iPad Mini First Impressions

Just got a prolonged look at the iPad Mini. The first thing you notice is _wow, this thing is light._ Then you notice that it really is an iPad.

Let’s talk about the screen right up front. It is not a retina display, and you can literally see that as soon as you look at it. At very small font sizes, the text is noticeably fuzzy. However, you’re also not going to realistically hold this device a few inches from your eyes the way you might hold a smartphone. At about a foot or more, holding the device roughly mid-torso for reading, the text is perfectly readable at a “readable” size. Basically, you can make the text fuzzy by shrinking it to a size so tiny it would be unreadable at that distance anyway. At a comfortable size for a comfortable distance, the text is quite nice. Not as nice as the retina iPad, but better than the iPad 2.

But the real star on this device is the weight. The iPad Mini is so light that you can easily hold it in one hand. Subjectively, it feels scarcely heavier at all than my iPhone 4. This changes everything about how you use the device. A device this light with the full, dual-pane iPad interface is a delight to use. After holding the device, I really think iPad Air would have been a better name.

The catch, for me, is the reduced size of the bezel on the side. I thought this would be an issue because it would be impossible to hold the device in portrait without touching the screen. Apple has developed technology to detect this, and it seems to actually work in my limited testing. But I also found that it’s largely unnecessary. The iPad Mini is so light that I found it easy to hold it cradled in my hand resting on my fingertips and against the heel of my hand, leaving my thumb free to scroll pages when necessary, but not touching the screen otherwise.

The problem with the bezel for me has to do with my Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and Origami stand. In portrait “docked” into the Origami, text in Pages is a bit too small to read comfortably at arm’s length. But when rotated to landscape, the bottom of the screen is swallowed up by the keyboard case because the bezel, now on the bottom, is so thin. Admittedly, this is an “edge” case (I’m sorry), but it’s enough to tell me that I’m better off with the full size iPad and my iPhone.

I see a few different “sets” for Apple device users now.

For folks that have a MacBook that they carry around, an iPhone, iPad Mini and MacBook are a great set. A wonderful device at every size, especially if the MacBook is an Air.

The other set I think will be popular is having a full size iPad, Bluetooth keyboard and an iPhone, but no Mini or MacBook. This allows for using the iPad as a makeshift laptop as well as a lean-back tablet and the phone for ultraportability. Surprisingly few compromises compared to the phone-tablet-laptop set, and much lighter.

But either way, Apple now has a mobile device for all use cases and all people. If you need a big tablet, Apple has you covered. If you need a small, one-handed tablet, Apple has you covered. And going into the holiday season, Apple has the stock analysts’ expectations covered.