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Hands-on the iPad Mini: Light, smooth and quite shiny

The iBooks library is seen on an iPad mini.

Shane Dingman/The Globe and Mail

There was something both famililar and a little different in my experience with the iPad Mini.

In my first impression of the shape and fit of the device, which was unveiled on Tuesday after months of speculation, it felt more like a blown up iPod Touch than a shrunken iPad. Light, smooth and quite shiny.

It is also a heck of a solid build. Ever since I learned the Google Nexus 7 (which has a plastic back case) could flex dangerously in your hands, I give all the new devices I see a good hard twist. I surreptitiously reefed hard on the opposite corners of the Mini and didn't feel any movement whatsoever.

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That back plate was slick-smooth, but the edges felt less angular than the iPad 2. The rim of the device has the same chamfered edge that showed up on the new iPhone 5, that near seamless jewel-cut look (obviously bigger here) and fit between glass and aluminum case.

The edge provided an okay non-slip grip for that one-handed hold Apple's slideshows were showing off. However, you will need a pretty substantial paw to do that, and good luck holding that thing in landscape. Safe to say unlike the iPod Touch, you can't hold this thing at the bottom edge and type with your thumb, unless you have an extra knuckle or something.

During the presentation Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller said it was as light as a notepad, but it feels even lighter than the yellow legal pads he showed to illustrate his point. I'd wager it is lighter than one of those 8-inch Moleskine notebooks, to me it felt the same weight as my old iPhone 4S.

The screen is the same pixel resolution as the older iPads, we heard it was 1024 x 768, the typical iPad 4:3 ratio rather than iPhone 5's 16:9. But the bezel thins along the portrait edges, widening for the home button and the FaceTime camera.

Some other iPhone 5 style cues showed up here: The black version has the same all-matte powder-coat colouring on the back panel, and the white version has the same pearly home-button and silver volume rocker buttons. Both versions had the same speaker grill as the iPhone 5: two double-rows of fairly big holes on the bottom of the device instead of the old mesh perforation.

My first take on the new smart cover wasn't as positive. I had trouble getting the thing to stay on as I folded it, and it didn't do much for me as a stand either.

But are you surprised by any of this? The bigger story would be if it didn't work, or felt off and unbalanced. Apple makes good hardware, it was clearly no challenge for them to make a medium-sized version of their touch-screen design.

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About the Author
Technology reporter

Shane Dingman is The Globe and Mail's technology reporter. He covers BlackBerry, Shopify and rising Canadian tech companies in Waterloo, Ont., Toronto and beyond. More


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