We have been huge fans of the Apple iPad since Day 1. After the iPad 2, we skipped the next few upgrades. It wasn’t that we didn’t like it; just the opposite. The iPad 2 was good enough for everything we need the tablet to do: surf the web; send/receive email; watch movies. We didn’t at that point need the latest and greatest. However we knew that someday, something would come along which would be so cool that we would open our wallet and say to Apple “Here… take our money!” Well, that day has come. The “cool gadget” that finally got us to part with our hard earned cash is…mentioned at the end of the article.
Before we could play with the gadget, though, we needed to upgrade our iPad2, because the iPad2 didn’t support it. So…the iPad Air or iPad mini Retina? We came down on the side of the iPad mini Retina, because it was cheaper, smaller, and different enough from the full-size iPad that we wanted to experience it. We knew that if we didn’t like it, we could unload it easily enough on Craigslist.
Here are a few of our impressions of the Apple iPad mini Retina after using it for a few months:
- Thinner than some of our pens
- Fantastic feel, fit, and finish
- Excellent performance, display quality, and battery life
There is one minor annoyance which most iPad owners will just have to put up with. The newer Apple gadgets come with a new smaller socket for power and connectivity, which is different than previous models/products. Even though we had to buy a $40 Lightning to 30-pin adapter in order to use the new iPad with some of our older accessories, we felt it was better than to “upgrade” them just because of a connector! Beware, there are some $5 adapters on Amazon and EBay, but those are typically only for power and data, not audio. So readers who want to hook up the new iPad to speakers and such will need to get the adapter from Apple.
To protect the new Apple iPad mini Retina, we had the interns do some research on worthy cases. They checked out offerings of some past vendors, investigated some new ones, and assembled a collection which they believe will be of interest to RainyDayMagazine readers:
- Apex360 and Lego cases from Belkin – AutoOn covers, integrated stands
- Drop Tech series from Gumdrop – Great grip, shock absorbing, integrated stand
- Defender from Otterbox – Complete protection, cover doubles as a stand
- VAULT from Pelican – Complete protection, hinged cover
- ZAGGKeys keyboard cover from ZAGG – Thinnest keyboard cover available
- Wireless keyboard case from iGear – Transformer-like keyboard case
Belkin has two cases the interns really liked. The first one is all business and the second is all play. For the serious folks, the rubberized APEX360 case offers excellent grip, fantastic shock protection, and an integrated stand capable of accommodating bot screen orientations. For those with a more playful heart, the interns suggest checking out Belkin’s LEGO Builder multi-colored case. The case is the thinnest of the bunch, but still offers great ding and scratch protection. However, this is the only case which features an official LEGO base plate… enabling LEGO bricks to be attached directly onto the iPad! Whimsical 🙂
For those who are gruffer with their tablets, Gumdrop’s Drop Tech series may be just the thing. The cases in this collection follow in the tradition of the larger ipad covers. The tread-like design provides excellent grip and protects against bumps and drops. There is even a version with a hide-away stand for angled hands-free viewing.
NOTE: The cases fit the body of the new iPad Mini with Retina display, however they cover the rear mic port.
While some people may be “tough” on their gear, there is a group whose treatment of their electronics which can only be described as “brutal.” It doesn’t mean that they are careless with them, only that they treat them as tools. This group often uses gear in unforgiving environments and situations where getting the job done is primary and staying scratch-free is just a bonus. For those applications, Otterbox and Pelican casese are the way to go.
Long-time RainyDayMagazine readers should be familiar with Otterbox’s Defender series. We have looked at many in this line since their launch, both for the iPhone and iPad. Otterbox Defender cases are throw-them-under-the-bus rugged.
Pelican is well-known to adventurers and photographers as a premier maker of waterproof cases for extreme conditions. In the civilian market, Pelican cases have typically been used for protecting gear in transport rather than during use. However, with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, they have branched out and created a line specifically for protecting mobile devices.
Like the Otterbox Defender, Pelican’s VAULT series offers protection against accidental drops, the elements, and other hazards. In order to lock the iPad into a protective shield and seal out the elements, the pieces of the case are held tightly together by metal screws. No click tabs for this bad boy. The cover will shield the iPad screen when closed, and thanks to the hinge design fold completely back and out of the way when desired. Those who need “bounce without breaking” protection for their gear would be interested to know that the Pelican VAULT has been “drop-tested” onto concrete from 6 feet and survived intact.
There is another segment of users who like having a physical keyboard with their tablet. Readers who fall into that category should check out the covers from ZAGG and iGear. These two companies have slightly different offerings, but we think they have perfected the keyboard/cover accessory, for those with hands small enough to be able to type on them.
The ZAGG Keyboard Cover is the thinner of the two. It has a hinge that grips the edge of iPad mini in such a way that it stays attached, converting the tablet into a laptop. We have had mixed-feelings about this setup in the past. Our objection was that the combo became just as heavy and thick as a laptop, negating one of the major benefit of a tablet. However, both tablets and keyboard are now much thinner and lighter. In fact, the iPad mini with a ZAGG Keyboard Cover is almost as thin as the orginal iPad, effectively rendering our original objection moot. Oh yeah, this ZAGG keyboard cover is also back-lit. How cool is that?
When paired with the iPad mini, the iGear Wireless Keyboard is slightly thicker and heavier than the ZAGG. Like the ZAGG, the iGear converts the tablet into a mini laptop. However, it has a feature which is unique to iGear: the iPad may be rotated and folded in such a way that the keyboard lies against the back of the iPad with the keys facing the iPad, making it…like a tablet. This feature is great because when in this configuration, the key are not exposed (meaning, you don’t inadvertantly start typing when holding the iPad, nor cause undue wear on the keys if you put in on a flat surface and use it like a tablet). Cooler than being back-lit? Maybe!
This is just a quick look at the collection. We will have a more detailed look at all of these cases soon.
And what IS the “cool gadget” that finally triggered the upgraded? It was the Intuos Creative Stylus from Wacom. This pressure-sensitive pen requires a later Bluetooth protocol (4.0) than that supported by the iPad 2. As we REALLY wanted to try the pen, we decided it was time to upgrade our iPad so we could give it a try. How is the Wacom pen? That is an article for another day…soon 🙂