Hopes and dreams for the next iPad mini

The new iPad mini should be as fast as the fourth-generation iPad, capable of running iOS 7 with aplomb

The iPad 2 is two-and-a-half years old. In tech terms it's not just dated, it's carbon dated. And yet the state of the iOS art for spring 2011 is powering the iOS device I use (and love) the most: The iPad mini.

With Apple widely expected to be launching a new iPad mini (and a lot more!) on Tuesday, it's worth revisiting what makes the iPad mini such a compelling product.

It's not a Retina display--the iPad mini is still styling the original iPad pixel count of 1024 x 768, albeit compacted down to a slightly denser 163 pixels per inch due to the mini's smaller screen.

It's not the speed of the device. Powered by the A5 processor, the iPad mini is technology that's two generations older than the current-model iPad. Even pushing one quarter of the pixels of the fourth-generation iPad, it lags behind in frame rates. It runs iOS 7--barely.

The appeal of the iPad mini is simple: It's roughly half the weight and volume of the full-sized iPad. At less than seven-tenths of a pound, the iPad mini is easy to hold in one hand for extended periods of time. It's small and light and convenient. As a frequent reviewer of iPads, I always have a full-sized iPad around either at home or at work--but I almost never use it.

I bought my iPad mini mostly so we'd have another unit to use for testing and reference at work. But as I used it, I discovered something that surprised me: I couldn't bear to give it up. It's undoubtedly the iOS device I've logged the most time on in the past 12 months.

When I consider what Apple should do to improve the iPad mini in its second generation, speed is at the top of my agenda. The new iPad mini should be as fast as the fourth-generation iPad, capable of running iOS 7 with aplomb.

I'm a bit more equivocal about the Retina display. I think adding a high-resolution display to the iPad mini would be a great move, don't get me wrong--but going Retina comes with costs. As we saw in Apple's transition to a Retina display on full-sized iPads, those displays use a whole lot of power. The third-generation iPad was thicker and heavier than its predecessor, in order to pack in more battery capacity. If the iPad mini's appeal is being thin and light, it can't put on too much weight in order to power that Retina display.

If there's anything I've learned from the last year of using the iPad mini, it's that I under-equipped it. I bought the cheapest option, the $329 16GB Wi-Fi model. If I had to do it all over again, I'd have ordered at least 32GB of storage. I might have upgraded to the cellular model, too. I bought the thing as a curiosity, but it turned into a workhorse.

If I had to make a prediction, it would be that the new iPad mini will have a Retina screen and internals based on the fourth-generation full-sized iPad, all in a device imperceptibly thicker and heavier than the current model. Maybe that's wishful thinking.

If Apple does break the Retina barrier on the iPad mini, I hope it keeps an upgraded non-Retina model around for a lower price. As I've seen in the last year, the non-Retina iPad mini is still an excellent device. It just needs to be faster than an iPad 2. I'm pretty confident that Apple will make that happen, Retina or no.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applehardware systemstabletsiPadiPads

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jason Snell

Macworld.com

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?