From the start, my eyebrows were raised ONLY because of the way Apple unveiled the new Mini (as I watched it live on the AppleTV in 1080p!). The unveiling of it was almost as good as that of the original iPhone in 2007. Almost, though, as NOTHING will be beat that. I mean, it is an iconic moment in technology history (I still watch it if I'm bored). Really, the Mini's unveiling is the only reason why I wanted to even see one, as I've always considered it a niche product for the holidays. I see it pretty much as an attempt to compete with the Nexus 7, and more or less a shrunken iPad 2. I had some serious doubts from the start.
The reality is quite the contrary. I finally saw and played with one in person and I immediately knew this is the tablet for me. I've always thought that 7" inch tablets were devices that just couldn't compete with the iPad, and I laughed at the people that gushed all over their 7" inch whatevers. Then I saw the Nexus 7 and shockingly I said to myself, "Man, this is actually really nice". What was so nice about it was the OS (Android Jellybean 4.2) finally had that Apple "polish" to it. It only took Google 5 years to catch up... and then they broke that very same Apple polish with a patch... and broke it worse with a patch to fix that patch (begin evil laughter).
What really impressed me, though, was the form factor, as the design and weight of the Nexus 7 is amazing. Picking it up is like picking up a feather, and I *immediately* said to myself, "Now THIS is portable. I really wish this was an iPad". Unfortunately, it still is the Nexus 7, as it is still Android... so it still sucks. Always remember peeps... it could look like a Ferrari, but if the engine is a 4-banger... what's the point? And all the Windows 8 peeps say "WHAAT!".
Apple met, matched, and beat (IMO) the Nexus 7 with one arm behind its back, or at least the unveiling said so. What I saw at first glance was a shrunken iPad 2, and then I started to read more. I read positive reviews, negative reviews, neutral reviews, and biased in both direction reviews. I'm a geek... it's what I do. But no matter what type of review I read, one thing was consistent... portability. Then I looked in the mirror and admitted, I hardly ever use my iPad as a portable device... so what's the point in owning the absolute best model you can get? The display? Well, that is a plus. But do I really use it as it's designed? Honestly, not really. The iPad Mini, however, truly fits that build.
So, I went to the mall, walked by the Windows Store (the only store not busy during the Christmas holidays) and ended up the Apple Store. After waiting my turn, I played on the iPad Mini and I knew right then and there after picking it up that, this was the iPad as it is supposed to be. Turns out, I was wrong with my original assumptions.
One thing that ALL types of reviews talk about is the Mini's lack of Retina display. For me - one who looks at displays daily for long periods of time - yes, I absolutely notice it is not Retina. Between my iPhone 4S and iPad 3, I can tell in immediately that it's not Retina. I miss the Retina display on my iPad Mini, I really do. BUT... it's all mental for a spoiled geek. Bear with me here. Until Retina displays are the norm, they're a luxury item in my opinion. They are something Apple has over its competitors. Other screens are nice, but nothing compares to a Retina display.
The MacBook Pro Retina is the biggest example of display awesomeness. You simply have to see it to believe it. But, is a 15" MBP Retina as mobile as say, a 11" or 13" Mac Book Air? No. And there's the difference. A laptop is meant to be mobile, or portable. One obviously does this better than the other. One obviously looks better than the other, too. The iPad is truly meant to be portable, but comparing the portability of the iPad vs. the iPad Mini is no contest.
My take from 10,000 feet in the air? It depends on your usage and needs (as anything in this cluttered tech boom is). Four years ago, I would have said that the Sony PS3 was the better buy because of its BluRay capabilities. Now, I'd say the latest edition of the XBox 360 is. I've said before that the iPad 3 is the only iPad worth owning - but now, not so much. Currently, my personal needs are mobility and portability - and enter the 64GB Verizon LTE iPad Mini.
Coming from an IBM Lenovo laptop, walking around with a MacBook Air feels like I'm carrying nothing - but still doing my job. It's weird. Walking around with an iPad Mini and still being able to have my entire digital life and doing my job (feeling like I'm carrying nothing)... it's weird. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg had something when he arrogantly said the iPad wasn't mobile. Well, the iPad Mini is.
If you're looking for a new iPad or looking to 'upgrade' from an iPad 1 or 2, then seriously consider the iPad Mini. It's cheaper and better in a lot of ways (check out the benchmarks in this piece), and once you have it (pending you have a 4G version) you will wonder how you ever lived without one. The only hard decision is, should you get the white or the black one?
I have read in a few places that Apple is two years out from a Retina iPad Mini, and that sounds about right. But if they do to it what they had to do with the iPad 3 (or 4) Retina (as they had to make it heavier, thicker, awkward weight distribution), then no thanks - I'll wait till you can meet its current mobile specs (super-feather-light, and form factor).
Mobility... it's where it's at... and I'm a fan of the iPad Mini.