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iPad Mini: Worth it or Stupid ?

I keep up to date on new mobile devices, party because I love gadgets, and partly because my job is all about mobile productivity.  The rumors about the iPad mini have been around for a while, and are usually quickly followed by Steve Job's famous discourse about how there will never be a 7" ipad.  Is it worth it?

Well Steve was technically right, as there isn't a 7" ipad, there is a 7.9" ipad.  I think the reason Apple made it slightly bigger was to avoid the criticism around Steve Job's comments and to try to one-up the other manufacturers.

When you look at the iPad mini, it has a lot going for it: A gigantic app store, a nice form factor, a pretty nice looking screen, its plenty fast enough, and it has that premium apple logo on it.

I waited and got the iPad mini with 4G/LTE in it.  Its primary purpose will be to give me a wireless hotspot for laptop, checking email, etc. when I'm on the run, which is a lot.

Its probably important to point out that I sold my iPad 3rd generation (the 'new ipad' -- has there ever been a more lame product name?).  I sold it before the announcement of the ipad 4 like a good consumer and got top dollar for it.  Now I have the iPad mini, as opposed to the iPad 4 with the high resolution screen.

So the critical discussion points about this tablet are: app choices, screen quality and resolution and  gaming performance.  There are other little things which are largely irrelevant, as most modern tablets do things their own way and are satisfactory (e.g. email, web surfing, video playback).  In these latter areas the Mini performs no better or worst than the Google Nexus 7, which is the primary tablet I'm comparing the Mini to.

App choices:  Apple clearly wins here in volume and quality.  Android has Google Market and Amazon App Store.  Both are still very far from user friendly.  Yes, iTunes for Windows or Mac OSX stinks, but you don't *have* to use it if you don't want to.  Just download your stuff directly to the tablet if you want.

Screen quality:  Google Nexus 7 wins.  iPad mini has 1024x768 screen.  Meh.  No cartwheels from me on this, but the screen itself looks and performs great.  iOS 6 is slick and smooth, and I find I don't even notice the lower resolution because the color is really good.  Google's Nexus' screen is higher resolution, it has a killer tegra 3 GPU which really performs great.  Can't beat this $199 gem for visual quality.

Gaming performance:  On raw performance, Google Nexus 7 wins.  If you ask me, I'd still give the win to Apple, mainly because of the larger volume of highly optimized games designed for iPad.  Overall, I think iOS developers are much more meticulous about performance than Android game developers. 

So is the iPad Mini good?  YES.  Worth $329? I think YES.  Better than paying the extra $150 to get the full size?  MAYBE.  It starts at $329 versus $199 for the Nexus 7, so its edging toward 2x the price.  Apple hardware = Apple price.  The Mini is a slick little device, lightweight, and won't embarrass you when you go to a developer conference and everybody else has an Apple device.  Android tablets are getting really a lot better, but the fragmented development community and hardware support make it much less friendly to most consumers.  Mobile professionals can make either work, but if you like to sit back and enjoy a nice game, then you will probably be leaning toward the iPad anyway.


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