iPad Mini Retina Display Hands-on: High Resolution, High $399 Price

The iPad mini is the less exciting of the two new tablets Apple just introduced for a couple of reasons. For one, pretty much everyone knew that Apple would be adding a sharper screen to the mix. Second, the $399 price could very well scare off a lot of shoppers who presume that small tablets should be cheap. We spent some hands-on time with the new mini and loved its eye candy, but are concerned about the sticker shock.

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First the good news. The iPad mini’s 2048 x 1536-pixel screen blows away other Android slates like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX (both at 1920 x 1200 pixels). Everything from the icons and text underneath them to pictures in iPhoto and the New York Times website looked sharp. This is as flawless a visual experience you’ll have on a small tablet.

MORE: iPad mini with Retina Display vs Competition

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The iPad mini also gets a speed boost, courtesy of Apple’s A7 chip. We watched as an Apple rep edited video on the fly and applied effects using the new free iMovie app. We also didn’t experience much if any lag with iOS 7 as we navigated the interface.

Design wise, the iPad mini is identical to its predecessor, and that’s not a bad thing. The bezel is still nice and narrow, and the device measures just .29 inches thick while weighing .79 pounds. 

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The 5-MP camera inside the mini proved capable during a few test shots. Thanks to the backside illuminated sensor, subjects looked bright even in a dim room.

Here’s the problem with the new iPad mini, though. The Nexus 7 and HDX start at $229, while the iPad mini starts at $399. That’s a $170 delta for enjoying Apple’s 475,000 plus tablet apps and better design, which is enough for a whole other cheap Android tablet for a family member.

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We’re just not sure how many shoppers will be willing to pay that premium, but we’ll withhold final judgment until we review the new mini. Stay tuned for our full evaluation and test results.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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