I have the opportunity to play with a lot of different tablets. I own a small collection too —iPads and Android (no Windows versions here, although I have had a handful in the house for testing). I’m a fan of these things. The one that I use almost exclusively these days is my Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display. As far as I’m concerned, Apple has pretty much perfected the tablet with this device.
I liked the original iPad Mini, but the relatively low resolution display was a turnoff, so I passed on it. Over Christmas, we ended up with an iPad Air (for my wife) and the Retina Display Mini (for me). I’ve spent a lot of time using both, but after a few months of comparing the two, I definitely prefer the Mini. Why?
- It’s a comfortable size and weight for holding in one hand (also much easier for kids to hold than a full-sized tablet)
- In portrait mode, it’s ideal for reading and text is so crisp that even on content-dense websites it’s easily readable
- It’s just as fast the iPad Air and holds up against any of the new Android or Windows tablets I’ve used
- It’s a great size for gaming and when held landscape with two hands, both thumbs can still easily reach onscreen controls
- It gets great battery life
What I don’t use the iPad Mini with Retina Display (or any iPad) for is anything resembling work. The Windows tablets I’ve spent time with are great for writing and research — both the RT and Pro versions — primarily because they support mouse input. This may sound like a minor quibble, but I don’t care how good a Bluetooth keyboard might be, until Apple enables mouse support in iOS7 I won’t be using any iPad for work. There’s nothing worse than having to reach over constantly to poke at the screen…
I’m still not entirely won over by Android tablets. I’m not a fan of the 16:9 aspect ratio most Android manufacturers have chosen to go with. It makes the 7-inch tablets seem just a little small (the iPad Mini’s display has 35% more screen real estate) and the 10.1-inchers are great for watching movies, but just too big for schlepping around. Apple’s App Store still has a considerable lead over Google Play in apps that are optimized for tablet use, and not simply blown up smartphone software. It’s also tougher to find accessories for Android tablets — not that you can’t, but there just aren’t as many products to choose from compared to the iPad aisle.
I don’t claim to have tried out every tablet out there — or even a fraction of them — but during the past few months I’ve had models from Samsung, Kobo, Sony, Google and Microsoft to play with, along with a Nook and the full-sized iPad Air, so it’s been a pretty decent sampling. And I think the iPad Mini with Retina Display is just about perfect, at least for casual use. Apple has pulled off the balancing act of designing a tablet that’s small enough to feel tiny when you’re carrying it, yet it doesn’t feel like a too-small compromise when you use it.
Your mileage may vary but if I were going to recommend any tablet today, it would be this one. After two months of daily use, I have zero complaints and don’t miss a bigger device in the least. I’d love it if Apple got around to incorporating mouse input in iOS and a price drop ($399 — $419 here in Canada — is a little steep) would be welcome, but otherwise I think Apple’s pretty much nailed the casual use tablet with this one.
I’ll be watching the Apple Refurb Store (the best place to buy mint condition Apple gear with a full Apple warranty at a discount) for the new Minis when it’s time to replace my kids’ original iPads.