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Review: The iPad Mini, the most dangerous competitor to the iPad...

It’s iPad v. iPad

The iPad Mini is the perfect marriage between form and function. It’s perfect for one hand, in the bed reading. Your purse, no matter what size, will be able to carry this. It might even fit in some larger inside suit coat pockets. It’s biggest competition isn’t the Kindle Fire or Google’s Nexus. It is the iPad.

iPad Ipad Mni Kindle Fire and Kindle Paperwhite

iPad v. Ipad Mini v. Kindle Fire v. Kindle Paperwhite

Even Apple seems to acknowledge this. On its product page, it describes how the iPad Mini is smaller, weighs less, but operates just as well as the iPad. And if you are determining whether to get the iPad Mini, you are going to end up comparing it to the iPad and not to other tablets on the market.

Price point too high to compete with Kindle Fire and Nexus 7

The main reason for this is the price. The price points for the iPad Mini v. the iPad are as follows:

iPad Mini iPad 2* iPad 4
16GB $329 $399 $499
32GB $429 $499 $599
64GB $529 $599 $699

*Nate at the Digital Reader reports that iPad 2 is being sold for $359 at Bestbuy, Walmart and MicroCenter.


The Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 both weigh in at $200 for the 16GB model.  The Nexus 7 has a USB OTG (On-The-Go) port that allows you to use a USB memory stick or a USB card reader for extra memory needs.

iPad Mini essentially smaller iPad

The iPad Mini is essentially a smaller iPad 2. It has the same screen resolution of 1024-by-768-pixel although because of the smaller size, there are more pixels per square inch on the Mini v. the iPad 2. They share the same A5 dual core processor. The iPad Mini has updated cameras. While the iPad Mini has two speakers, it is still not stereo sound. Finally, the iPad Mini has superior wifi and networking.

It’s important to note what the iPad Mini does not have and that is the Retina screen that is on all the new iPhones and the newest (and most expensive) version of the iPad.

When it comes to general hardware, however, the Nexus and Kindle Fire are superior. The Fire and Nexus both have HD displays; dual stereo speakers; faster processor; and supposedly faster wifi access. (You can see a spec comparison here)

Is the iPad Mini right for me?

I have never enjoyed the Android operating system as forked and installed on the Kindle Fire. This may simply be a matter of preference but at a $130 price difference, the iPad Mini doesn’t hold up well to the Fire and Nexus. If you are watching movies, surfing the web, and listening to music, the lack of a camera on your tablet isn’t likely to make you want to jump up to the iPad Mini.

What it comes down to is do you want the smaller form iPad or the larger one? And are you willing to the pay the increased price for the larger one? Or does the smaller form factor appeal to you?

Why it’s right for me.

For me, I have been waiting for the iPad Mini for some time. The iPad is too large for truly mobile use and it is too crippled in terms of function. I can write on it, but I need to bring my keyboard. I have problem doing even simple things for the blog like attaching a photo. It was too large to use to read with in bed so I thought the Kindle Fire would be an alternative and don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice tablet but I never got used to the OS. And I have far more iOS apps, having been an iPhone user since its release.

I began taking my Macbook Air with me instead and the iPad languished.  I moved away from the Kindle Fire and began reading more and more on my iPhone but the smaller screen size bothered me. The Kindle Paperwhite was released and I do think it is the best eink reader on the market but it is only an ereader.  I can’t read emails on it; surf the web; or make tweets. It’s not easy to read PDFs.

The iPad Mini is, for me, the perfect marriage of form and function.  I can carry it easily in one hand. It fits in all of my purses.  I can read, draw, tweet, and do some typing leaving the heavy word processing to my Macbook Air.

One of the really nice things about the Mini is how large the screen size is. The Kindle Fire on the left is 7″ diagonally and the iPad Mini is 7.9″  That inch difference seems huge in person.  As you can see, the side bezels of the iPad Mini are quite small, perhaps half the size of the Kindle Fire.

size comparison between Kindle Fire and iPad Mini

Click for larger image

When reading PDFs, this can be meaningful.

Kindle Fire v. iPad Mini PDF

Kindle Fire v. iPad Mini PDF.  Click for larger image


iPad Mini v Kindle Paperwhite PDF

iPad Mini v Kindle Paperwhite PDF. Click for larger image.

And it’s really noticeable when you are browsing:

iPad Mini v Kindle Fire web

iPad Mini v Kindle Fire web. Click for slightly larger image.


At $130 above the devices in the roughly the same size category, the iPad Mini seems like a luxury without much benefit. The screen size on the iPad Mini v. the Kindle Fire or the Nexus 7 is slight but helpful.  The screen quality of the iPad Mini isn’t as good as the Kindle Fire or the Nexus 7 and you get a slight drop in processing speed and other amenities.

Essentially, the iPad Mini is a replacement for the iPad.  If you want to carry this device around quite a bit and you like to read at night, the iPad Mini is probably a better option than the larger and more expensive iPad 4.  Or you might choose to go with the iPad 2 with the larger screen and only slightly more money.

The good thing is you have lots of options out there.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Brigid Kemmerer
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 04:36:04

    Thank you so much for this review. I have the first generation Kindle Fire, but I never liked it as much for reading as I did my original Kindle, but the browser/email/apps were never nice enough to want to use it as a tablet. (And the fact that you can’t resize email text? Who the heck thought of that?) I get the most mileage using it as a video player for Netflix and Amazon Prime, especially in restaurants with WiFi when I desperately need to occupy my kids.

    The new Kindle Fire looks pretty sweet, and I like the extra screen clarity, better speakers, and essentially-free 4G wireless streaming. Those are all pretty sweet add-ons. With the price of the iPad-mini being so high, there’s almost no reason to go in that direction. At the same time, I really, REALLY miss my original Kindle. The first Kindle Fire is heavy and you can’t read in the sunlight. Since I do a lot of reading while my husband is driving, this is kind of a pain in the you-know-what. I’m still not sure whether to get the new Paperwhite, or the new Fire, or just to stick with what I have for now.

    So many decisions!

    Anyway, thank you so much for the review. You’ve definitely made up my mind that I don’t need an iPad-mini. :-)

  2. Annemarie
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 06:25:40

    I love the Mini. I’ve been wanting an iPad since the first was released but I just couldn’t justify it because of size and price. I tried out the Playbook – right size, wrong OS – and am not a fan of Droid after owning an HTC desire and making the switch to iPhone.

    So far I’ve really enjoyed using the app for reading -news, blogroll via Flipboard, PDFs for schoolwork i would normally print out, and ebooks via the various apps out there. I have been reading more and more on the iPhone but never enjoyed the experience because I do love my ereader.

    And it’s also the right size for tooling around the kitchen, whether it be a recipe app or throwing on a TV show while doing dishes, it fits on the book stand at the end of the counter.

    Definitely worth the price tag for me.

  3. sandy l
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 07:36:33

    The higher price tag with mostly iPad 2 specifications is making me hesitate. I really would like a device to access both the kindle and B&N accounts. However, $100 more for “older” technology?

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 09:29:46

    Thanks for such a thorough review, especially reviewing it as a reading device. I like a device that does more than one thing, so I’m not using my ereaders as much as I used to. I got a Nexus 7 for my birthday, and it superseded the Nook Color as my main reader. From this review, I don’t see a reason to switch.
    I’ve stayed away from Ithings, mainly because of itunes (it doesn’t work well on a PC). But now, I can’t see why I’d pay twice as much for a device that doesn’t have the same or better resolution.

  5. Meoskop
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 09:32:22

    Spot on. I’m currently using an iPad and was considering switching to the Mini. I love the physical design (so much!) but the specs don’t justify swapping out. If anything I’ll jump to the iPad 4 for the new processor and then look at a later gen mini. Between the 2 and the Mini, the Mini wins.

    I’ve flirted with Kindle and I never stay. Just not a Kindle lover. I have a Sony in my purse again.

  6. Carolyne
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 09:41:22

    Since I need to edit and examine images and nitpick layouts for work on the go, I prefer the larger iPad screen. It did have a learning curve in terms of ergonomics, but I find it no less comfortable to read in bed than a hardcover book. (I know some people don’t like hardcover books. I like ’em.) I, er, also read in the tub. And toss the iPad into my bag without a case, toss it onto the couch when I get home, generally treat it pretty roughly. I probably shouldn’t be trusted with technology.

    I’ll admit that the first two weeks of trying to use the iPad were clunky and irritating, even infuriating, then I figured out how to hold and use the new tool. I’ve written several manuscripts on it, no separate keyboard necessary. I hated the thing at first, but now it’s all about the HFN.

    All that said, it’s quite possible I would have preferred the Mini if I didn’t have the factor of needing a big screen for work purposes. And, what can I say, my iPad 1, 3G version, does everything I need, so I feel no urge to upgrade and spend money on more hardware for bells and whistles and yet another camera. Maybe I can justify the expense when the iPad 5 with attached robot butler/masseur comes on the market.

  7. Stacy
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 10:11:26

    Great review.

    “The good thing is you have lots of options out there.”

    That’s the part I like. With several companies competing in the ereader/tablet market, consumers have several different options. The iPad keeps getting better which forces competitors to keep up. Competitors come out with new products which forces Apple to update older products and create new ones.

  8. Sunita
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 10:39:19

    Terrific review. I’ve used the Nook Color (rooted to Android) in the 7″ form factor and the HP TouchPad in the 10″ form factor, as well as the Kindle DX, before I finally gave in and got the new iPad this summer. The retina display is really good for reading text in long stretches, and the extra screen area makes a significant difference for certain types of pdfs (some journal article layouts, forms, etc.). Even with the slightly larger screen on the Mini, it’s not enough to tip the balance away from the 10″ iPad. I print a fraction of the documents that I used to, with no loss of efficiency.

    But if you don’t have those kinds of requirements, I can see how the Mini would be really appealing, especially if you want to stay in the iOS ecosystem.

  9. Crista
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 10:46:01

    Thanks for the thorough review. I’d asked the DH for a tablet to use since my new job has me traveling more, and (being the Microsoftie he is) he got me the new Surface tablet. While it’s pretty to look at and very lightweight, it’s basically a high priced word processor until there are more apps compatible with Windows RT. I’m tempted to take it back to the Microsoft Store and look at the iPad mini now.

  10. Jane
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 11:25:06


    I heard that you should go for the Surface Pro because the RT doesn’t have enough processing power. I will go and look for the review I read about this and link it here.

    Found it

  11. Meg
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 11:42:45

    I love my iPad mini. I swapped my iPad 2 for it, and I can’t believe I’m carrying around a tablet that’s only slightly bigger than my Kindle Paperwhite. The amount of tech I now carry in my bag on a daily basis is now ridiculous: I’ve been carrying around my Macbook Pro, Kindle, and iPad mini all weekend. I was carrying around the iPad 2 before I got the mini, but the weight difference was hugely apparent. And holding in one hand is amazing considering I’ve got little hands.

    I still prefer my Kindle for reading books overall because the e-ink screen is far easier on my eyes. But the iPad mini is fantastic for everything else. I have it up as a second screen at work to monitor Twitter feeds for breaking news. It’s nice to know though that if I do travel, all I have to do is toss my iPad mini and my Kindle in a bag and I’m set tech-wise.

    BTW, those little speakers are apparently true stereo. I can tell the difference when holding it up next to my husband’s Android tablet.

  12. Carrie G
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 12:07:34

    Great review! I think those that love iThings are going to love the iPad Mini, and those who prefer android finally have good options with the Nexus 7 and Surface tablets. I have an iPod Touch for audiobooks and love it, but I do nothing else with it–no apps, no emailing, nada. I have a Gen 3 Kindle Keyboard for reading (my preferred reader, I like e-ink), and a Kindle Fire for fun apps, a little web surfing, and some reading in bed with the lights off.

    If (when) we get another tablet, it will likely be the Nexus 7, or whatever they put out next. We don’t have any other iThings besides iPods (no one makes any real competition for the iPod), so I don’t think we’ll start now. Their pricing keeps me from even being tempted. Plus, I know I’m an oddball, but I used to have a Mac and couldn’t wait to get back to a PC!

  13. Crista
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 12:25:26

    @Jane: Thanks for the link. The DH told me Pro should be out in time for the holidays, so I’ll return the Surface and wait for that. In the meantime, I’m “borrowing” the DH’s Samsung 900X. ;-)

  14. topsy
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 12:44:31

    The user reviews are generally incredibly accurate representations of the quality of the application. Of course, you need to make sure that there are more than just one or two reviews, but if there are, and if the app has four or five stars, you should be good to go.

  15. Margaret
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 14:17:05

    The BlackBerry Playbook is fantastic. I never hear this one being talked about…and the price is unbelievable. I’ve seen them as low as $100 for the 16G and $150 for the 32G.

  16. Sylvie
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 14:45:28

    I just got the Nexus 7, even though I’m already in the iThing universe. The Google maps issue was actually the killer for me. I travel a lot and use the maps on my iPhone, laptop, etc for everything. I have to say that I’m surprised how much I like Android. This is also my first ereader. It’s meh for that, but I figured any tablet would be.

  17. orannia
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 17:50:39

    Lovely review – thank you! I currently read eBooks on my iPhone as that was the only eReader-type option available when I went looking.
    The Kindle (although not the Kindle Fire IIRC) and the Sony eReader have since been introduced here, but I have found the latter’s Touch version not very…RSI/OOS friendly (compared with the iPhone), and any device I purchase needs to be touch-sensitive, and the Kindle I am avoiding as it would require me to break the DRM and convert all my ePub eBooks to mobipocket format.

    The iPad mini sounds like it might be a good option for me, but I’m curious as to what app you use for reading please? I *heart* Stanza (I know why Amazon purchased Lexcycle, but it still rankles), and I haven’t found anything as good. (I particularly like Stanza’s A-Z option on the RHS, which means way less trawling through my ever increasing library trying to find the one book I’m looking for :)

  18. Jane
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 17:54:26

    @orannia: I use the Kindle app, primarily, but the best replacement for Stanza is likely MegaReader. I discussed it briefly here:

  19. orannia
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 19:09:30

    @Jane: Thank you so much!

  20. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 19:39:34

    thanks for the rundown! I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy tab, which I love, but I’ll probably be updating within a few months or so. I’ve sort of wanted an iPad but I hated the size so never bought one.

    I think I’m fine with paying the extra, if it will do what I need it to.

  21. Anne V
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 20:50:32

    I can’t justify the price point for the iPad 2 resolution. If they can get retina display on the iPhone, they can get it on the mini, and they opted out of that. Which says to me that there will be a new mini in <12 months, and it will have retina display, as well as a faster processor, and then I will not care about the price point.

  22. Richard Adin
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 04:34:08

    Nice review, Jane. One thing missing is the new Nook HD tablets. From the reviews I have read, it outperforms the Kindle Fire.

    The only point I would emphasize with all reviews of the iPads, Kindles, Nooks, and Nexuses, is that you determine in advance of purchase what you really want to use the device for. I have a Nook tablet (not the new HD, but the original). I bought it because it was on a special price deal when bundled with a subscription to the New York Times. In the absence of that special price, I would not have bought the device because 95% of the time I only use it to read ebooks and the newspaper. I do not play games, I have a couple of apps that I rarely use, and I do not surf the web with it.

    My point is that all of these devices are great but why spend money for overkill? If you just plan to use the device to read ebooks because your cell phone already does everything else, perhaps it is smarter to buy a device more focused on reading at significantly less money. A $79 Kindle or Nook does the job for reading and is a lot less than an iPad Mini.

  23. Brian
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 07:48:08

    Another reader that gets mentioned as a good Stanza replacement is Shubook.

  24. Geeta Mittal
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 00:25:44

    Business wise its a bad decision. Why would you launch domething that cannabalises your own market share?

    I decided to go with the ipad mini because of the size. And dropped the idea of buying a regular ipad

  25. Bree
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 15:25:47

    Thanks for the review, especially the comparison to the Paperwhite. I’m very tempted by the iPad mini. I went to the Apple Store to fondle it, and came away undecided. I’m worried about downsizing on screen size, even though the weight is a huge selling point. And I almost never buy new Apple gadgets – I buy used off eBay when the newest model is released.

    My decision is further complicated by the fact that every device is giving me a problem, including ones I wasn’t intending to replace. iPad 2 is giving me wrist aches, MacBook Pro is getting full but won’t let me delete files created under previous versions of OS X, Sony T1 keeps corrupting the database when I sync to Calibre, and my T-Mobile signal on my iPhone 3G is non-existent at the new house.

    First world problems, I know, but they are all cutting in to my reading time, darn it! And I don’t have an unlimited gadget slush fund to just replace them all at once.

  26. Bud Parr
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 15:56:47

    Balanced and astute review. To my mind the lack of retina display is a huge letdown (I suppose it’s one of those things that once given a taste, it’s hard to go backward). I would also add that I like the Kindle Paperwhite precisely because it does nothing else. It reminds of of when I carried a book everyone. Just open it up and read. Nothing else.

  27. cheri
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 07:55:13

    My main reason for buying an iPad Mini was for the size. I can easily carry it around in my purse without worrying about it weighing me down. I use it for everything from a planner to watching TV. I am constantly traveling for my job with DISH, and I hate missing all my shows. I use my DISH Remote Access app, which allows me to watch live TV wherever I can get a Wi-Fi connection. I used to take my regular iPad with me, and I always hated having to haul it around in my purse. Even though the resolution isn’t the most up to date, I think the price is well worth it for the iPad Mini.

  28. Kabir
    Nov 08, 2012 @ 21:52:09

    Hello, the iPad Mini does in fact have true Dual Speakers providing discrete left and right channels (true Stereo) output from the tiny speakers on the bottom of the unit. The author’s claim of “still not stereo sound” is NOT true. Thanks.

  29. Robyn
    Nov 22, 2012 @ 10:46:46


    “MacBook Pro is getting full but won’t let me delete files created under previous versions of OS X”

    Never heard of such a thing! Every iteration of the OS and Mac laptops I’ve owned, there are absolutely no problems deleting any previously created files, no matter how many files are on the drive. The only wrinkle is if there is the extremely rare glitch when installing a new OS and bringing over old files–and, for some reason, file permissions get screwed up and block a user.

    To get around that, you can simply do command-i for information for a file and in the box that opens up go to Sharing & Permissions and give yourself full privileges. You can do the same for a folder of items.

    If it turns out that you have a mass of files and folders, doing that on each would get tedious, but there are free programs that can re-privilege the entire set of older files. Check out the discussion forums and post there. Good luck!

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