Tuesday, 19 November 2013 09:18

Mini hands make light work - review


The new iPad mini with Retina display looks like becoming a very much in demand device. Apple has been very smart making the 7.9” mini and the 9.7” Air with the same specifications - apart from screen size. The only choice is what size fits your needs.

That it can do almost anything is its unique selling point. The main advantage of an Apple iPad over a Samsung Galaxy, or Windows 8.1 tablet, is the huge, repository of apps designed to work flawlessly with its 64-bit A7 processor and M7 motion coprocessor – but Apple does not sell on specifications so I will not either.

As this is a ‘first looks’ rather than a full review I will concentrate on the out of the box experience – or OOBE!

It is a retail product – beautifully packaged the finish oozes class and an almost ‘Tiffany’ appeal - first impressions count. It warns you in advance “If you have to ask the price you can’t afford me,” – the mini represents a considerable investment.

Wi‑Fi:                                 16/32/64/128GB AU$479/598/699/799
Wi‑Fi + Cellular:                 16/32/64/128GB AU$629/749/849/949

I am not sure which configuration or model – mini or Air which is about $100 more - will be the sweet spot but my advice is ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ buy the most memory you can afford. Cellular – 4G/3G data - is nice but not a must have as most will tether this to their smartphone or Wi-Fi dongle.

The set up experience is very simple – enter your Wi-Fi password, register with Apple, accept the four thousand page, small print, end user agreement – just kidding – and in no time it is up and running. No rocket science required.

No rocket science is important – even though it can do so many thing with so many apps, Apple has enforced design standards that make apps have a consistent look and feel and are brilliantly simple. You could give this to your grandparents and they would be able to use it easily for basic tasks.

Apps is where it starts – After a couple of hours of play I had not even made a dent in the half million or so iPad apps. Skype, Accuweather, Calculator, Adobe Reader, QR barcode reader, TV Guide, Foxtel guide, broadband speed test, IP network sniffer, Citrix Receiver, Alarm clock, and a Telstra app are enough to explore for now.

Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand are all now free with new iPads. Good move to help counter the lack of Microsoft Office.

Finally to accessories. I need a keyboard – touch is OK for short works so I have selected a Logitech Ultrathin, Bluetooth, Keyboard Folio case. It adds 285g to the minis 331g and takes it to a total of 19.3mm thick from 7.5mm but will give me added mobility use. I covered the accessory crazy here – interesting to see the range of items that can empty your wallet.


I will do follow up articles on the mini over the coming weeks but let me leave you with my initial impressions.

  1. The mini is a compelling ‘travel’ sized device. I was initially hesitant that a 7.9” screen was too small but a few hours of use have not ruled it out in comparison to the 9.7” Air
  2. The mini/Air is not a Windows tablet – it may do many of the things Windows does – but as a light weight computing device it is not intended to be used with an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, printers (AirPrint helps), attaching all manner of USB devices, and of course it does not run x86 programs. If you are an inveterate Windows user, there will be a learning curve
  3. The mini/Air is not a Mac – do not expect the same familiarity or function although the iOS 7 versions of iWorks look and feel similar
  4. The mini/Air is a ‘safe’ device to buy – most likely, there will be an app that does what you want
  5. No one will object if they find it under the Christmas tree – no one will cry, “Gee I really wanted a Galaxy Note or Surface!”

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!





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