The iPad Mini also has a smaller bezel, or frame around its screen. I worried that when I held the tablet up with one hand that my thumb would accidently hit the screen and make a selection. That didn't happen, but a few times I did have one thumb resting on the right side of the screen and when I went to go swipe it up on the left it mistakenly zoomed in rather than scrolled up the page.
A5 and Apps
The rest of the experience is really very much the same as the iPad. Powered by a dual-core A5 processor, iOS 6 runs smoothly, with the usual swift scrolling and overall responsiveness. The A6x chip in the new iPad is faster, but if you aren't comparing games on the two side by side you wouldn't notice a difference.
Because of the 7.9-inch screen size and the resolution, the software and app experience is also unchanged on the tablet. And that's where the Mini really stands out in comparison to other smaller tablets, like the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, or the Nook HD. In my review of the Nexus 7, particularly, I stressed how much I liked the software and hardware experience, but how the app experience and quality held it back. The apps, in many cases, are just phone apps and don't provide the immersive experience like the ones built especially for the iPad.
Some might not notice the difference or even care, but once you have become accustomed to apps that were made for the bigger screen – apps like Flipboard or RockMelt or ShowYou – it's hard to not see the difference in quality and experience.
Also impressive is the battery life of the tablet. With on and off use, it wasn't until the third day of use that I hit the warning that the battery was down to 10 percent. And just like the new iPad, it lasted 11 hours and 13 minutes when looping an HD video.
The 1.5-megapixel front-facing camera was fine for making FaceTime calls. As for the rear 5-megapixel camera, holding up the tablet to snap a photo is much less awkward than the larger iPad. The photo quality isn't as good as the iPhone 4S or 5, but it was decent for snapping some funny shots on the subway. Sadly, the camera software doesn't support Panorama mode on the tablet, though.
The Bottom Line
The iPad Mini costs $130 more than the 7-inch Android tablet competition. To me, the biggest thing you get for the $130 is better applications. Yes, the battery life and the build of the Mini are better, but the real difference is with the apps. Whether you are willing to jump into an entirely different price bracket for a smaller tablet is, ultimately though, up to you and what you can spend.
But back to my original question: is the Mini the best iPad? The iPad Mini costs $170 less than the fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display. With that you lose the stunning Retina display and a faster processor. What you get is a tablet that fits in one hand and is easier to carry.
For $329, they're not sacrifices I want to make, and if I know Apple they are ones that will most certainly be addressed in the second generation. But for now, they are ones I will make since the iPad Mini is, well, really just a smaller version of the iPad. And it's that size that matters the most to me.