Today in San Jose, we had a chance to see Apple unveil the new iPad 4, 13″ MacBook Pro, iMac, and iPad Mini. If you were following the live-stream, you saw it, too. But being there in person gave us the chance to go hands-on with the new devices after the show, so here are our first reactions upon picking up an iPad Mini.
Our first thought: Man, this thing is light! The iPad Mini is a little bigger than we were expecting, with a 7.9″ screen and the iPad’s familiar bezel around the edge. It would take some dexterity, or NBA player fingers, to easily reach every position on the screen with just one hand. But the iPad Mini’s true strength, we think, is in how light the thing is– it weighs half as much as the iPad 2.
It’s also wonderfully thin. Holding it almost feels like you’re holding a cardboard mock-up of an iPad, until you start flicking through the home screen and loading up apps. It’s comfortable to hold with two hands while you surf the web, type, or play games, but it’s also easy to switch to one hand, like you would with a mobile phone.
This portability and lightness comes with a cost, though. First, there’s the literal cost: They start at $330, which is more expensive than we predicted. Second, the iPad Mini uses the same chip as the iPad 2, and has the same screen resolution. While the resolution looked sharper than an iPad 2 due to the smaller screen size, it’s still nowhere near the visual fidelity of a Retina display.
If you’re serious about iOS gaming, the iPad Mini is probably not your device of choice. Older or less graphically-intensive games are still great, and on the demo devices we were able to try out games like Cut The Rope and Fruit Ninja, to our enjoyment. But there’s a reason why Apple used Real Racing 2 to sell the iPad Mini, both onstage and in the product demos. Real Racing 3 would almost certainly not be up to snuff.
We think the biggest advancement for iOS gaming today came in Apple’s quick and surprising reveal of the iPad 4th generation, which has nearly the exact same weight and thickness as the current iPad, but with twice the processing power. The new iPad also uses the Lightning connector, has faster Wi-Fi speeds, and an HD FaceTime camera, but it’s otherwise identical. Apple’s decision to upgrade the full-sized iPad just seven months after the iPad 3′s launch may frustrate early adopters, but at least new iPad owners will have access to an even speedier machine this Christmas.
Once iOS games start pushing the limit of the iPad 4, they’ll also shift away from gamers who own an iPad Mini. We’re never happy about Apple segmenting the market, but the iPad 2 is still a formidable gaming machine, and any new users will have hundreds of thousands of games to choose from. Whether you pick up a new device, or just keep the ones you already own, the games themselves will continue to define the user experience, and nothing we saw today is going to change that.