*I’m wrong a lot.
Uncharacteristically, I didn’t order an iPad mini when it came out. Truthfully, as I’ve said many times, I really didn’t want a device without a retina display. For most of the last year I have primarily used my iPad for reading and writing — not much else.
For most of 2013 I’ve been toting my iPad everywhere with me and using it for a ton of things, including handwriting notes, looking up building plans, and so on. This small shift has become immensely annoying because I find the iPad only useful if I carry it in my hand, so that it’s available immediately when I need to use it. But hand-carrying the iPad is very frustrating at times, because:
- The iPad is too heavy to carry around for a few hours in your hand everyday.
- It requires an entire hand and arm to carry, making other tasks difficult. (Fumble for keys, shake hands while holding a coffee, take a piss, etc.)
- It’s very difficult to use an iPad while standing unless you have something to rest the iPad on. Writing in Mail, or writing by hand in Notability is doable without support, but not fun, or realistic for more than a minute or two.
About the twentieth time I precariously balanced my iPad on a ledge while I fumbled for some keys I realized that I should consider an iPad mini. Luckily, Stephen Hackett was selling his (and it was setup how I would buy one), only less expensive than a new one. So I picked up Stephen’s iPad mini and have now been using it long enough to draw some conclusions.
The iPad mini, like the first iPad and the first iPhone before it, is one of those devices that feels almost impossible. It’s too snappy, its battery life lasts too long, and does too much to be this small. It seems to defy logic.
In my week-plus with the iPad mini, here’s what I’ve found (in no particular order):
- I like the size a lot, but not for typing — the full-size iPad on-screen keyboard is still a much better keyboard for writing.
- But you can actually use the device without having to rest it. It’s easy for me to palm the iPad and draw with a Cosmonaut, or use my thumbs to tap out a quick email reply.
- I really, really, miss the retina display. I’m not bothered under most tasks, but Notability looks much worse when you are writing, as does any activity where you might want to read for long periods. This is a shame, because the iPad mini truly is ideal for reading.
- The one thing that really drives me nuts though: the passcode unlock on the iPad mini. It’s scaled down, like everything else, to accommodate the smaller footprint, but it really shouldn’t be. There is no reason for that display to be smaller, when the full-size passcode screen from the iPad would fit. I’m not sure the true reasoning behind this, but it’s not a user friendly thing on the mini.
- I’ve yet to get used to the smaller bezel along the sides. Which has led to many accidental page turns in iBooks.
The iPad mini, as many have been saying for months, is truly a fantastic iPad. I can see, that for the majority of people, it is the ideal iPad size. The only things I wanted a larger display for were games and writing. Everything else is better done on the iPad mini. If you toss in a retina display, then I can’t think of a reason to buy a full-size iPad at all.
Using an iPad mini was like switching from a 17″ MacBook Pro to an 11″ MacBook Air — all of a sudden you can use the device in far more places than you ever thought possible and still do almost everything you wanted to do on it. I can fumble for keys and easily find a safe place to tuck the mini — often in my jacket pocket or jeans back pocket — or do countless other things that would have me stumbling over the size of the iPad.
The utility of this size iPad is damned hard to dispute. I think the computer setup I have right now is very close to ideal:
- 15″ retina MacBook Pro at work, only travels between my home and office.
- iPad 3 for traveling.
- iPad mini for roaming about during the day (which I do a lot of).
- iPhone 5 as my go-everywhere device.
The iPad mini isn’t like the iPod mini, it’s more like the 11″ MacBook Air to the 13″ MacBook Air. Both are equally useable, but the size of the smaller version is often all you need, and more often a better fit.
Quick Note About the Smart Cover
Since the iPad mini is smaller, the smart cover can’t quite roll completely into a triangle for use. It still does make a little triangle stand, but it’s not as good of a stand as on the full-sized iPad. A minor point, but one I hadn’t considered before using it.
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