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Review: Mighty iPad mini looks like a holiday hit

SAN JOSE, California -- Apple's iPad mini will bring a lot more excitement and a little more confusion to the holiday shopping season.

It only takes a few minutes playing with the iPad mini — which starts at US$329— to realize the scaled-down tablet computer will be a sure-fire hit with longtime Apple disciples and potential converts who've been looking for a more affordable entree into the mobile computing market.

The iPad mini is perfectly sized to be stuffed in Christmas stockings. It's 7.87 inches (20 centimeters) tall and 5.3 inches (13.4 centimeters) wide, compared with the full-size iPad, which is 9.5 inches (24.1 centimeters) by 7.31 inches (18.5 centimeters). Recipients who will discover the pleasure and convenience of being able to take pictures, surf the Web, watch video, read books and listen to music on an exquisitely designed device that's pancake thin.

As enticing as that all sounds, the iPad mini also causes a dilemma, albeit a pleasant one.

The new option will make it even more difficult for holiday shoppers to figure out which mobile device to buy for their loved ones — or for themselves.

I felt the pangs of indecision within a few minutes of picking up the iPad mini for the first time.

As the company usually does at its product unveilings, Apple Inc. only provided reporters with limited, strictly supervised access to the iPad mini on Tuesday. That meant I could only experiment with it for about 15 minutes, but as an experienced user of the iPad 2, I could quickly see that the smaller tablet does just about everything its bigger brethren does.

Even though the mini's 7.9-inch screen (measured on the diagonal) is 1.8 inches smaller than the standard iPad, the movie “The Avengers” looked lush, even in a side-by-side comparison with the larger tablet. When I pulled up the latest issue of The New Yorker, I didn't have to strain to see the text or pictures on the smaller screen. A quick check of other websites verified that the mini's screen isn't so tiny that it's going to cause a lot of squinting. After I took a very crisp picture of another reporter testing out a mini, I decided to email it to her to test how easy it was to use the keyboard on the smaller screen. No problem there. Best of all, the iPad mini can be held in one hand and is about half the weight of the larger iPad.

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Apple's iPad mini will bring a lot more excitement and a little more confusion to the holiday shopping season.



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