Sunday, April 7, 2013

iPad Mini: It's an iPad

My iPad Mini with the important apps
I'm going to start off with the bad.

Lately when I'm taking pictures for a blog post, I've gotten used to having to resize them to make them that magical "less than 800 pixels wide" size that seems to play nice with Blogger. I don't even really think about it. It's just part of the process. Take the screenshot or the photo, import it into Pixlr (if I need to do something simple) or open up Photoshop CS2 on Ubuntu on the Chromebook if I need to do something more interesting. So I open up the screenshot to resize the image, completely forgetting that the picture will only be 1024x768 because of how incredibly bad the dots per inch are on the 8" iPad Mini.

The screen resolution isn't merely bad. It's ANNOYING. And it's all Apple's fault that it bothers me in the first place. They ruined me to "normal" screens with the iPad 3. That's why I ended up getting an even higher resolution Nexus 10, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and the Chromebook Pixel for even more dots. They calm me. The dots are my friends that make my eyes happy for hours on end. They make movies pretty. 

That being said, it's not so bad when things are moving. Like a movie I'm streaming from Google Drive, or an Air Boat while playing Shine Runner. Or while I'm hacking and slashing my way through Horn or Infinity Blade 1 and 2. The suspension of disbelief kicks back in and you forget you are using something with a pixel density only slightly higher than a Lite Bright. 

This thing is sharp. As in, it's uncomfortable to use for an extended period of time. It simply bites into your hands. Granted, this was to be expected because the hard cold bricks that are iPhone do the same thing be they the 4, the 4S, or the 5. You have to go the whole way back to the 3GS before you find a comfortable to hold iPhone. The bigger iPads are also sharp and uncomfortable to hold. With the iPad Mini, you can actually see the seam where they press-fit the screen into the aluminum, and in order to make sure the iPad Mini would be just as uncomfortable as its big brother (wouldn't want you getting spoiled), they added a completely unnecessary sharp bevel. While stylish looking, something rounded would have been better and more comfortable while not being nearly as nice looking. It is nice looking. 
You might be able to shave with it
The sides with the lack of a border SUCK when you are trying to read something. Normally you want to hold a tablet with your left hand in portrait mode when reading with your thumb wrapped over on the left side in the "margin". You then use your right hand pointer finger to scroll or flip pages. You can't DO that with the Mini. Your thumb will bump the screen and it will mess things up. This is VERY annoying. Not that you'll be using the Mini to read much anyway because the screen is fuzzy and it can actually hurt after a while. You end up holding the tablet sideways. This is not the ideal way to view a web page, or read a book.

image stolen from digitaltrends review. I'm lazy
 (almost done with the bad stuff, I promise)

Games can occasionally slow down bad and lag and flicker and generally look like shit. They did decide to put an old processor in the iPad Mini. It's essentially just a shrunken down iPad 2. I pioneered a term for this over ten years ago I call "wang chung". This is the source:

The iPad Mini can get very Wang Chung with games like Horn and Infinity Blade. It's only occasional because even the iPad 2 had pretty impressive graphics tech, but when the processor starts getting bogged down, you are suddenly on the edge of oblivion. A ship approach. Sailing on (watch the video).

Now, NONE of that would even matter or be a deal killer if the Google Nexus 7 did not exist, and did not retail for 130 dollars less. And this is because the Nexus 7 has NONE of these problems. Not a single one. It's got a lot more pixels, it's a lot more comfortable to hold, games don't lag like crazy because of the four ridiculous cores in the CPU, reading on it is a joy, it doesn't cut you, and you can hold it however you want.


Come on. It's an iPad. A real one. It's slick and nice and pretty. All the crap you could ever want is in the App Store for it. All of it will work. So yes, while the Nexus 7 is a much better deal, and a much better tablet (I'm sorry, that's the truth) this is NOT a bad tablet. There are a handful of ways it's much better than the Nexus 7, and those could make all the difference in the world.

It's sexy.

You could get a full on erection just looking at it. It really is a nice design. They could have just made the bigger one smaller. They didn't. They concentrated on making it thin as hell, light as hell (lighter than even the Nexus 7), and it feels VERY solid. No, you won't be using it to pry open paint cans, or as a substitute ping-pong paddle, but you won't be too worried it will shatter if you drop it like you would with the full size iPad. 

It's Bright

While the screen is kinda fuzzy, it is bright. VERY bright. You can crank it up and use it in broad daylight. You can't even do this with the full sized iPad. And if you do this, you won't care as much as you would on an Android tablet because....

It Sips Battery 

And I mean, I accidentally had it on full bright my first full day of ownership, and I STILL got 11 hours of battery. If I had made this mistake on a Nexus 7, It would have been dead in 5 hours flat. No question. And it goes deeper than that. I could sit down and watch movies on it for 9 hours before having to look at battery. On a Nexus 7, it would be dead after 4 or 5. Same thing with games. It's almost as if you take nearly zero battery hit when juicing the processor on the iPad Mini. And lastly...

All Your Apps Work

I was actually kinda surprised that even new games like Real Racing 3 worked fine on the iPad Mini. Yes, there's occasional lag, but understand that's a game they've been showcasing as a reason to buy the iPad 4. So you'd expect it to either look like crap, or not work at all on the Mini. Works perfectly fine, with an occasional wang chung moment. More than playable. But that's the real selling point here. You can ALWAYS find what you want in the Apple App Store. 99.5 percent of the time. And it will all work. Yes, that's *almost* the case with a Google tablet. Sure, they are perhaps 92 percent of the way there. And yes, some developers have even defected to Android at this point. But nobody is going to ignore the largest tablet market in the world. You are guaranteed a good user experience. 

So that's why I replaced my 399 dollar Nexus 10 and my 499 dollar Asus Infinity with a 330 dollar iPad Mini. That, and I've stopped trying to make a tablet a laptop. I've got a GREAT laptop now. Now I just want my tablet to be a great toy. 

And yanno what? The iPad Mini is an outstanding toy. And I highly recommend getting one.