Ergonomics

We’ve always thought the iPad was on the heavier side for prolonged use, particularly for one handed use. This was something more true for the 1st/3rd/4th gen iPads than for the comparatively svelte iPad 2, but at 1.33-1.5lbs, they were all too heavy for truly ultramobile use . The mini changes that in a big way, introducing a chassis that has 60% of the footprint and 47% of the weight of the latest 4th gen iPad in a 25% thinner frame, but even versus the iPad 2, the mini is a featherweight. It’s thinner than both the 4th generation iPod touch and iPhone 5, though not as ridiculous as the 6.1mm frame of the latest iPod touch. At 7.2mm thick and 0.68lbs, the mini has the size and weight part absolutely nailed.


From top to bottom: iPod Touch (5th gen), iPad mini, iPad 2, iPad 4

Part of this is due to the smaller screen, but the bezel around the display has also been whittled down significantly, particularly on the sides, so it’s actually possible to grip in portrait mode with one hand if you don’t have particularly small hands. I wouldn’t necessarily call it comfortable to do, certainly not as natural as on a 7” 16:10 widescreen Android tablet. It’s definitely possible, but about 10mm too wide to do it properly.

The best way that I found, actually, was to hold it like a paperback book - pinky underneath for vertical support, thumb on the side for horizontal support, and the rest of the hand spread across the back. The mini is actually light enough that this is a perfectly natural way to do it no matter which hand you prefer holding the tablet in.

It’s just an absolute joy to carry, the weight and thickness really make a big difference in the ergonomics as well as the portability. The footprint, too, has opened up some more mobile use-cases. You can easily use the iPad mini when walking around, something I found exceedingly difficult to do with the 9.7” iPad or any other 9-10” tablet without looking out of place and feeling like I was going to drop it every time I tried to walk at a normal, semi-rushed urban pace. The mini fits more readily in car gloveboxes and center console bins too, and it generally is a much more handy device.


iPad mini (left) vs Nexus 7 (right)

It’s about a centimeter too wide to fit into the back pockets of my jeans and about 5mm too much for the inside pocket of my jacket, but with baggier clothes it's a non-issue. The N7 does fit into my jeans, though not comfortably (is there any situation in which a pocketed tablet does?). The mini will fit really easily in most purses, and fits in most suit jacket inner pockets, so it’s about as portable as you can get. I already have CES plans that involve stashing a mini in my suit and relying on that and my phone for web publishing from the show floor.

If you’re familiar with 7” Android tablets or, my previous favorite portable tablet form factor, the 7.7” devices from Samsung and Toshiba, this really isn’t news. The smaller tablets, particularly the Nexus 7 and the Galaxy Tab 7.7/7.0+, have excelled at bringing a content consumption experience that is as good or better their larger 10.1” counterparts in a cheaper, more portable package. This is new to iOS though. Previously, there was a pretty gaping hole between the pocket-friendly iPod touch/iPhone and the notepad-sized iPad, and I think the mini does a great job of filling that hole. It’s smaller than the iPad by enough to make it worth considering for the size alone, but not enough to take away from the user experience, and that makes it all the more tempting.

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  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Top of the summary gives it away:
    "In my first week with the iPad mini, it quickly became the iPad I actually wanted to carry around. The mini's form factor is really where all of the innovation is. It's thin, light and an almost perfect balance of functional screen size and portability. I really love this form factor."

    By specs, the mini is unimpressive. It's using a SOC introduced in early 2011. We've been accustomed to high resolution mini-tablets from B&N, Amazon, Google, etc. It has less memory and costs significantly more (particularly for higher SKUs).

    But, at least for the reviewer, the form factor trumps all these things, at least for purposes of a "carry computer". Thinner and lighter than the 7" tablet comparison, with significantly more usable display space (Android 4.x soft buttons do not help here) in nearly the same frontal area.

    Would it be a better product if it sported an A6X SOC and a retina display? Certainly, on paper. It also likely would need a ~25 Wh battery and substantial increases in both weight and thickness .. same sort of changes from the iPad 2 to iPad 3.

    iPad mini should have been introduced last year when the 32nm SOC was available IMO .. it would have provided a useful bifurcation vs the 3rd gen iPad's bulk gains, and perhaps we'd have an A6 SOC in the iPad mini today.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    not sure how that quote answers Jorange's questions. but that's the internet nowadays. Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Is it? It looks like it's a reply to Greg512. Certainly that's how I intended it.

    But, as you say, that's the internet nowadays.
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I doubt Apple could have shipped a 32nm SoC last year in volume. The A5r2 was already the first shipping SoC produced on Samsung's 32nm process, ahead of Samsung's own designs, when it launched on the iPad2,4 in March 2012. And that was only used for low volume test production with the 45nm A5 iPad 2 continuing to be available. Apple prioritizing the iPhone 5 to receive a 32nm SoC first and waiting until now for high volume 32nm production to introduce 32nm iPad Mini, 5th gen iPod Touch, and iPad 4 makes sense. Reply
  • protomech - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Good point.. I thought it had shipped late last year. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    "By specs, the mini is unimpressive."

    GPU performance is still surprisingly good, better than even the newest Android-running hardware. What is it with other companies not keeping up with Apple's older hardware?
    Reply
  • Greg512 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Yea, the GPU is good. But, for the price, the screen, CPU, and RAM are kinda poor. The Mini performs well now, but I question its long-term viability. Reply
  • marvdmartian - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Typical Apple product, that will sell like hotcakes: getting less, paying more, nothing new. Reply
  • drx11 - Sunday, November 25, 2012 - link

    ---------------------------------------------------------
    RE: Not a bad product by marvdmartian on Wednesday, November 21, 2012
    Typical Apple product, that will sell like hotcakes: getting less, paying more, nothing new.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    Typical Fandroid, never sees the forest for the trees.
    Apple is the best and has been so since 2007 - at building SoC.
    Apple is the best at supporting its devices long term.

    Now with iOS 6 - which is mostly supported (not all the features) for an old 3GS phone - you could argue you are getting less - maybe on the older devices (no Siri, Apple Maps is not as good as as Google Maps ... right now... etc..)

    Still iOS 5 is very nice for older things and Android/Google/Moto/Samsung/HTC has rarely updated their "better" hardware at all ... you can blame that on the carriers all you want, but that is also what you are buying.

    Buying more often, spending more time doing something that maybe should just work?

    I know Google is trying (or starting to), but they really have almost no support for the majority (75%+ ) of the devices in their 'ecosystem'. What's the point of better hardware when it runs slower/worse from the start and never gets updated?
    Reply
  • Alucard291 - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    Did you have a joint before you wrote this drivel? Or does your mind work this bad drug free? ^^

    Good SoCs? Are you serious? Just because people work'd the shaft so hard when A6 came out doesn't mean that Cortex A9 based soc is viable coming into 2013.

    Apple is currently behind the curve on both tech processes (28 nm vs 32 nm) and performance (cpu and ram speed but not gpu)

    In case of ipad mini. You get less. (2 year old tech) you pay more (than any competition out there). But somehow we miss the forest for the trees?

    Oh but it supports the amazing dated and feature free ios6! That's great. Except well.. (opinion incoming) I don't like ios. I find it restrictive and boring.

    So your point is?
    Reply

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