Apple just took the wraps off the heavily rumored iPad Mini. As I expected, it starts not at $249 or even $299, but $329. The big question: Is it worth the money?
That's a tricky question to answer when you factor in competing tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Barnes & Noble Nook HD, and Google Nexus--all of which start at $199. For many buyers, especially those looking for a tablet to go under the tree, that's too big a difference to ignore. Heck, the original Kindle Fire currently sells for just $159, literally less than half the price of a Mini. That said, I think Apple's new baby offers enough added value to warrant its higher price. Here are five reasons why I think the iPad Mini is a good deal:
1. Bigger Screen The Mini has a 7.9-inch screen. The Fire, Nook, and Nexus all have 7-inchers. Big deal, right? Actually, it is a big deal: as Apple pointed out, that seemingly small difference equates to considerably more viewing area (about 35%). The resolution may be a bit lower than the competition's, but at that size, I don't consider that a major factor.
2. Dual Cameras Like its bigger brethren, the iPad Mini sports front- and rear-facing cameras. That means you can not only engage in the likes of Skype and FaceTime, but also snap high-resolution photos and record 1080p video. The Kindles and Nooks have no cameras at all, while the Nexus has just a front-facing one.
3. Bluetooth and GPS Want to use your tablet with a wireless speaker? Or for on-the-go navigation? The Mini can handle both thanks to onboard Bluetooth and GPS (though the latter is available only on the 3G version). The Nexus has them as well, but the Fire HD has only Bluetooth, and the Nook HD has neither. I won't say these are make-or-break features for a tablet, but they're definitely nice to have.
4. Metal, Not Plastic Apple shoehorned the Mini into a pretty sweet-looking aluminum casing; its 7-inch competitors all use plastic. That's largely an aesthetic matter, but consider this: Although the Mini has a larger screen and metal casing, it still weighs a hair less than the smaller, all-plastic Google Nexus.
5. LTE Option As someone who spends 95% of his time in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, I don't really need cellular connectivity in a tablet. That said, the option is there in the iPad Mini, same as in all other iPads: If you're willing to pay more, you can get LTE wireless via AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. Cellular simply isn't available on the Nook or Nexus, and if you want it on a Kindle Fire, you'll have to buy the 8.9-inch Fire HD for $499.
So, yeah, much as I'm disappointed that the iPad Mini isn't $249, I think Apple is offering pretty good value at $329.
Is it perfect? Definitely not. As always, there's no way to expand the storage. iOS devices still can't handle Adobe Flash. And you're stuck with Apple's horrendous new Lightning connector, which renders all your previous accessories and cables obsolete.
My question for you: Will you buy the iPad Mini? Why or why not?
Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC World and Wired.