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Less is more?

Apple goes mini and ups the power with two new iPads just in time for Christmas

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It was only in 2010 that Apple dropped its iPad bombshell on the world, changing the way people approach and use portable technology. Two-and-a-half years on, and with a new CEO at the helm, the manufacturer has garnered far less hype with its recent release of the iPad mini and iPad with Retina display. 

So has Apple turned sour? Or is it still at the top of the basket? Let's take a look at the two new iPads and see.

IPAD MINI

Rumours of a mini version of the coveted iPad have been circulating for a long time, as have prototypes around MBK. So it's strange that it materialises only now. Perhaps the tablet PC market is more mature and ready, which has been strongly indicated by the success of Samsung's Galaxy Note smartphones, both 1 and 2, that have sold beyond expectations. And Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7 have warmed up the market too by selling at a loss (in the hope of gains through content).

- The iPad mini has a 7.9in screen, is 7.1mm thin (compared to the original iPad's 13.3mm) and weighs just 310g, just fitting into a larger jacket pocket or handbag.

- It offers a 1,024x768 resolution, which is less than competitors but actually looks better somehow, even without Apple's Retina display technology on board.

- Inside is a 1GHz dual-core CPU with 512MB RAM, the same as the larger iPad 2, and a quad-core graphics processor, meaing smooth playback.

- A potential issue is text input via the keyboard, which is easier than on an iPhone, particularly in landscape mode, meaning Apple has got the dimensions right, balancing portability with screen size and keyboard size.

- It runs for almost 10 hours on a full charge, which takes under two hours.

VERDICT

With most boxes ticked, it seems Apple has predictably enough done its homework in terms of hardware. The only question remaining is whether the device is suited to consumers' needs, both in terms of the iOS (and app selection) and in terms of use. It's great for multimedia, both creating and consuming, and will steal some of this market away from the iPhone 5, especially current iPhone owners who aren't willing to update just yet. And it sits nicely between the company's iPhone and MacBook Air releases, meaning that the larger format iPads may eventually play second fiddle to the ultralight notebooks. It's a shame it's not a little cheaper, but with a Retina display update in the wings, its future looks bright.

IPAD WITH RETINA DISPLAY

One argument says that the iPad recipe ain't broke, so why fix it? Apple hasn't reinvented the wheel with its iPad update, as it is just that _ an update, calculatedly released to engage and lure the huge body of current and content iPad owners into a new model for Christmas.

Having said that, the hardware improvements are genuinely impressive. The A6X chipset is twice as fast, according to Apple, which means that the new iOS apps can utilise the power accordingly and stay up to date.

VERDICT

The new iPad is another well thought out release from Apple, with its new Lightning connector to match the iPhone 5 and update of processor. But as a portable device, it functions the same as earlier iPads. There are now three distinct Apple tablets on the market _ the iPad 2 (budget), the iPad with Retina display (premium) and the iPad mini (very portable, and the future). It's up to consumers to choose, as Apple still leads competitors in all three categories.


The iPad mini and iPad with Retina display are available in black and white from store.apple.com/th. See box for pricing. Email richardm@bangkokpost.co.th with any gadget-related musings.

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