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Hands-on with the iPad mini: first impressions

October 24, 2012|By Andrea Chang
  • Holding the iPad mini at Apple's invitation-only media event in San Jose on Tuesday.
Holding the iPad mini at Apple's invitation-only media event in San… (Andrea Chang / Los Angeles…)

I got my hands on Apple's newly unveiled iPad mini at the company's launch event Tuesday, and for those of you who can't wait for the Nov. 2 release, here are some initial thoughts.

Like the iPhone 5, the first thing I noticed about the 7.9-inch tablet was how light it is. And, as Apple executives promised, it does fit comfortably in one hand. (One tech analyst who was also at the event told me he was able to slip the device, which is 7.9 inches tall by 5.3 inches wide, into his back pocket, though he worried about sitting down and breaking it.)

Although the mini's screen doesn't boast the high-resolution retina display found on the latest 9.7-inch iPads, I found the images to be sharp and clear. And, compared with the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, it was nice to have that extra 0.9 inches of screen size.

Despite Steve Jobs' prediction that consumers would have to "sand down" their fingers to properly use a smaller tablet, I had no problems tapping out a typo-less email to a co-worker from the mini.

Apps were quick to load and the browser was speedy.

Overall, the iPad mini felt like the iPad 2 in a smaller form, which isn't a bad thing. But one caveat was that the device, for the limited time I spent with it, didn't feel superior to other small tablets already on the market -- for a much cheaper price.

The device's higher-than-expected price tag (the iPad mini starts at $329 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi-only model) has been a source of criticism for many consumers and investors who had hoped to see a starting price of $249 or $299. Meanwhile the Kindle Fire HD and Google's Nexus 7 tablets start at $199.

But other analysts disagree, noting Apple is often under fire for its premium pricing strategy but still sees massive sales for its products.

"We would argue that Apple has a strong track record in pricing to optimize volume and profits unlike most competitors who need to price low to have a fighting chance," Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a note to investors Wednesday. "We continue to believe iPad mini is the competition's worst nightmare and likely to drive incremental volume."

You can preorder the iPad mini, which comes in black and in white, on Friday. The Wi-Fi-only versions ship Nov. 2 and minis that come with a cellular data plan ship two weeks after that. Apple is selling 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models of the iPad mini.

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