Apple iPad mini review: One for the road

GSMArena team, 09 November 2012.
Pages: 123456789101112

Tags: Apple, iOS, Touch UI

Photos and Photo Sharing

Photos on the iPad mini are handled by the Photos app. The smaller tablet isn't as good at showing your images as its bigger brother and the low density of the screen is not much help either. Photos come out in full resolution (no downsizing) but you'd be hard-pressed to enjoy them at this pixel density.

Apple Ipad Mini Apple Ipad Mini
The Photos app Viewing a photo

The Photos app on the iPad mini is rich on eye-candy - you can pinch-zoom your way back to gallery view here and into single photo view. There is also a small thumbnail bar at the bottom for quick picture scrolling. You can select multiple pictures, delete them, copy them in other albums or share them. You can also preset a slideshow with adjustable transitions and music arrangement.

Apple Ipad Mini Apple Ipad Mini
Apple Ipad Mini Apple Ipad Mini
Photos Albums Slideshow Map view Faces

You can view photos by album, by picture (everything stacked in one place), view them in a slideshow sequence with the option to choose a track to go along with them. You can see the location of the photos in Map view and see faces on the photos (you'd need Aperture or iPhoto on a computer to use Faces).

iOS 6 brings Shared Photo Stream to the iPad. It acts like a social sub-network, built right into the Photos app. You will be able to choose what pictures to share and which people to share with. Your buddies on the receiving end will be able to like them and post comments.

Apple Ipad Mini Apple Ipad Mini
Shared Photo Stream

Photo Stream works really well and is very simple to set up. You can invite users you want to share your Photo Stream with via email or get invited.

Video playback isn't the iPad mini element

The iPad mini isn't the best device to watch videos on - you need iTunes to upload content, the screen is the awkward 4:3 aspect ratio, the device cannot stand on its own and the supported video formats are quite limited. There is not even DivX or XviD support (out of the box).

Apple Ipad Mini Apple Ipad Mini
Videos

iPad mini supports playback of MOV files all the way up to 1080p resolution, but has some specific requirements for bitrate. We threw a few 1080p trailers in iTunes and only half of them made it through the sync into the iPad.

Apple Ipad Mini
Playing a video on the iPad mini

Fortunately, by using a third-party player you can upload clips via the iTunes File Sharing service and upload any video file. It turned out this way we had much fewer limitations to worry about and we managed to play all MOV/MP4 files up to 1080p resolution.

Apple Ipad Mini
Video with subtitles through OPlayer

iPads generally aren't the best devices for watching videos - the constrains of the ecosystem, the limited video player and the unsuitable aspect make them notably inferior to their Android rivals in that department. With the iPad mini packing an even smaller screen things are looking even worse.

The good news is that if you still want to watch videos, the iPad mini will last for quite a while. In our test, it went for nearly 13 hours of SD video playback on a single charge.

Video playback

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iPod music player

The Music player on the iPad mini resembles the desktop iTunes using the split-screen interface to make best use of the large resolution screen.

Organizing your music library is easy and there is the option to apply equalizers. Combined with the excellent audio quality (more on that to come), that makes the iPad a promising music tool.

The Music application also has its own search in addition to the general Spotlight search.

Apple Ipad Mini Apple Ipad Mini
Music player

As usual you are mostly stuck with iTunes for uploading and downloading music content on your iPad. We hate to be forced to use a specific kind of software for uploading music tracks, but we already knew what we were signing for.

You can use a work around for uploading your images (like Dropbox for example), but you'll have to use the basic sound player for that and that one has virtually no features whatsoever. It's unlikely that Apple would revise its policy so if you hate the iTunes dependency, then you already know to stay away from iGadgets.

You can also buy and download tracks straight off the iTunes Store on the iPad mini.

Apple Ipad Mini
The Now Playing screen

Apple users used to this way of doing things will find no problems here - if you're not opposed to using iTunes exclusively the experience is actually really handy and you can fill up on music in no time with the only required thing would be a stellar internet connection.

Typically great audio quality

The shrinking has has caused the Apple iPad mini to lose some of its voice and it fared a bit worse than the iPad 3 and the iPad 2 in our audio quality test. However, the good news is that those two were virtually perfect, so slightly worse than them still qualifies as awesome.

The Apple iPad mini is impressively loud and while its signal-to-noise, dynamic range and stereo-crosstalk readings aren't as good as those of its bigger brother, they still remain great. The distortion is basically non-existent ,too.

Most of the readings remain unaffected when you connect a pair of headphones, save for the the tiny amount of intermodulation distortion that creeps in. Amazingly the stereo crosstalk reading remains unaffected, which almost never happens with mobile devices.

Check out the table and see for yourself.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Apple iPad mini+0.08, -0.09-82.882.80.00190.017-80.8
Apple iPad mini (headphones attached)+0.18, -0.02-82.882.90.00360.115-80.7
Apple iPad 3+0.02, -0.12-90.990.90.00190.0095-92.7
Apple iPad 3 (headphones attached)+0.02, -0.12-90.990.90.00200.0095-46.4
Google Nexus 7+0.03, -0.11-69.870.50.0240.069-72.1
Google Nexus 7 (headphones attached)+1.39, -0.28-86.467.90.0110.723-52.9

Apple iPad mini frequency response
Apple iPad mini frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

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