Size does matter, at least when it comes to the iPad mini. It's the tablet Apple should have made the first time around. That is certainly a bold statement, but after using the mini for some time, it's hard to say it doesn't have basis. One could even make the argument for iPad mini being the BEST of all the current tablets. Here’s why.
The 7.85-inch iPad mini lacks some of the raw power of it's 9.7-inch brothers iPad 3 and the new iPad 4, but it was difficult to find an app that didn't perform well on the mini. Touches and swipes registered just as smoothly as they always have. Most apps looked and felt exactly the same as they did on the larger iPads. Gamers might see a performance hit on more intense 3D games, but other than that, the iPad mini packs a punch in a small package. When comparing the GPU (graphics processing unit) performance to the bigger iPads, it's important to note that the mini has an inherent advantage in its lower resolution screen. Since the iPad mini display only has to push a fraction of the pixels (around 780,000) as the bigger iPads (around 3,100,000!) it takes less power to operate. As with many Apple products, efficiency trumps raw horsepower.
Speaking of that screen, the other major point of debate is with iPad mini's 1024x768 display. Let's get it out of the way: it is a marginally lower resolution than the mini's closest competitor: Google/Asus's Nexus 7. Yes it is MUCH lower resolution than the larger iPads stunning Retina displays. Will this make a difference for the average user? Probably not. If you're a customer purchasing their first iPad (as many customers will be) you won't know what you're missing.
The differences are mostly seen in text rendering for those who use iPad as a reading device. The iPad 4 has much smoother text rendering, which does lead to increased readability. The thing is, from the distance most people view their tablets, that difference isn't so great that one would immediately consider iPad mini unacceptable. The mini’s display is not amazing, but it certainly isn’t bad by any means. It’s good. Just good.
So then what factors make iPad mini such a great product overall?
The iPad mini is a full $170 less than iPad 4. When you add in the cost of accessories, the iPad mini represents a much lower initial investment than the $500 iPad 4.
It's amazing how far technology has come. When you can look at a device that weighs 1.44 pounds and say it's heavy or unwieldy, you've reached a pinnacle. The iPad 4 isn't a tank, but it feels like one once you've held the mini, which weighs in at a bit over half a pound. On paper that doesn’t seem like it should make such a big difference, but it does. A device being lighter, thinner and more comfortable to hold means more daily use. It doesn't take a scientist to understand why. Sometimes a more compact tool is better for the job. For extended reading sessions, portable gaming, travel computing or even a second screen television companion, a device that’s the height and width of the average paperback book is amazing. Picture doctors being able to slide iPad mini into their jacket pockets, or service workers being able to use iPad mini as menus or to take orders. The smaller form factor allows it to be slipped more easily into a bag, small compartment in a backpack or a thin portfolio. The most important part of having a portable device is actually using it. Portability adds utility. It's the reason some consumers went from laptop to iPad, and it's the reason some will run from iPad to iPad mini.
Every single app that runs on the larger iPads run on iPad mini. Without exception. This gives it a rather larger advantage over competing Android tablets. With all the different versions of Android, one can't be sure that every app is going run on a particular device. That makes the already dire Android tablet app ecosystem an even larger liability. On phones, Android has almost achieved app parity with iPhone. On tablets, the gulf is still as wide as it's ever been. In these times, buying a piece of electronics has become equal to buying into a particular app ecosystem. Why wouldn’t you buy into one with the greatest selection of quality software?
iPad mini is greater than the sum of it’s parts. At the cost of a bit of raw power, you get a more portable machine that still has access to every app in the robust Apple ecosystem. What's not to love?