iPad Mini Impressions: Quality Apps and Hardware Set Apple Apart

PHOTO: Apples iPad Mini starts at $329.
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A couple of months ago my sister asked me for an iPad for her birthday. Now, I love my sister, but $499 for the new iPad and even $399 for the iPad 2 seemed a bit steep for a birthday gift.

So I told her we'd wait and see if the iPad Mini came out, mostly because it was cheaper but also because I thought she might prefer a smaller tablet. (Also, I thought there was a chance it might not ever come out and I'd be off the hook!)

Today Apple announced the iPad Mini and it is indeed smaller and cheaper. But is it better than the other smaller and cheaper tablets on the market, like the $199 Kindle Fire HD or Google's Nexus 7?

From a hardware quality standpoint, the iPad Mini is the nicest of the smaller tablets out there. It is incredibly thin (as thin as a pencil Apple says) and beyond light. The aluminum back also makes it feel stronger than the mostly plastic or rubber Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. But the flipside is, the iPad Mini feels more delicate than those two.

The iPad Mini is also wider. Apple decided to go with a bigger screen than the 7-inch tablets out there and extend its display to 7.9 inches. It is still completely grippable with one hand, but you won't be able to wrap your fingers around it as easily as you can a Kindle or Nexus 7. The screen itself is what you'd expect: high quality with great viewing angles, though not as crisp as the Retina Display on the new iPad.

Using it is just like using a regular iPad. Same software experience, same app experience. Which is where the iPad Mini has the biggest edge over the other Android tablet on the market. Read through my reviews of the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7 and you will hear the same complaint: apps. I wanted higher quality tablet apps, ones like Flipboard or Twitter for the iPad, which take advantage of the bigger screen.

Do I wish the iPad Mini was $130 cheaper and the same price as the $199 Android tablets? Of course. But while many might prefer the narrower form factor and the cheaper price of those, many will also pay the premium for Apple's higher end hardware and apps. And Apple knows that. And with that, it looks like I will be buying my sister an iPad Mini come Friday morning.

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