Retina iPad Mini: Is it Worth its Extra Weight, However Slight?

If you're a fan of the iPad mini and you followed Apple's iPad announcement today, you may believe you've gotten everything you could wish for in the next-generation mini. It boasts a Retina display (a feature users have been nothing short of demanding from Apple), an improved 5-megapixel camera, plus the all-new 64-bit A7 processor just introduced with the iPhone 5s. But before you celebrate, it's worth looking at what made the iPad mini so desirable in the first place.

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Unlike the iPad, the mini is small enough to wrap one hand around and is light enough to hold for a long time, with a razer-thin profile of 0.28 inches and feather-light weight of just 0.68 pounds. Its thin bezels give way to an expansive screen, making it great for watching movies, playing games, and viewing photos. Any mini user would tell you that the #1 best thing about the device is that it's incredibly lightweight but has a big presence.   

As iMore reported leading up to today's announcement, "The appeal of the iPad mini is simple: It’s roughly half the weight and volume of the full-sized iPad... If the iPad mini’s appeal is being thin and light, it can’t put on too much weight in order to power that Retina display."

While Apple shared detailed tech specs of the lighter-than-ever iPad Air today, it didn't say much about the specs of the mini. As it turns out, the iPad mini is actually slightly heavier and thicker than the first-generation mini Apple introduced to us one year ago. The increase is very slight, at just 0.05 pounds, but considering the whole device is well under a pound, any change is worth noting.

To be fair, the increased weight and girth of the new device could be imperceptible to many users. Nevertheless, I'd like a chance to play with the new iPad mini to see for myself if the extra weight and girth changes my experience.

All in all, Apple has overcome a number of challenges facing the upgraded mini in order for it to ship this November.

Leading up to today's announcement, the Apple rumor mill has had split opinions as to whether Apple could pull off the switch to a Retina display. A Reuters report said there were were delays in the supply chain due to strict power saving standards and cost cutting measures. Some believed Apple would have to delay the launch of the mini until next year.

And it was only one year ago it was widely believed it was impossible to fit a Retina display into the mini. As Renie Ritchie of iMore said shortly after its release, “Apple might have been able to put a Retina display in the iPad mini, but it would require it to be as thick and almost as heavy, and cost almost as much, as the iPad 4... When technology and costs allow for a thin, light, cheap iPad mini with a Retina display and the same great battery life, we'll get one."

It appears that day has already come, that is, if you consider the beginning price point of $399 for 16GB cheap. 

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Donna Cleveland is the editor in chief of iPhone Life magazine. After a stint as a newspaper reporter, she became web editor at iPhone Life, where she continues to pair her penchant for storytelling with her love of Apple products. Donna holds a masters degree from the University of Iowa School of Journalism & Mass Communication. She also co-hosts the feminist podcast Women & Radio.