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Apple iPad Mini Review: Our New Favorite Size, But...That Price?
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The restrictive nature of mobile operating systems like iOS and Windows RT is stunting cross-platform benchmark development. Although Google is more flexible about development on Android, quality benchmarks remain few and far between. As a result, we’re often left with Geekbench and GLBenchmark as our two performance-oriented tablet metrics. Using just two benchmarks, both of which are theoretical, makes me uncomfortable, even if the results scale as we'd expect them to. Right now, browser-based tests help fill that void, if only because they’re easy to run.

SunSpider, the V8 Benchmark Suite, and now Octane are ubiquitous in tablet and smartphone reviews. However, they are imperfect. As on the desktop, swapping from one browser to another can dramatically change the performance reflected in a browser-oriented test without necessarily reflecting the performance of your platform. In short, the browser is a variable. At least if you keep all of your hardware constant, the Web browser is the only component that changes. Here, though, we're using different browsers on different hardware, so it's difficult to draw conclusions about either.

Even though it's a more expensive machine running the full version of Windows 8, I'm including results from our upcoming Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T review for a couple of reasons. Most superficially, it's based on Intel's Atom Z2760 (Clover Trail), allowing us to compare a slightly faster version of the Medfield SoC, designed for tablets, to the ARM-based competition. Second, it’s the first truly mobile hardware platform that lets us test several browser versions (IE10, Chrome, and Safari).

When you keep your hardware platform constant, IE10 rises to the top in SunSpider (at least under Windows 8), while Chrome tops the chart in V8 and Octane. They're all JavaScript-based benchmarks, but Google publishes the latter two, so it's a little difficult for us to take them seriously.

Apple’s iPad mini performs on par with the iPad 2, as we'd expect. It trails behind the Nexus 7 in V8 and Octane, while it beats the Google tablet in SunSpider.

BrowsingBench was created by the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmark Consortium, a non-profit organization tasked with finding ways to develop testing methodology, specifically for embedded hardware. We're been playing around with this tool in the lab, and we love it. Intended for testing "smartphones, netbooks, portable gaming devices, navigation devices, and IP set-top boxes," it's also useful for measuring browser performance in general.

Unlike SunSpider or V8, BrowsingBench evaluates the total performance of a browser: page loading, processing, rendering, compositing, and so on. This helps reflect real-world use, unlike a single JavaScript-based metric. Frankly, these results are more representative of our own subjective experience.

The second- and third-generation iPads share the same CPU hardware, and yet the iPad 2 pushes ahead. Resolution plays a big part in the rendering workload, and at 2048x1536, more is asked of the third-gen iPad than the iPad 2 at 1024x768. So even though the iPad 3 sports twice as many graphics cores and a beefier memory subsystem, it’s asked to render three times as many pixels.

And that takes us to the iPad mini. You'd think that because it shares the same SoC and native resolution as the iPad 2, both tablets would perform similarly. We connected both devices over 2.4 GHz 802.11n, and, despite repeated test iterations, the iPad mini always comes out 100 points or more ahead of the iPad 2.

BrowsingBench measures the totality of performance, and some things have changed that may impact performance. For example, we know the iPad mini employs the Murata 339S0171 Wi-Fi module based on Broadcom’s BCM4334 chipset, whereas the iPad 2 leverages Broadcom’s BCM3429.

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Top Comments
  • 30 Hide
    Hellbound , December 17, 2012 3:27 AM
    The iPad mini is overpriced.
  • 24 Hide
    Darkerson , December 17, 2012 4:08 AM
    Overpriced, but thats not really a surprise, since its an apple product. Sadly, people are eating them up regardless.
  • 22 Hide
    azathoth , December 17, 2012 3:38 AM
    While the device is certainly nice, I don't like the fact that it has no support for MicroSD, and I would be unable to tinker around with it as I can for an Android based device.

    ...And the price. I'm not going to give a second thought when I see a $200 tablet with removable storage versus $330 for 16GB of internal storage and no expansion options.

    If the device was closer to say $260 for the 32GB version, or just included an option for removable storage... Then I would certainly see the iPad mini as being a viable option even for someone used to Android.

    The main factors (in my opinion) for a great device are,
    1: A good quality screen, it needs to have vibrant, accurate colours.
    2: Even if during benchmarks the device is slow, if it FEELS snappy and quick, that's all that counts.
    3: Removable storage for god sake, I know by practice apple enjoys their closed system, but COME ON!
    4: It doesn't need to have some amazing 15 hour battery life, but I certainly don't want it to die on a full charge after a movie and a few youtube videos.
Other Comments
  • 30 Hide
    Hellbound , December 17, 2012 3:27 AM
    The iPad mini is overpriced.
  • 22 Hide
    azathoth , December 17, 2012 3:38 AM
    While the device is certainly nice, I don't like the fact that it has no support for MicroSD, and I would be unable to tinker around with it as I can for an Android based device.

    ...And the price. I'm not going to give a second thought when I see a $200 tablet with removable storage versus $330 for 16GB of internal storage and no expansion options.

    If the device was closer to say $260 for the 32GB version, or just included an option for removable storage... Then I would certainly see the iPad mini as being a viable option even for someone used to Android.

    The main factors (in my opinion) for a great device are,
    1: A good quality screen, it needs to have vibrant, accurate colours.
    2: Even if during benchmarks the device is slow, if it FEELS snappy and quick, that's all that counts.
    3: Removable storage for god sake, I know by practice apple enjoys their closed system, but COME ON!
    4: It doesn't need to have some amazing 15 hour battery life, but I certainly don't want it to die on a full charge after a movie and a few youtube videos.
  • 3 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , December 17, 2012 3:51 AM
    I'm waiting for a 7 inch version of surface. It is the only productive tablet out there.
  • 0 Hide
    _Pez_ , December 17, 2012 3:59 AM
    Those devices are a JOKE !
  • 10 Hide
    mikenygmail , December 17, 2012 4:06 AM
    iPricey
  • 24 Hide
    Darkerson , December 17, 2012 4:08 AM
    Overpriced, but thats not really a surprise, since its an apple product. Sadly, people are eating them up regardless.
  • 6 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , December 17, 2012 7:44 AM
    It's definitely overpriced, but I've come to expect that with Apple, you're mostly paying for a name and some unique styling with them. It has some features going for it, but I wouldn't buy one, not when there are several cheaper options in the mini tablet lineup. That's not stopping the legions of Apple sheep from buying it though.
  • 3 Hide
    Tomtompiper , December 17, 2012 8:05 AM
    This is a blatant rip off of the Samsung Tab, I hope Samsung sue their ass off :kaola: 
  • 5 Hide
    Jigo , December 17, 2012 8:41 AM
    AzathothWhile the device is certainly nice, I don't like the fact that it has no support for MicroSD, and I would be unable to tinker around with it as I can for an Android based device....And the price. I'm not going to give a second thought when I see a $200 tablet with removable storage versus $330 for 16GB of internal storage and no expansion options.If the device was closer to say $260 for the 32GB version, or just included an option for removable storage... Then I would certainly see the iPad mini as being a viable option even for someone used to Android.The main factors (in my opinion) for a great device are, 1: A good quality screen, it needs to have vibrant, accurate colours.2: Even if during benchmarks the device is slow, if it FEELS snappy and quick, that's all that counts.3: Removable storage for god sake, I know by practice apple enjoys their closed system, but COME ON!4: It doesn't need to have some amazing 15 hour battery life, but I certainly don't want it to die on a full charge after a movie and a few youtube videos.


    you're right
    I'm glad that i bought the Nexus7. 16GB is enough, and rootet i can plug in external device. And as for all my techy stuff, i doubt i've to send it in before the 2y warranty expires
  • -6 Hide
    godnodog , December 17, 2012 9:03 AM
    The screen in tablets are too big, i want something with 1 or 2"!!!
  • 5 Hide
    house70 , December 17, 2012 10:43 AM
    TomtompiperThis is a blatant rip off of the Samsung Tab, I hope Samsung sue their ass off

    You mean, the Galaxy Tab 7.7. But yes, they should sue Apple fir design infringement.
  • 3 Hide
    Star72 , December 17, 2012 12:12 PM
    I'm sure it is a nice piece of tech, but it is more than I would want to pay for a small tablet from any maker.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , December 17, 2012 12:25 PM
    I think that the price of the iPad Mini is justified with how amazingly it runs! The iPad Mini is a great option with an incredible processor speed, as my coworker at DISH likes to tell me about, and it deserves the price it has. With how great it works, it is also very light and smaller and makes it incredibly easy to watch TV streamed to the DISH Remote Access app with the Sling Adapter hooked up to my receiver. I really don’t mind the price, especially for these great features!
  • 3 Hide
    Augray37 , December 17, 2012 12:29 PM
    i believe you mean "micro-usb" in the sentence "...but we have to admit preferring mini-USB for its ubiquity across the other tablets we use." sorry, i work at radioshack :) 
  • 4 Hide
    cirdecus , December 17, 2012 12:53 PM
    I think the attractive thing about the iPad is the form factor. The dimensions, large screen and weight are absolutely perfect compared to the Nexus 7 and Kindle. Other clever software features, like being able to notice when your palm is holding the side of the screen, vs actually trying to use touch input is the perfect thing for a tablet of this size to keep the screen real estate large.

    The apps are phenomenal and far more abundant than any competitor as well.

    But as I've said, the problems are:

    1) Price is way to high
    2) Screen quality (Would NOT be an issue if the price wasn't stupidly high. If we're paying $130 more for a tablet, we atl east want retinta.)
    3) No storage expansion. I understand that storage is being used to "tier" these things like consoles are doing, but its pretty silly not to all for a simple SD expansion.

    Unlike a lot of younger techies, I don't feel that the closed environment or the lack of "customization" is really a flaw. Most individuals don't want to spend a lot of time tinkering around with their tablet. They just want to use it or accomplish a task with it. To most adults, its more of a tool to get a job done that a toy to be tinkered with constantly. I'm ok with leaving the device alone and simply reading, listening to music or watching movies on a plane.
  • 0 Hide
    bustapr , December 17, 2012 1:05 PM
    no love for the nook hd :( 

    its got almost the same specs as the kindle, an sd card slot, and a better screen(1440x900). similar price too.
  • -5 Hide
    calcappone , December 17, 2012 1:09 PM
    The one thing everyone has to realize is that, yeah it is overpriced but not compared to the iPad. Android is my OS of choice but Android lacks the support that Apple products has. iDevices have better apps and better games. I love Android but until it get the support level iDevices have then it will always play "second fiddle"
  • -3 Hide
    engrcat , December 17, 2012 1:21 PM
    I think the target market for this flavor of iPad are women, who can still have a fashionable Apple device that fits in their purses (yes they all have more than one). Also the Apple accessory market is very strong with fashion labels supplying attractive and functional cases for them. I did a one sample study in my household to obtain that information and I am $429 poorer because of it lol. Good thing she got a chinese case from newegg.
  • 0 Hide
    Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer , December 17, 2012 1:24 PM
    Pssht everyone knows the Archos GamePad is where it's at. :p 
  • 2 Hide
    traumadisaster , December 17, 2012 1:58 PM
    Just purchased our first tablet for my wife (i have a galaxy note phablet). Ipad 1 for $200 on ebay and the screen is fine for me, im surprised from reviews the screen didnt look like sd tv. especially my wife would never know hd. I found it to be heavy and unweildly. I think you just have to say thats what they cost and get over it, im not fighting android os anymore. And im not asking my wife to learn a new os to save $130. Granted she doesnt need extra storage or want to root. Me on the other hand i will get a note3 next year that way i wont need a tablet too.
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