iPad Mini Review

I got a chance to play with an iPad this afternoon. I'm not going to write a full review, there already are loads but if you have't read any get started with Stephen Fry and then the Engadget review.

What I am going to do is talk a bit about my impressions of the device and I am going to imagine that someone has bought me one (please do if you want to!) and what I think I would use it for and what I don't think it would be any good for.

People I have spoken to previously who have seen and touched iPads have given conflicting reports about size and weight. The only way you will be sure if it is "heavy" or "light" or "big" or "small" is to pick one up yourself. For me it was a bit smaller than I imagined, a bit thinner and around the weight I expected. It felt reassuringly solid but I don't expect the screen would survive a big drop.

The best way I can describe the size is similar to a typical closed Netbook but a lot thinner. It felt nice although finger print marks were soon apparent on the screen.

The software ran in a snappy way, it really felt fast and moved with ease between applications. I really liked the built in apps and I played with several including iBook, Safari, calendar, maps, FT Newspaper, email and dropbox.

A lot of people seem to have written quite a bit about what the device could be used for. To me it seems really straightforward. It is a content consumption device. I certainly wouldn't want to write this blog post on it but here is what I would use it for:

  • Web Browsing is great except for the lack of Flash (grr) but to sit on your lap browsing the web it is the perfect device
  • Newspapers are ideal for this device and I played with the Financial Times app. It is hard to imagine a more perfect device for reading the newspaper on, ideal size, ideal interface with multi touch. Perfect.
  • Maps look great on it due to the huge screen and for planning it would be idea. I wouldn't fancy using it as a GPS whilst walking or driving though as it is a bit big. It would be OK to use as a car passenger though.
  • It is brilliant as a diary. The extra screen size is well used and you can really see and read a months worth of appointments at a time.
  • If I had one I would also use it a lot for meeting papers for both work and Governors. Using Dropbox you can simply drag the docs you need (Word, PDF etc) from your laptop and they show on your iPad. You can then use them in the meeting avoiding the need for reams of wasteful paper
  • I didn't try a Twitter app but it would be idea for reading and tweeting. The keyboard is pretty good for tapping out tweets and short messages and certainly easier than an iPhone
  • I like the eBook reader more than I thought I would (there is a screenshot from it above) my only question is how comfortable on the eyes it would be for any length of time.
  • Email was better than I thought too and would work well for reading emails and typing short responses
Here is what I am not so sure about:
  • It's no good for any serious content creation beyond Tweeting, short email replies etc You need a laptop for that with a proper keyboard and without the need to hold the device. Sure there is a dock thing but I wouldn't get that out on the train.
  • I think I would rather use my phone for music, much better size
  • For video I can see it would be fine to watch you tube videos on but if I was watching a TV episode I would get fed up of holding it or need a dock. Personally I would probably use a laptop for this although if I didn't have one with me it would be fine
So could I fit an iPad into my life as well as a Smartphone and Laptop? Sure, I think it would be really useful for meetings, for when I went away but didn't need to take a laptop but a phone was not enough and for using in front of the TV and whilst doing other things.

The main issue is the one I sidestepped. The price. I could personally get away with the cheapest wifi version (and use it with my Three MiFi)  but even that is £420 (owch). If these were £200 they would fly out the door but I think this heralds the way for other similar and cheaper devices and I can see £200 Android Tablets could be very compelling. I suppose the other alternative is they get sold with monthly 3G contracts to spread the cost but this doesn't (yet) seem to be an option.

See also my blogpost on iPad Data Tariffs 

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