The first slew of brief "hands on" experiences with the iPad mini - by reporters and bloggers at Apple's unveiling Tuesday - give high marks to the smaller tablet for build quality, lightness, display and performance.
The latter two are especially important because iPad mini doesn't offer the high-end high resolution Retina Display in the full-size iPad released earlier this year, and uses an "older" Apple processor.
Apple's design to go with a 7.9-inch diagonal screen is very deliberate: it's nearly two inches shorter than the regular iPad, but also nearly one inch longer than popular 7-inch rivals such as the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire. That means, says Apple, the iPad mini has a screen area 35% greater than the 7-inch tablets. The impact is very obvious, according to launch event attendees who got to play with iPad minis afterwards.
"[C]ompared to something like the Nexus 7, it does feel more hefty in your hands, though the thinness of the device seems to make up for a bigger surface area," writes Joshua Topolsky for The Verge. "To be clear, it's an incredibly thin and light design, with a lean profile despite being larger than some of the devices it challenges."
The legendary Apple "build quality" - evident here in the aluminum unibody and diamond-cut chamfered edge that first appeared in the iPhone 5 and the fit of glass to body - also makes a strong impression. "By comparison, the Nexus 7 and Fire HD feel like toys," Topolsky says.
"The thinness and sleekness of the casing cannot be overstated," he says. "It feels as high-end as the new iPhone, but even sharper in the hand like a slice of solid aluminum."
Though the iPad mini LED-backlit screen has 1,024 x 768 resolution (the same as iPad 2), compared to the Retina Display's 2,048 x 1,536 in the newest full-size iPad, it looks "incredibly sharp," Topolsky says. The screen "looks fantastic," agrees Luke Peters, writing for the British tech website T3. "Colours are vivid, text is pin sharp, web pages render quickly and, because there's almost a 4:3 ratio going on, you get a lot of content on page."
Another benefit of using the iPad 2 resolution, says Peters: existing "apps all work without any letter-boxing."
One of the more obvious exterior changes compared to the full-size tablet is the narrower margins or bezels to the left and right of the mini. "At first glance, the narrow side bezels look somewhat odd, but they make far more sense when you actually pick the iPad mini up," writes Vincent Nguyen for Slashgear.
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