will always be old hat in a few months or so. I might get a newer iPad only when I think its right for me not when it has RETINA display as it seems the techies are preaching.

    My boys went away happy playing their games, messing about with SIRI, photo booth etc, as I think millions of people who will be lucky to own one will feel. The wife is happy to have her own IPAD, and guess what, its still in the box!!!!

    The only people who should wait are those obsessed with specs, and really they shouldn’t buy one and only read about it as they will never really enjoy it as they ail be wondering what specs they are missing out on.

    Go to the apple store and have a play then you’ll know if you should get one or wait for the next generation.

  • broxman

    I have an iPhone 5, iPad 3, iPad 1, and now an iPad mini. I love the mini. Outstanding size, weight, build quality. The retina display thing is way overblown (although Apple started it by emphasizing retina on their other devices!). I can tell the difference between the iPad 3 screen and the mini but it’s really only when you compare them directly. In normal use the mini’s display is great.

    When I go from the iPad 3 to the iPad 1, the display difference is really noticeable to me. The mini is just enough better than the iPad 1 to make the lack of retina a non-issue for me. If Apple can do a retina mini with the same weight, thickness next year, I’ll love it, but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice any of the mini’s weight to get it.

    Most iPad apps now have the ability to change the text size so you can easily get to a size that is very comfortable to read.

    I do easily notice the lack of resolution on my 20 inch, 1680 X 1050 PC monitor (that’s only about 100 ppi). So, it’s not like I don’t notice resolution limits. I don’t notice a problem on the mini, though.

  • RadTech5000

    Like I said I’m going to venture a guess and say that will see a Retina A6 processor version of the iPad mini very soon so hold out until then if you can. Looking at 4-5 months from now so hang in there.

  • bigsur21

    The display is horrible, how could they think this was OK? was just at the Apple store today, and it just seems like they’re missing a lot of no brainer details now w/ all the issues on the iPhone 5 as well: scratching, maps, etc.

  • lambaline

    I love the iPad mini, it’s the perfect wight, size, and build. After a week you start to not notice the non retina screen, only when comparing it to an iPod touch 4g.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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