Why I Won’t Be Buying An iPad mini (But Maybe An iPad 4) – The ‘Book Mystique

I think the iPad mini is going to be a strong seller for Apple, and probably will usher the iPad 2 off the stage in reasonably short order. The likely strong predominance of minis in the product mix of Apple’s three million iPads sold during the mini’s first weekend out is an indication of a strong market showing for the miniPad to come. CNET’s Shara Tibken reported an educated estimate by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster that Apple would have sold 2 million to 2.5 million iPad minis out of the three million total, much higher than his projection of 1 million to 1.5 million, based on online surveys showing that roughly nine out of every 10 customers was waiting for the iPad mini rather than a full-sized iPad.

However, while I had been eagerly anticipating the mini’s release, I have to concede that I’ve found it surprisingly unexciting, which is a bit of a disappointment.

The price? Not a deal-breaker in my estimation. I had hoped Apple would be able to bring the mini in at less than $300, but I understand why they didn’t. You can’t have the hardware quality that Apple puts in its devices and sell them at bottom-feeder prices. Aluminum unibody construction is more expensive than injection-molded plastic, and worth what it costs.

No Retina Display? I have to concede that the chorus of boos greeting the iPad mini’s non-Retina, 1024×768 display from the Apple commentariat and bloggerati has been resounding, and difficult to ignore, but I’ve been working in 1024×768 resolution for so long, beginning with my first Pismo PowerBook in 2001, that I feel attached. I’ve been quite satisfied with that res. in my iPad 2, and having it rendered on the mini’s smaller display should make it even sharper and more acceptable, so it’s not the lack of Retina for me either.

That said, I concur with the school of speculative thought that the mini is likely to go Retina with its first revision sometime in 2013, so if that would be cause for buyer remorse, best postpone buying a mini for now.

A report this week from the Chinese language site DoNews’s Fei Xue says that AU Optronics (AUO) is developing a (Retina) panel for use in the next generation of iPad mini, with resolution up to 2048 x 1536 pixels, consistent with the latest Apple iPad, but on a 7.9-inch screen, which calculates to a 497ppi dot pitch, far exceeding the new Retina iPad’s 264 pixels per inch.

Xue says AUO anticipates volume shipments of the iPad mini Retina to begin in the second half of 2013, with a new Retina iPad mini to ship in the fourth quarter of next year.)

SlashGear’s Chris Davies has posted a commentary and analysis of the prospects for a Retina iPad mini here:

So what’s causing my hesitation about the mini? Two things mainly. First, while I appreciate that the iPad mini’s smaller size will be highly appealing to some users, aside from the obvious portability advantages, it is less so for me. I find the full-size iPad’s 9.7″ display limited and confining enough, thank you. Reading long form prose of any sort, whether it be books or longer magazine-type articles on the iPad is unappealing to me. I prefer ink-on-paper for that, and if it must be on a screen, the Kindle’s non-backlit e-ink display is at least easier on the eyes. Neither am I interested in watching feature films or full-length television shows on a 9.7 inch display, let alone 7.9-inch panels or smaller.

For the sort of stuff I do on the iPad; Web-surfing, email, news article and information reference reading, and some content creation, the larger display of the full-size iPad is preferable. Not to mention the massively superior power and performance of the 4th-generation iPad, with its Retina display and new dual-core, 1.4GHz A6X processor chip with quad-core graphics, amounting to a substantial 40 percent power increase over the 3rd-gen iPad’s A5X silicon at 1GHz. I don’t have any problem discerning 170 bucks worth of extra value in the iPad 4 compared with the mini.

Indeed, the 4th-gen. iPad is probably the biggest spoiler for me in respect of the iPad mini. In a way that the 3rd-gen “big” ‘Pad wouldn’t have been had Apple stuck with it. The iPad 3 offered no performance improvement over my iPad 2 due to the Retina display gobbling up all of the extra graphics processing power of the A5X chip’s quad-core graphics engine, plus iPad the third is heavier, thicker, and runs hotter than the 2. The only iPad 3 feature I really coveted was its 5 megapixel iSight camera with its much higher resolution CMOS and the better-quality optics shared with the iPhone 4S, although the latter has even greater 8 megapixel resolution. I’ve found the iPad 2’s camera, pedestrian performer that it is, still handy in that I’m inclined to just use it for snapshot duty rather than dragging a second device around. Some folks contend that taking photos with an iPad looks silly and is too awkward, but the old aphorism about the best camera being the one you have on you applies here, and I’m looking forward to my next tablet computer having a better camera.

However, having been on the iPad 2 for more than a year and a half, now, the iPad mini, being pretty similar in engineering specification and performance, seems more than a bit “been there; done that” for me. No negative criticism intended. My iPad 2 has done a great job, and continues to do so. But the mileage I’ve put on it would render buying iPad mini pretty much a sideways move performance and screen resolution wise. That is aside from the form factor difference, which, as I’ve noted, has mixed appeal for me, and the mini’s superior cameras to the truly mediocre ones in the iPad 2. One advantage the mini will have is that snapping photos with it will look considerably less geeky than it does with a full-size iPad, if you’re sensitive about that sort of thing.

The iPad mini having turned out to be pretty much exactly what I had expected based on leaks and rumors over the quarter preceding its release, the 4th-generation iPad was the big surprise for me in the product announcements at Apple’s October 23 special event, and a very pleasant one at that. Having not found the 3rd-generation New iPad very enticing, I’m intrigued at how much my impression has shifted due to the improvements in the iPad 4.

Will I buy one? Maybe, but a replacement for my anchor Mac laptop actually should be first on the agenda. The iPad 2 facilitated my being able to squeeze another year beyond my usual anchor system replacement target of three, but my MacBook will be four years old come March, and will need both RAM upgrade to at least 8GB and a hard drive replacement if it’s to soldier on beyond that, so logic dictates (at least to me) that it’s more sensible to put the money those upgrades would cost toward a new Mac rather than upgrading a four-year-old one.

Another factor is that my wife also needs a laptop upgrade. I had speculated that she might take over the iPad 2, with me upgrading to a new iPad 4, but contrarian (and touch-typist) that she is, she’s skeptical about tablets. I still think she might grow to appreciate the iPad’s stronger points if she got used to using one (perhaps with a Bluetooth Keyboard), but she also likes mouse input, so I have some convincing to do. It would make such matters a lot easier resolved if Apple would just relent and put a USB port in the IPad and mouse drivers in the iOS, like the Microsoft Surface and Windows 8 have, but that’s another movie.

See our price trackers for up-to-date Apple prices