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Apple iPad mini

Small Grows Up

Rating: 9/10 Nearly flawless

  • The iPad mini with Retina display is roughly the same size as the original. It’s ever-so-slightly thicker, and has a little bit more heft, weighing in at .75 pounds for the LTE model and .73 for Wi-Fi only.
  • WIRED

Gorgeous 2048 x 1536 pixel display. 10-plus hour battery life will more than serve your cross-country plane flight, or close to a week of casual daily use. A7 processor (with M7 co-processor) offers more power than you may ever need on a 7-inch tablet. Tons of Retina-optimized apps to choose from.

TIRED

Pricey — similar sized and specced tablets go for closer to $200. Stereo speakers both located on one end of the device. Would be nice if it had TouchID like the iPhone 5s, but with the problems cropping up related to that feature lately, we’re wondering if not including it was a smart move after all.

This is the iPad mini we’ve all been waiting for.

When the first generation iPad mini debuted last year, it was a terrific product. Apple’s first stab at a smaller tablet looked more far more elegant than the competition, managed to squeeze a larger 7.9-inch display in a traditionally 7-inch tablet form factor, and featured remarkable battery life. But its 1024 x 768 resolution display was a major let down compared to the Retina displays on the iPhone and full size iPad, as well as the growing number of HD screen-sporting Android tablets. And inside, a two-generations-old A5 chip powered the tablet — nothing too shabby, but not really impressive, either.

Apple stepped up its game for this year’s iPad mini. The new mini is essentially the same tablet as the 9.7-inch iPad Air, right down to its 2048 x 1536 resolution Retina display. It’s just packed into a smaller package. A new A7 processor meshes with iOS 7 to create a super-powerful slate that gets all-day battery life. The only real difference between the two is the pared-down size, and the $100 cheaper starting price.

The iPad mini with Retina display is roughly the same size as the original. It’s ever-so-slightly thicker, and has a little bit more heft, weighing in at .75 pounds for the LTE model and .73 for Wi-Fi only. Last year’s model weighed .68 pounds.

Compared to Google’s flagship 7-incher, the Nexus 7, the mini is about a tenth of a pound heavier, but marginally thinner, while squeezing in a larger 7.9 inch display. It’s comfortable to wield one-handed, but I feel less confident waving it around than I would a tablet with a slightly rubberized back. The aluminum is more attractive visually, but “soft touch”-type materials like you see on the Nexus 7 are, well, handy.

While the Nexus 7 sports an excellent 1920 x 1200 resolution display, the screen on the new mini looks even better. Side by side, there’s just no comparison. And the old iPad mini might as well be 8-bit compared to the pixel-packed Retina screen. It’s obvious in graphics — the icons in Safari, app icons on the homescreen — as well as in text, which doesn’t render nearly as well on the old iPad mini. On the Retina mini, text maintains crystal clarity even when zoomed in to a ridiculous level. In an HD Planet Earth video, the definition of pebbles on a beach and leaves on trees are razor sharp, creating a greater sense of depth than the old mini’s display.

At 100 percent brightness, I only lost about 10 percent battery life per hour while watching Netflix over Wi-Fi. Streaming a 1080p HD YouTube video over Wi-Fi ate up even less — more like 8 percent per hour. Streaming Rdio and other lower intensity tasks like reading and web surfing made a minimal dent in battery life. Apple’s 10-hour promise seems right on target, if not at the low end of what its 23.8 Watt-hour battery can deliver.

“The old iPad mini might as well be 8-bit compared to the new pixel-packed Retina screen.”

The device can get noticeably warm during CPU intensive activities like heavy gaming or HD playback, but not alarmingly so. And it handles those activities swimmingly. Situations where I noticed ever-so-slight stuttering on last year’s model, the 2013 iPad mini handled with aplomb. Again, it’s basically an iPad Air but packed into a smaller package, which is kind of mind blowing.

For a 7.9-inch tablet, the stereo speakers are exceptionally powerful, but they still don’t have the depth and bass you’d get from a pair of dedicated speakers — no surprises there. While stereo (each speaker is positioned on either side of the lightning port at the bottom of the device) they’re still located on the same end of the device, so if you’re watching a film in landscape mode, you only get sound from one end. I find this a bit irksome.

When I reviewed the iPad Air after getting my hands on the iPhone 5s, I was largely struck by its lack of TouchID. But between using the Air more regularly, and seeing some inconsistencies with TouchID arise, I’m far less affected by the Retina mini’s lack of a fingerprint sensor than I was before. Although, it would be convenient.

While the Retina mini doesn’t include 802.11ac Wi-Fi like Apple’s notebook offerings, the company did addMIMO to the mini (and the Air), which means it can share or receive more data in parallel, and maintain a strong Wi-Fi signal farther away from the base station. Indeed, videos loaded faster on the Retina mini than on the first gen model, and apps downloaded noticeably quicker.

The iPad mini is exactly the type of product we expect from Apple. Stunning good looks, a display so high resolution it’d take a magnifying glass to pick out the pixels, and unparalleled performance. This is the smaller iPad that should have debuted last year, but hey, better late than never.

Photos: Josh Valcarcel/WIRED

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The Economist Magazine Special report: Personal technology  Beyond the PC

Mobile digital gadgets are overshadowing

the personal computer, says Martin Giles.

Their impact will be far-reaching.

IF YOU HAVE a phone, these days even space is within reach. Last year Luke Geissbühler and his son, who live in Brooklyn, popped a high-definition video camera and an Apple iPhone into a sturdy protective box with a hole for the camera’s lens. They attached the box to a weather balloon, which they released about 50 miles (80km) outside New York City, after getting the approval of the authorities. The balloon soared into the stratosphere and eventually burst. A parachute brought it to the ground. By tracking the iPhone’s inbuilt global positioning system, the Geissbühlers were able to retrieve the box and the video of their “mission”, which shows the curvature of the planet clearly. The results can be seen at www.brooklynspaceprogram.org.

The iPhone and other smartphones are proving extremely useful on Earth too. These devices, which let people download and install applications, or “apps”, from online stores run by phonemakers, telecoms companies and others, are starting to displace ordinary mobile phones in many countries. Ofcom, Britain’s telecoms regulator, recently reported that more than one in four adults there uses a smartphone. Nielsen, a market-research firm, reckons the devices make up the majority of mobile-phone purchases in America. Emerging markets are embracing them as well: in Indonesia, BlackBerry handsets made by Canada’s Research in Motion (RIM) have become a status symbol among the country’s fast-growing middle class.

Sales of tablet computers, though still small, are also growing rapidly. Since Apple’s iPad arrived last year, a host of rivals have appeared, such as RIM’s Playbook, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Sony’s Tablet. All eyes are now on Amazon’s Kindle Fire. With smartphones, which seem to be surgically attached to the hand of every teenager and many an adult, tablets have opened up a new dimension to mobile computing that is seducing consumers. Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, believes that in 2011 combined shipments of smartphones and tablets will overtake those of personal computers (PCs).

The revolution is mobile

This marks a turning-point in the world of personal technology. For around 30 years PCs in various forms have been people’s main computing devices. Indeed, they were the first machines truly to democratise computing power, boosting personal productivity and giving people access, via the internet, to a host of services from their homes and offices. Now the rise of smartphones and tablet computers threatens to erode the PC’s dominance, prompting talk that a “post-PC” era is finally dawning.

PCs are not about to disappear. Forecasters expect 350m-360m of them to be sold this year and the market is likely to keep growing, if slowly. With their keyboards, big screens and connectivity to the web, PCs are still ideal for many tasks, including the writing of this article. And they continue to evolve, cheap, light “ultrabooks” being the latest in a long line of innovations. Even so, the Wintel era—dominated by PCs using Microsoft’s Windows operating system and Intel’s microchips—is drawing to a close. The recent news that HP, the world’s largest computer-maker, is thinking of spinning off its PC business to focus on

A new tech landscape is taking shape that offers consumers access to computing almost anywhere and on many different kinds of device. Smartphones are at the forefront of this change. The Yankee Group, a research firm, thinks that sales of these phones will overtake those of ordinary “feature” phones in many more countries in the next few years. But other kinds of machine, from Microsoft’s Xbox 360 gaming console, which allows gamers to contact friends while they play, to web-enabled television sets, are also helping people stay connected.

In part, this emerging array of devices reflects changes in society. As people come to rely more heavily on the web for everything from shopping to social networking, they need access to computing power in many more places. And as the line between their personal and their work lives has blurred, so demand has grown for devices that can be used seamlessly in both.

The consumer is king

The rise of tablets and smartphones also reflects a big shift in the world of technology itself. For years many of the most exciting advances in personal computing have come from the armed forces, large research centres or big businesses that focused mainly on corporate customers. Sometimes these breakthroughs found their way to consumers after being modified for mass consumption. The internet, for instance, was inspired by technology first developed by America’s defence establishment.

Over the past ten years or so, however, the consumer market has become a hotbed of innovation in its own right. “The polarity has reversed in the technology industry,” claims Marc Andreessen, a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist whose firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has invested in several consumer companies, including Facebook and Twitter. Now, he says, many exciting developments in information technology (IT) are appearing in the hands of consumers first and only then making their way into other arenas—a trend that tech types refer to as the “consumerisation” of IT.

The transformation may not be quite as dramatic as Mr Andreessen’s remark implies. Armies, universities and other institutions still spend vast sums on research, the fruit of which will continue to nourish personal technology. Moreover, this is not the first time that individuals have taken the lead in using new gadgets: the first PCs were often sneaked into firms by a few geeky employees.

Nevertheless there are good reasons for thinking that the latest round of consumerisation is going to have a far bigger impact than its predecessors. One is that rising incomes have created a vast, global audience of early adopters for gadgets. Around 8m units of the Kinect, a Microsoft device that attaches to the Xbox and lets people control on-screen action with their body movements, were sold within 60 days of its launch in November 2010. No consumer-electronics device has ever sold so fast, according to Guinness World Records. “These people will absorb new technology on a scale that is simply quite stunning,” says Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s head of research and strategy.

The cost of many gadgets is falling fast, giving another fillip to consumption. Smartphones priced at around $100—after a subsidy from telecoms companies, which make money on associated data plans—are starting to appear in America. The cheapest Kindle, an e-reader from Amazon, sells for $79, against $399 for the first version launched in 2007. The cost of digital storage has also fallen dramatically. A gigabyte (GB) of storage, which is roughly enough to hold a two-hour film after compression, cost around $200,000 in 1980; today a disk drive holding a terabyte, or 1,024GB, costs around $100.

The growth of the internet and the rapid spread of fast broadband connectivity have also transformed the landscape. So has the rise of companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon, whose main aim is to delight individuals rather than businesses or governments. Apple, in particular, has been to the fore in the democratisation of IT, creating a host of impressive devices such as the iPhone and the iPad. Much of the credit for its success goes to Steve Jobs, who stood down in August as its chief executive.

Techtonic shifts

This special report will examine in more detail the forces underlying the reversal in polarity to which Mr Andreessen refers and how they are affecting individuals, businesses and governments. The combination of new devices with pervasive connectivity and plentiful online content is raising citizens’ expectations of what personal technology can achieve. And it is leading them to bring their own devices into the workplace, where some of the technology they are expected to use now seems antediluvian by comparison. This trend is challenging companies to rethink their IT departments’ habit of treating employees as digital serfs who must do as they are told.

The burgeoning global market for smart consumer technology is also inspiring an outpouring of entrepreneurial energy that will create many more remarkable products. And it is encouraging organisations of all kinds to adapt innovations from the consumer world for their own ends. Companies are setting up online app stores for their employees; hospitals are handing out specially modified smartphones to nurses; soldiers are trying out tablet computers to control drones and experimenting with “battlefield apps”. Many more such opportunities are likely to emerge as the technological and economic forces behind this popular computing revolution gather steam.

Connect to maplesweet.com, e-mail info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 1-800-525-7965 to arrange for showings,  list your property,  or look further into Vermont’s real estate market and using your own technology to access property.

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If your property is already listed for sale with another real estate agency, this is not intended as a solicitation of that agency’s listing.

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