Sunday, December 2, 2012

Should I just get the iPad Mini and put an end to this tablet misery?

Softbank Japan announced today that they were starting selling the iPad Mini and iPad Retina from 30th of November. Like usual, I paid them a visit. I had tried the iPad 3rd generation previously and felt it to be really heavy if you hold it for too long. Hence I wanted to see how the Mini felt in the hands. On paper, it doesn't even weigh half as much as the regular model, so the weight loss will be very much noticeable and welcome. (Note: The iPad Mini weighs less than even the Nexus 7)
And it is...very, very light indeed. I think this is the ideal size to a portable tablet. The small size comes with another advantage. You don't have to strain your fingers while reaching for the keys when typing. Still, it is not as easy as on a phone, but I guess it is because I'm not used to the form factor yet so I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. However, you cannot hold it and type with just one hand. But that should be obvious. It is hard work even on a big screen (4.5-inch plus) Android phone, so it should be impossible on the iPad Mini with much larger screen.
I used the iPad Mini without comparing it with the big iPad and I didn't notice any performance deficiencies. It felt pretty smooth and snappy as every iDevice in their fresh state. But knowing how my iPhone 3GS and 4S got slower overtime with aggregation of apps and user data, I am not so comfortable with the specs of the iPad Mini. It has the same CPU as my iPhone 4S (albeit slightly faster) and same 512MB RAM. That's a big no no. iPad Mini already feels outdated in my book. I am a speed-whore and I just cannot stand the feeling of how slow this is going to get over time.
The biggest concern people have is the non-retina display. To tell you the truth, if you don't compare it side by side with a retina display, you won't miss it. (You will definitely feel that text could be sharper, but it is not much big of a deal.) I read some sample books and I didn't feel any strain. I cannot tell whether the same can be said for an extended session of reading. Don't forget that although the screen resolution is same as that of the iPad 2, the smaller size gives it better DPI and this DPI seems good enough to read text comfortably. Most people are thinking that the next generation model will come with a retina display, but I don't know if that will happen in the next iteration.
I should say few things about holding the iPad Mini by two hands. The slimmer bezel is not a problem. I can hold it comfortable without covering a portion of the screen. All thanks to the lightness, you don't need a big grip to hold it in place unlike the iPad Retina. If you hold it in one hand, of course a portion of the screen will get covered. I also checked the thumb detection feature. It works pretty well too. I don't know if it will interfere with any specific app though.
There is one problem though. The price of the iPad Mini is JPY 28,800 and the price of the iPad Retina is JPY 42,800. For just JPY 14,000 more, and you would get a 2x faster CPU, 2x more RAM and a 2x higher resolution screen. Seems like the iPad Retina gives more bang for the buck. But truth be told: if you cannot hold it in your hands, those high specs mean nothing. The geek in me doesn't want to give up on high-end specs for the ergonomics. One more thing: the iPad Retina would look odd and inconvenient inside the train, but iPad Mini would fit the job nicely. (But then again, I don't have tethering in my phone, so I won't be able to use it anyways. Should I get the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini both at the same time? Softbank only supports tethering on the iPhone 5 unfortunately.)
iPad Mini or iPad Retina? Or something else?
What happened to the Surface Pro dream? Looks like the Surface Pro will have many many problems. It is gonna be very heavy (about 3 times the weight of an iPad Mini) and it will have less than half the battery life of iPad Mini. And it will be at least 3 times more expensive than the iPad Mini.
There are rumors about a Surface 2 under development. Maybe I should get the iPad Mini now and get the Surface (Pro) 2 later?

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