Well, Apple went and did it. It was long rumored, and now here it is: a smaller iPad. Alongside the Mini, Apple also slipped out a fourth generation iPad that's twice as fast as the iPad 3. Here are the deets on both.
The Slightly Smaller iPad Mini
The iPad Mini starts at $329, which makes it the cheapest iPad to date, but not a price-matched competitor of the Kindle Fire or new Nook tablets, which hover closer to $200.
The Mini sports a 7.9-inch screen with a 1024-by-768 resolution (163 pixels per inch), which just barely bests last year's iPad 2, but is a far cry from the Retina displays on the iPhone 5, iPad 3 and other Apple devices. The other iPad announced today, talked about below, nearly doubles the pixels-per-inch found on the iPad Mini, and on a screen that's two inches larger. By comparison, Barnes & Noble's lower-end tablet offering, the Nook Tablet HD, manages 243 pixels-per-inch on a 7-inch screen with a resolution of 1440-by-900. The Mini's processor, too, is an older one for Apple: the A5, which is the same chip that powers the iPad 2.
Despite my skepticism, here's this from The Verge's Joshua Topolsky, who got some hands-on time with the Mini:
"The display on the mini looks incredibly sharp, and even though the resolution is lower than the 3rd and 4th generation full-size iPad, it doesn't immediately seem like a 1024 x 768 display. The smaller, 7.9-inch surface area certainly helps squeeze the pixels."
At the very least, the Mini does well by it's name: it's super svelte at 7.2mm thick (Apple says that's thinner than a pencil, and in this digital age I have neither ruler nor pencil to test that) and weighs less than a pound at 0.68 lb. Like older iPads, there will be both Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi-and-3G models at capacities of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. You can see all the specs right here.
To be clear, the iPad Mini looks to be a decent little piece of hardware. That said, it doesn't do much to wow with its middle-of-the-road specs, and my bet is that you'd be better served waiting for an iPad Mini 2.
If you're interested, pre-orders start this Friday. The Wi-Fi models will be the first out of the gate on November 2, and 3G devices will surely follow shortly after that.
The Fourth-Gen iPad (Just Don't Call It An iPad 4)
If you got up to refresh your drink during Apple's event, you could have very well missed that the company just announced its next-gen iPad. Instead of pomp and fanfare, the new iPad quietly replaces the iPad 3 in the pantheon of Apple tablets, leaving the Mini as the cheapest option, the iPad 2 to hold it down in the middle and simply the "iPad with Retina display," formerly known as the iPad 3, to remain Apple's ceiling.
The iPad 3 just came out in March. The fourth generation iPad isn't helped by that short time span, with little more than a faster processor and some modest upgrades. The fourth-gen tablet carries Apple's new A6X, it's fastest mobile processor yet, which has twice the computing muscle of the A5X found in the iPad 3. The fourth-gen device also adds more robust Wi-Fi and a Lightning port.
The fourth generation iPad with its Retina display comes in the usual Wi-Fi (starting at $499) or 3G flavors (starting at $629), in capacities of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. They ship November 2.