I bought the first generation iPad mini a couple of months after it came out. In hindsight, it was a rookie mistake. At the time, the mini looked like a no brainer. It was super thin and light. Unlike the bigger iPad you could use it with one hand.
But it had the guts from the then year old iPhone 4S. It only had 512 MB of RAM and the screen was non Retina with 1024×768 res. With every update it got slow. iOS 8 was the final nail in its coffin.
Last month, I bought the second generation iPad mini with Retina Display 32 GB WiFi model, now rebranded as iPad mini 2. To protect this silver marvel, I decided to get Poetic Slimline Case.
Why did I do that when the iPad mini 3 was released? What do I think of it? Is it actually good? What do I use it for? Read on to find out.
Why iPad Mini 2 and Not 3
The iPad mini 3 is basically the same as iPad mini 2 with a gold color option and Touch ID. Paying $100 more than iPad mini 2 ($300) for just those two things doesn’t make sense.
Everything else including the screen, processor and camera are exactly the same. The only problem is that iPad mini 2 is only available in 16 and 32 GB variants. If you’re looking for 64 GB or 128 GB models, you’ll need to go with the mini 3.
Oh yeah, it’s pretty thin.
The Performance Upgrade
Oh man I can’t believe I didn’t upgrade to the Retina model sooner. With double the RAM and a 64 bit A7 processor, this thing is fast. Much, much faster than the older mini. If you’re still using that old sucker or are looking for a first tablet, go with iPad mini 2. Just make sure you choose the 32 GB model. The 16 GB won’t be enough.
Let’s talk about the real world performance increase. Multitasking on the old iPad was a pain. If I was browsing a web page or a couple of them and I switched to a messaging app and went back, the web pages would need to be reloaded. This happened way too often for apps as well. This was due to low RAM. The process of switching apps was slow itself.
Now, I could be reading a web page, swipe four fingers to switch to a messaging app and come back to everything still there. Also, there would be no delay in switching.
On this high res screen, the text is just so sharp.
I use the iPad for reading and research mostly. Most of the time I’m looking at text on it. And after I upgraded to a MacBook Pro with Retina Display I just couldn’t stand the old iPad’s display. The iPad mini’s 2 display with 2048×1536 res is incredibly sharp and reading on it is a joy.
I never used the old iPad’s camera enough to appreciate it. I went to an art exhibit recently and my iPhone 5’s scratched camera was giving me trouble. I wrestled with the thought and then gave up on my dignity, pulled up the iPad mini and launched the camera. Holy shit. Talk about inhibitions ruining your life. In that one second I realized why people use the iPad as a camera. First, the camera itself is pretty good. It performs really nicely in well-lit areas.
The most important thing is that big beautiful screen. Framing a shot when you have such a clear idea of what you’re clicking is just so much better than on the iPhone 5’s dingy old 4 inch screen.
This does mean I can’t make fun of people using their iPads as cameras anymore. But I think that’s a worthy sacrifice.
iPad for Work?
Typing close to two thousand words a day and having around 100 Chrome tabs open for research is not something I can do well with the iPad. So my MacBook with that great keyboard is still my productivity machine of choice. Mostly because of the Chrome browser and the speed more than anything.
But just like with the camera, the iPad mini 2 surprised me with the productivity aspect as well. I was trapped at a social function with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I had my iPad mini 2 with me, not my laptop. I pulled out the iPad, opened Editorial and started typing on the multitouch keyboard in portrait mode. It wasn’t the best. I typed slow but I did type. And to my surprise I didn’t make any horrible grammar mistakes or typos.
I can’t do this all day but in some situations the iPad mini 2 is truly great. If you’re stuck in traffic or waiting somewhere, you could read and reply to emails, take notes, or chat without many issues.
How Do I Use It?
Reading is what I use the iPad most for. Reeder 2 ($4.99) is one of my RSS readers of choice.
That Retina screen is great for reading and that’s what I usually use it for. The only productive work I do on it is reading websites, some light researching and saving interesting things I find on the net to Evernote.
All the other typical stuff, like email, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter also make it to the list.
With iOS 8, I can make and answer calls from the iPad when it’s on the same network as my iPhone. The same goes with SMS. This might sound like a trivial feature but you realize just how awesome this is when you’re tucked in, reading on your iPad and you get a call. Instead of looking for my iPhone, I just answer it from the iPad.
Go For It
I haven’t used an Android tablet like the Nexus 7 to provide a definitive answer between Android tablets and the iPad. All I know is that for $349, the iPad mini 2 is a pretty epic thing to own. When you think of it, it’s kind of surprising that Apple is giving away so much (with the Retina Display, 64 bit processor and of course all the great apps) for this little money. An iPhone will cost twice that amount.
If you already own an iPhone and Mac, the iPad mini 2, for not that much money will be a great addition. And because this particular model is not that expensive, I can recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone looking to buy their first tablet (or if you’re looking to upgrade) to do normal things in a superior way – email, video, reading, and more.