First look: Apple's iPad Mini

Apple downsizes the iPad tablet; here's how it did so

Thinking small

The small iPad is just what the official name, iPad Mini, suggests. It’s recognizably the iconic iPad tablet, only it’s smaller, as Apple announced on Oct. 23.

The iPad Mini goes on sale Nov. 2, at $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, $429 for 32GB, and $529 for 64GB. The LTE/3G option adds $130.

Here’s a closer look at what you get.

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Dimensional reality

Yep, it’s smaller. The dimensions are 0.28 inches thick, 5.3 inches wide, and 7.87 inches tall, weighing 0.68 pounds. The touchscreen is 7.9 inches diagonally. Compare that to the newest full-size iPad: 0.37 inches thick, 7.31 inches wide, and .5 inches tall, weighing 1.44 pounds, with a 9.7-inch screen. The iPad Mini comes in two colors: black with slate back, and white with silver back.

And it's thinner

As the photo shows, the iPad Mini is pencil-thin. Apple completely reengineered the interior to make it thinner as well as smaller.

Near seamless edge

As with the iPhone 5, the new tablet has a diamond-cut chamfer on the edge of the housing. The glass has been fitted nearly seamlessly into the aluminum unibody.

Big impact in a smaller screen, Part 1

At 7.9 inches, the iPad Mini display is nearly two inches shorter diagonally than the full iPad. It offers the same resolution as the iPad 2: 1024x768 pixels, or 163 pixels per inch, well below the 264ppi of the third-generation iPad’s Retina display.

Big impact in a smaller screen, Part 2

The iPad Mini's screen is nearly an inch longer diagonally than rival 7-inch tablets. But that 0.9 inches translates into about 35 percent more screen area, according to Apple. The smaller margins at left and right make the screen image seem even more prominent.

The shrinking dock connector

The iPad Mini is the second iOS device, following the iPhone 5, to use Apple’s redesigned, much smaller 8-pin Lightning connector. It creates more room along the bottom edge, as well as inside. Some of your existing 30-pin peripherals (but not video-out) will work with it, provided you shell out $29 for Apple’s Lightning-to-30-pin adapter.

The shrinking CPU

The iPad Mini runs Apple’s A5 chip, first introduced for iPhone 4S and later for the iPad 2. But for the smaller tablet, this chip version uses a smaller, 32-nanometer fabrication process to shrink the overall package. That reduces heat and boosts power efficiency.

Wireless: Dual-band Wi-Fi and LTE/3G

Apple upgraded its single-stream 802.11n Wi-Fi to support the 5GHz band in addition to 2.4GHz. That’s a cleaner, less crowded band. The data rate is 150Mbps, though throughput is much less. For another $130, you can have an LTE/3G cellular radio included.

Battery life

Whatever you want to do with the iPad Mini, you’ll be able to do it a long time. Apple says the small tablet gets the same 10 hours of Wi-Fi Internet activity as its big brother. The company designed its largest yet thinnest iPad battery so far to exploit the available space in the smaller body: a 16.3-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery. You’ll get nine hours of cellular data Web use, according to Apple.

Cameras

The FaceTime front-facing camera takes 1.2 megapixel snaps and 720p HD video. The rear-facing iSight camera, with a f/2.4 aperture, takes 5 megapixel photos and records 1080p HD video.

Smart screen

The iPad Mini's screen is smaller but smarter: It can figure out whether your thumb is simply resting on the screen or interacting with it.