Apple's iPad Mini Is Nice, But We Like Our Alternatives
In a world peppered with Ultrabooks, convertibles, and tablets, it's more difficult to pick a favorite form factor than it is to find a favorite device. We have notebooks laying around that date back several generations. And while some of us appreciate the potency of a mobile workstation, most would rather go thin and light, and then get back to home base as soon as possible for any gaming we might be missing out on.
If a tablet makes it into our bags, that's because, much of the time, we don't want to wait for a laptop to boot up, we don't want it resting on our legs, and we have no desire to do battle with a touchpad. Historically, based on what was available, we usually ended up toting a ~10" tablet.
Now, I know it's not selling particularly well, but Microsoft's Surface is the first device we've had in the lab encouraging multiple people to drop the whole laptop/tablet tag team and use one device that can live between both worlds. Suddenly, the allure of a big, dumb $500 consumption-oriented device is a lot less pronounced.
At $600 with a Touch Cover, the Surface isn't for everyone either, though. And that's where the 7-8" tablets come into play. Form factor-wise, you have a smaller, lighter, easier to carry device with just as much functionality as the larger models. Only, in the case of Google's Nexus 7, you can get it for as little as $199. Pshya. That makes sense. No wonder we gave it an award.
Then there's Apple's iPad mini. It's thin. It's light. It's all of the things we like about smaller tablets. We're not big fans of buying new Lightning connector-compatible accessories, and the mini could certainly benefit from a higher-resolution, higher-quality LCD. But it feels good in our hands. We get why folks would spend as much (or even a little more) on this thing as they would a Nexus 7.
But Apple doesn't ask you to pay a little more. The iPad mini starts at $329 and can quickly shoot up as high as $659 for the 64 GB cellular-equipped version. That's insane. As we transition into 2013, we'll be heading out to Las Vegas for CES with Microsoft's Surface. If a tablet makes it into our bags as well, it'll be the Nexus 7. There are just so many other things to do with $130 out there that we simply couldn't recommend spending the difference on an iPad mini.