Fancy an iPad? Get the Mini

Shortly before Apple announced the first iPad the rumour mill was hard at work; we all knew it was coming. I was sat in the pub with my Dad and his friend, who asked me what I thought – would it be a success? To me, there was no doubt it would be a winner. To my Dad's friend, it looked like the biggest flop since the Newton.

An iPad pays for itself

I'm not normally an early adopter of new hardware, but the first iPad was different. I'd spent a small fortune on technical books over the years, and in an attempt to reduce the metres of bookshelf required to house them I'd long since switched to buying my technical books in electronic form.

The problem was, I wasn't reading them. Slouching in front of my computer, leaning on my elbows, I'd rarely make it through two pages before giving up to browse the web. The iPad was an obvious solution.

At the time my ebook collection was predominantly in the PDF format, typically produced for A4 or US Letter paper. The iPad seemed like an ideal size for reading a digital version of an A4 sheet; not too big to carry around but big enough that I could read each page without pinching and zooming.

Paying a few hundred pounds to unlock my digital library seemed like a bargain. If all I used an iPad for was educating myself with all this content, it would be well worth the investment. No, better than that. It would make me money – all I had to do was read.

Why upgrade?

That first iPad served me well.

When the second generation came out I couldn't understand why people would want to upgrade. It was thinner. So what? I'd put mine in a chunky leather case that let me prop it up at any angle I chose, and that was far more useful than "thinner". Apparently it was faster, but performance of the iPad 1 just wasn't an issue.

When the iPad 3 came out I took a look at the retina screen, thought "nice" but still didn't feel compelled to upgrade. It would be a waste of money. It wouldn't actually change anything.

Last weekend, I bought an iPad Mini.

There's only one significant difference: Size.

For reading technical books, it's far better. Why?

  1. Most of my technical library is now available in ePub format, so I rarely want to squeeze an entire A4 page onto the screen. Now that text can be resized and flows smoothly between the pages, crisp lettering has become more important.
  2. The Mini has the same number of pixels as the iPad 1, but they're squeezed onto a smaller screen. Text is crisper and easier to read. Granted, it's not as crisp as a retina, but it's plenty good enough.
  3. The Mini is a lot lighter. Holding the iPad 1 for long periods of time required two hands and a good grip.

And it's not just books. I've already managed to fly through a big backlog of Instapaper'd articles, learning a lot of useful stuff in the process.

For everything else, it's just a lot more likely to be with me when I need it. Having recently switched to an Android phone I'm finding I don't have my todo list (Things) with me as often as I'd like. At least now I'll have it a bit more often.

The only time I'd prefer a bigger iPad is when watching films, but I tend to do that on a laptop. The iPlayer is better on a 10" screen, but it's perfectly watchable (and the speakers are better) on my Mini.

Picking a colour

If you're going to get one but can't choose a colour, the black one is gorgeous. I had a quick look at the white ones on my way out of the store, but was seriously underwhelmed. For some reason the white ones sold out sooner. God knows why – maybe they overstocked on black?

This is obviously personal preference. Ignore me.

Choosing the colour of your smart cover is harder. I thought I'd go for blue or green, but when faced with a wall of colour I surprised myself with the red one. It looks great.

I love feedback and questions — please feel free to get in touch on Mastodon or Twitter, or leave a comment.

Published on