iPad Mini with Retina Display Now Available

The new iPad mini with Retina display is now on sale in the online Apple Store. It became available early this morning, and then Apple sent out a press release later in the morning. The Apple Store shows shipping times as 1–3 business days for the 16GB and 32GB models, and 5–10 business days for the other models. According to the press release, if you want to buy the new mini by going to an Apple Store, you'll need to buy it online and then pick your purchase at the Apple Store. The press release says it's also available via authorized resellers such as cell phone carriers. A post by AppleInsider says that Apple Stores hadn't yet received stock of the mini as of this morning.

The availability today took everyone by surprise, since Apple had said in October that the new device would be available in "late November." However, it remains to be seen how plentiful Apple's supply is, and whether availability will quickly be constrained. In fact, Apple earlier acknowledged that it will have a hard time meeting demand for the Rretina iPad mini during the holiday season.

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According to the press release, Apple is hard at working trying to meet demand. “The response to iPad Air has been incredible, and we’re excited for customers to experience the new iPad mini with Retina display,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We think customers will love both of these thin, light, powerful new iPads, and we’re working hard to get as many as we can in the hands of our customers.”

The retina iPad mini starts at $399 for the 16GB WiFi model, with each additional memory increment adding $100. If you want a model that connects to the cellular data network, the cost is an additional $130.

According to Apple, a retina display was the most-requested feature for the mini. The resolution is at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, which is the same as the iPad Air. That means that, because of its smaller size, it actually has greater pixel density than the iPad Air. In fact, other than the screen size and the overall size and weight, the iPad mini is identical to the iPad Air.

The retina iPad mini and iPad Air both have the new 64-bit A7 processor and the M7 motion coprocessor. The new mini is four times faster for CPU tasks and eight times faster for graphics tasks compared to the first-generation mini. That’s a big jump. In fact, most people didn’t expect the mini to get the A7 chip, assuming it would get the A6. Fortunately, though, Apple skipped a generation and went with the A7.

When Apple touted the new A7 64-bit processor in the iPhone 5s, some critics said it was a gimmick that wouldn't mean much in terms of user experience. The critics were wrong. Subsequent testing showed that the iPhone 5s is the world's fastest smartphone. Everything simply works faster, from running apps to downloading videos. So it's big news that Apple is now using the chip in the new iPads.

The cameras have also been improved. The FaceTime camera has a new backside illumination sensor with larger pixels, which creates a brighter image and works better in low-light situations. In addition, the image signal processor in the new A7 makes many adjustments on-the-fly to automatically improve the quality of the iSight camera photos and videos. 

Other upgrades include dual microphones for better sound capture. Not only is recording enhanced, but Siri will be better able to understand you thanks to reduced background noise. The new mini also has dual-band wireless for faster WiFi speeds (if you have a dual-band router).

And finally, your purchase of a new mini will entitle you to download Apple's iLife and iWork suites for free.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.