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With iPad mini, Apple makes a big splash in small-tablet market

Consumer Reports News: October 23, 2012 04:08 PM

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Apple jumped into the smaller-tablet market today with the launch of the new 7.9-inch iPad mini, in most ways a smaller version of its flagship iPad (also upgraded today). And although the iPad mini costs more, at $329, than many popular 7-inch tablets, it's also offering more screen real-estate, at 7.9 inches.

Here are the essential facts about the new iPad mini.

It's very thin and very light. At 10.9 ounces, the 7.9-inch iPad mini weighs a touch less than the 7-inch Barnes & Noble Nook HD (11.2 ounces). It's also very thin, measuring 0.28 inches, according to Apple. That makes it slightly more svelte than the thinnest 7.7-inch tablets in our labs, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (0.32 inches) and the Toshiba Excite 7.7 (0.31 inches). It's also thinner than the top-rated—and smaller—7-inch models in our Ratings.

Battery life is long for a smaller tablet. Apple says the iPad mini's battery life is 10 hours. While battery life on smaller tablets is improving, 6 to 8 hours is more typical. In our tests to date of 7-inch tablets, only the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Pantech Element lasted more than 10 hours, though a couple got about 9 hours.

It's a replica of the bigger iPad. Apple said it didn't want to sacrifice the experience you'd have on the larger iPad to make a smaller one. So the iPad mini maintains the same aspect ratio of the iPad. That means the tablet apps will look and work the same on both the iPad and the iPad mini. The squarish screen is also a great way to read and view magazines on a tablet, and to view photographs. And the mini doesn't add any capabilities that you can't get on a full-size iPad.

Display resolution is less than that of other small tablets. With a display resolution of 1024x768, the iPad mini doesn't have the high-resolution Retina display you'll find on the iPad. It's also less than that of the 7-inch Nook HD, which has 1440x900 resolution. The Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 each have 1280x800 displays.

Bottom line. The iPad mini is inexpensive for an iPad, but it costs more than other tablets around this size. Still, you should get a true iPad experience with this model; it's larger but lighter than many others; and the battery life Apple claims is long for its size.

The Wi-Fi version of the iPad mini ships on November 2. It starts at $329 for the 16GB version, and goes up to $529 for a 64GB model. Broadband models ship November 16 and start at $459 for the 16GB tablet, up to $659 for a 64GB version.

We'll test the iPad mini as soon as we get it in our lab. Take a look at our tablet Ratings to see how other models stack up.

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