So, the iPad mini is here at last! Smaller tablets have already carved out a real niche for themselves, and if you've always wanted an iPad but were scared off by its size, then maybe this is the day you've been waiting for.
Or maybe Apple waited too long. There are already a bunch of very good smaller tablets out there. Let's see how the new iThing compares to the others on specs.
Let's start with our familiar disclaimer: specs don't mean everything. Your user experience is what matters most. That said, specs are a part of that user experience, and they can play a critical role in helping you make an informed decision on the product you want to spend your hard-earned cash on.
*Apple hasn't said how much RAM there is, but we think it's a pretty save assumption that it's 512MB, since most of the other components line up pretty nicely with the iPad 2.
Let's start out with wow it's thin. Coming in at 0.28 inches, its certainly beats the rest of the category. It's also the lightest on our chart at 0.68 pounds, but just barely (the Nook HD is only 0.01 pound heavier). At the same time, we don't yet know the other dimensions (length and width), so we'll have to wait and see just how pocketable it really is. Update: Those dimensions have now been announced, and it should be about as pocketable as any of them.
Resolution may be a bit on the disappointing side. Coming in at 162 ppi, the iPad mini comes in way behind the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD (216 ppi) and is miles behind the Nook HD (243 ppi). Also Apple is using older dual-core A5 chip that was in the iPad 2. Does that measure up to the quad-core Tegra 3 you find on some of the others? It depends on how you benchmark it. It some ways it's as good or better, and in others it lags behind.
There are other things to consider, of course, like ecosystems. There are 275,000 apps optimized specifically optimized for the iPad. For Android, it's in the low thousands (those almost all Android apps stretch just fine, they just might not look so great). Ditto for the Kindle and Nook. Yes, a lot of those apps are redundant, but the pattern has remained mostly consistent in that developers generally make apps for iOS first, and then follow up with Android, then put them in the in the Amazon or Nook stores whenever they get to it.
Lastly, but not least importantly, there's the price. Starting at $330, it's a lot more than the other tablets which are really good and start at only $200. Considering the lower specs, that may be a tough pill to swallow. Also, it's rumored that the 16GB Nexus 7 is going to drop to $200 next week, and a 32GB version will replace the 16GB at that $250 price point. Regardless, choosing the iPad will likely come down to how invested you are (and how invested you want to be) in the iOS ecosystem.