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Should You Buy an iPad Mini?

Is Apple's New 7-Inch Tablet Worth It?

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iPad Mini

Photo © Apple, Inc.

The iPad Mini debuted on October 23rd, and other than the smaller size, it contains most of the same features as the full-sized iPad. But is it worth it? Or will it turn out to be an awkward device that is too expensive for those interested in a $200 tablet and too small for those willing to pay more?

The iPad Mini is an iPad... only smaller.

The number one reason why an iPad Mini can be a smart purchase is very simple: it is a less-expensive iPad. The iPad Mini's bigger brother has a Retina Display and a faster processor, but that doesn't diminish the Mini's ability to conjure up a full-featured iPad experience.

The iPad Mini will run all of the same apps as the full-sized iPad, including streaming movies from Netflix and Crackle, helping out at school and work with Pages and Numbers, and playing games like Infinity Blade 2 and Temple Run.

It will also have access to iOS 6, including the best features of iCloud, Facebook and Twitter integration. It will even support Siri.

While the iPad Mini has a higher price tag than 7-inch tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7, the iPad Mini's 7.9-inch display packs quite a punch in that extra .9 inch. The extra length (measured diagonally) adds 35% more usable space to the tablet and still offers the same mobility.

Where the iPad Mini shines...

The iPad Mini offers a great degree of mobility, fitting into a woman's purse or sliding into the side pocket of a backpack. It is also much easier to hold and operate with one hand, giving you a hand free and much more freedom to walk-and-use.

The 7-inch tablets tend to be really good at media consumption, and the iPad Mini is no different. It makes the perfect eReader, with access to several different eBook stores including iBooks and Amazon's Kindle store. It is also great for watching movies and videos. And because it supports home sharing, you'll be able to stream your iTunes movie library from your PC to your device, saving that precious storage for all of the cool apps.

It is also a great way to gain access to all of the fantastic games available for the iPad. The size of the iPad Mini is just big enough that gaming won't feel cramped, like it sometimes can feel on an iPhone or iPod Touch. And while the graphics may not be as good as the iPad 3, the 1024x768 resolution on a 7.9-inch display actually turns out to have a higher dots-per-inch ratio than the original iPad or iPad 2.

And for families that have found one iPad is just not enough to share among the parents and the kids, the iPad Mini can be a great addition without breaking the bank. Not only does this mean you can stream a show from Hulu Plus or catch up on a good book while your kid plays Draw Something, it can also open up a whole new world of fun with various multiplayer games.

Where the iPad Mini falls short...

Unfortunately, the smaller size does have its drawbacks, chief among them being one of the most popular activities on an iPad: web browsing. The full-sized iPad makes a great couch surfer, the screen a perfect proportion for viewing web pages and the size large enough that most of the time you can read the text without zooming into the page. The iPad Mini is good, but not great at browsing. The larger display space makes it a superior experience compared to other 7-inch tablets, but many people may still be forced to zoom into pages when trying to digest packed content or read small text.

The tablet may also fall a little short on the productivity side. Size might not matter as much when sending a red bird flying over a hill toward some blocks, but when trying to line up a graph inside of a large document, a few extra inches amounts to more elbow room. If you plan to use your iPad as a surrogate laptop, the extra money spent towards the full-sized iPad might be well worth it in the long run.

Last, the iPad Mini will have a slightly shorter lifespan. The original iPad is only two-and-a-half years old and is already showing its age, with the latest version of the operating system (iOS 6.0) not being compatible with it. The iPad Mini doesn't have as fast of a processor as the full-sized iPad, which means it will start slowing down a little sooner. In the long run, this might not mean as much because it won't cost as much money to replace, but it is worth noting.

Already Own an iPad? Find out if you should upgrade to the iPad Mini.

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