The scores are in on Apple's unexpected update to the iPad 3 and the contentious iPad mini. Will these gadgets finally see the decline in Apple's fortunes, or will the juggernaut continue?
Scoring the Future
In one of the busiest months in technology for some years, the shelves are soon to be groaning with new hardware. We've seen a whole raft of new Apple products, a competing line-up from Google and Microsoft's rebirth as a hardware vendor with Surface, plus Amazon's and B&N's recent updates.
That leaves a buying public already up to the eyeballs with gadgets with a staggering amount of choice. Given the prolonged economic uncertainty, most may well be perfectly happy to keep on going with what they've got. Smartphone contracts will be ticking over, tablets are getting full use or discarded in drawers, so what's the point in a power upgrade that will hardly ever be used?
However, those with first generation tablets will be looking for something new. Those that have seen other family members pilfering the home tablet have a good excuse for an additional model, and folk who just live for gadgets will have been saving all year for this time of year.
Those in the market, may well already be decided on what they want, perhaps following brand or ecosystem lines, in which case their choices are neat and inevitable. But for those undecided, open-minded or looking for a change, the reviews are now out to help decide.
Ticking the Mini Boxes
The iPad mini reviews are the ones that anyone interested in technology will be most keen on, largely because of the perceived chink in Apple's armor. With a lower-resolution display and higher price, it appears to be at the mercy of cheaper rivals.
The Verge review (scoring a 9.0) encapsulates that feeling neatly; "Regardless of market positioning, the iPad mini has to be viewed in a world with a $199 Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD — two strong performers that are a far cry, at least in price, from the iPad mini. Even though Apple might want consumers to see these as separate product categories, consumers may only see that $129 gulf."
While Engadget's covers concerns about the reduced (or should that be retro) power found the iPad mini; "Apps do load more slowly but most are still up and running within a second or two and when it comes to general web surfing tasks the iPad mini easily kept up with our taps and swipes."
Meanwhile, CNET's review (scoring 4/5) makes a good point about the iPad mini's screen aspect ratio. "Apple's made a big deal of this, but let me tell you the real killer apps here: the future of digital publications. Textbooks. Basically, any layout-sensitive graphically intensive e-books. The iPad Mini doesn't squish that content down like it often is on 16:10 7-inch screens."
There are many more reviews out there with endless cross-comparing against the rivals, I'll leave it to the New York Times to perhaps make the best point, without directly mentioning them. "You could argue that the iPad Mini is what the iPad always wanted to be."
Full Fat iPad Takes on Nexus 10
While there are a huge number of reviews for the mini, the new fourth-generation iPad seems to be having a far quieter reception, perhaps highlighting the lack of need for it in the market. Engadget has put one together, highlighting the doubling of performance in benchmarks and improved battery life.
That seems to be the highlight of the practical improvements, but surely you wouldn't ditch a perfectly healthy iPad 3 for that luxury (and pay out for all the Lightning connectors you'll want)? Still, in the fight for king of the tablets against the likes of the Nexus 10 (see CNET's review), every tick box counts. For a more direct comparison, see Tech Radar's piece.
So we don't appear biased, here's a comparison between Surface and the iPad (with a slight gaming bent) in case you were considering that option. Many more reviews will be posted over the coming days, but they seems somewhat superflous. The consensus is already building that all the "bad" products have already been killed off, leaving only the survivors in a power arms-race, with existing users already having picked a side.
Those new to the game will more likely get advice from their friends and peers than a website review anyway, and those looking to switch should have a pretty good idea what they want. What are your planned purchases (for your or your family/friends) this holiday season? Does any one device stand out above the rest?