The iPad is too expensive. The Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 are too cheap. That seems to be the logic behind the iPad mini, the filling of a crucial void in our tablet lives. But after spending a week with it, I'm pretty sure the mini is less Goldilocks than it is Rapunzel: beautiful, flawed, and ultimately not worth the trouble.
Why It Matters
Just a year ago, small tablets were an aberration, a frontier trod by the cheap and flimsy likes of the original Kindle Fire, the Galaxy Tab, and a dozen other fun-sized failures from companies who couldn't—or just didn't want to—go head to head with the iPad on its own turf. Why hang out with Jaws when there's plenty of room in the kiddie pool?
But then some strange things happened. In late June, Google's Nexus 7 managed to pack unprecedented horsepower into the first tiny tablet that was actually good. Then, in September, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD stuffed the full force of its colossal ecosystem into a gorgeous seven-inch display. Neither is perfect, but at just $200, they're both appealing enough that 7-inchers—famously laughed off by Steve Jobs—started to take a huge bite out of Apple's market share. And that, in turn, forced Cupertino to respond with a tiny tyke of its own.