My iPad Mini 2 Retina Review
Forgive any rambling, I am just putting my thoughts and experiences down on virtual paper in the order that I was thinking them. Hopefully it will make sense and give insight as to an Android fanboy's perspective on the newer iPads and tablet scene in general... Make sure to read to the end where there are updates that I added weeks after getting the device, with some additional observations.
When the iPhone first hit the scene, it was ground-breaking. Small improvements were made over time, but by the time of the iphone 3G S, I was getting tired of the lack of features... no copy and paste, no sending pics via MMS instead of email, no multitasking, little tiny screen, having to rely on iTunes, no expansion of storage, no using it like a thumb drive, no ability to set default apps, the list goes on... There was also the issue of it being on AT&T and getting 8-10 dropped calls per day(tried 3 different iPhones), regardless of where I was or signal strength...
I am used to PC's, not Macs. I am used to getting whatever hardware I want and doing what I want with it. I couldn't stand being dictated to in how I would be allowed to use it, and seeing competitors offering the features I wanted, while Apple stuck their fingers in their ears and kept pushing the status quo... Apple seemed more like a lifestyle brand... like what Harley Davidson is to the motorcycle world... They cater (mostly) to people that put image and status over quality and performance, etc...* And while nobody can claim that you can't make money hand over fist doing business that way, it just wasn't for me. I don't care about the lifestyle, I want cutting edge performance and functions for my money, not a status symbol.
The iPhone seemed more like a toaster... It's made to do a few specific things, but you can't use it for something else, it will always be a toaster... I felt like Apple knows that they have a core of cult-like followers that will shell out top dollar for anything with an Apple logo on it, even if it is barely different than the product that they already own...
So I finally moved to Verizon and went to Android. First couple phones were decent, but from 2012 on, Apple couldn't hold a candle to what was available with Android. More options, better phones with nicer screens and useful features that Apple fans wanted, but Mr Jobs decided that they should have to wait a couple years for... And each generation, the gap widened. Android phones now are so far ahead of anything Apple has on the table. Nicer screens, better cameras, expansion, better battery life, IR blasters, HDMI ports, the ability to access from any USB port like a thumb drive, etc... The QHD Super AMOLED screens blow the Retina out of the water. But today, with with Android having 82% of the global market, and Apple now going to larger screens and adopting most of the Android features from 2 years ago, they obviously see the light and are trying to catch up.
That said, I assumed that the same was true for the tablet world. I had an original Nexus 7, and then decided to get a Windows Tablet, a Dell Venue 11 Pro 64GB... Nice enough, ran full windows and I could plug it into my Ducati's ECU to program and diagnose the bike, etc... But even with the Win 8.1 update, you just never feel like it was really meant for touch screens. It's this weird in between feel that doesn't cater to either mode of use as well as it could or should.
So this time around I read up a lot, went and played with different devices and decided to leave Windows and go back to an Android tablet. I considered the Galaxy S series and I was also intrigued by the NVidia Shield tablet running their crazy Tegra K1 SoC... The fastest mobile graphics processor that you can buy in a tablet. Plays near desktop quality games, lots of cool features, console mode, front facing speakers... a solid tablet and for gaming, nothing can touch it. You aren't playing Half Life 2 on another other tab, that's for sure, but the Shield Tablet can handle it without breaking a sweat...
So I went back and forth between the Galaxy S 8.4 and the Shield. The Galaxy has the best screen I have ever seen on a tablet. It's amazing. But the battery life wasn't stellar and the Shield was faster and $100 cheaper, and offers more in the way of accessories and options, HDMI port, console mode, game pad controller, built in stylus, etc...
Got it home, and it was ok. It is certainly fast, but in upgrading to Lollipop it made the tablet buggy and there is no way to roll it back unless you want to void the warranty and root it, etc... To have to do that on a brand new $300 tablet, just to get it to work properly, seemed like BS to me. Tried tons of things to fix it, but just couldn't get it to not be laggy at times. I upgraded my Note 4 to Lollipop, and it made one of the best phones ever made, even better. But not so on the tablet... I considered the Galaxy Tab S again, but I already have the Note 4, so that just seemed like a slightly larger version of what I have, without the phone built in.
So I went back and looked at the iPad Mini 2 Retina... I really thought hard about it... you know, going back to the “dark side”... It was a couple bucks more for the 32gb version, and you are giving up some things, make no mistake... 4:3 screen less ideal for movies... no front speakers... Limited storage, having to deal with iTunes, so not as easy as an Android tablet that can just plug into any USB port and drag and drop whatever you want to it or the SD card like a thumb drive... No HDMI port, non-standard proprietary plug that Apple insists on using just to increase revenue streams... No widgets or true interactive UI...
The desktop of the OS is just a slab with icons scattered about, no real multitasking or real time data widgets...
So in a lot of ways, the iPad is way behind the times, mainly because iOS is a couple years behind the curve. Having it next to my Note 4, it really does draw a stark contrast in just how dated iOS is(even with the update to 8.3), but it does work well enough. I do miss having widgets, as they are very useful.
However, the iPad looks amazing. The built quality is probably the best out there. Besides the crude UI and lack of widgets, it is simple and elegant. It is fast, smooth and seamless... It just plain WORKS for all of your basic browsing, email, media consumption and lite gaming needs. It's a fantastic tablet.
Super screen and performance, and about as big as you want while still being able to palm it in one hand. Despite the lack of front facing stereo speakers, the sound is loud and excellent quality. Yeah, it doesn't have an HDMI port, but there's an iPad version of Chromecast...
The iOS version of Microsoft Office is actually much better than the Android one currently...
As for the selection of apps, both platforms have so many apps that it's pretty much irrelevant. With Android dominating the planet, there really isn't anything on iOS than there isn't an Android version of.
I wouldn't trade my Android phones for anything from Apple. Apple still has a lot of catching up to do in several areas... But as far as tablets go, I don't feel that Android is as far along in maturity as their phones are.
Here I feel, Apple still has the edge. They are not perfect or without limitations, but for general purpose work, I don't regret returning my Shield tablet and picking up a Mini2 Retina. Yeah, it isn't as feature packed as the Android tablets, but in this price range, it's a higher quality, more refined product...
One thing that I notice, is that the Mini2 Retina's graphics performance is nowhere near the Tab S or Shield. It looks great and is smooth in the UI, but when you run a video benchmark... take Antutu or something and look at the 3D game portions of the test and watch the screen's FPS on the bottom left corner, they are typically in the mid 20's...*
To compare, both my Note 4 and the Shield Tablet I had, are typically hitting 59-60fps, which I think is the limit of what the display itself can show, so it may be faster, but it is capped at 60fps to match the 60hz frequency of the display...
That's a huge difference!*
The overall score in Antutu on my Mini2 Retina, is 27,757... My Note 4 is over 52,000 and the NVidia tablet was almost 57,000. So, a huge difference. I think that the Tab S is in the mid 40,000 range...
Not that benchmarks are the end all be all of anything, but there is a pretty pronounced difference in graphics performance... And the Note 4 is running a much higher resolution than the iPad... 2560x1440 or something whacky... At almost double the PPI...
So if you want to do gaming, that could be a deciding factor.*
In lite games, watching movies and everyday normal tablet duties, the iPad is buttery smooth and fluid. But in a higher end game with lots of eye candy, the Android tablets and even phones bring a lot more muscle to the table...
From a hardware perspective, the iPad has the quality and style. But Android has the muscle, options and is way more cutting edge. What holds the Apple devices back, is the OS.
The Android OS has a huge advantage over iOS. iOS has added some pull down menus and notifications, but overall it isn't much different than it was in 2007. It's a desktop with icons laying all about that you can thumb through and launch one at a time...
Android has the ability to have more than one app actually running and on the screen at the same time... so have a word processor open or email, while watching a YouTube video... At the same time. Seeing things as they happen, rather than launching apps one at a time... Its so much easier to get things done on Android for power users, because you have true multitasking abilities.
With iOS, no interactive UI and desktop with true multitasking and real-time widgets displaying data that matters to you... The experience on my Note 4 is light years ahead of the iPhone 6... It knows when it is in my pocket as opposed to being on the desk or table, so it doesn't lock when it is in my pocket. It knows if I am in my car, so it unlocks there as well. I have widgets displaying my calendar or flight info, updates from news feeds, weather, anything really... all on the desktop, all in real-time... no having to launch each app one at a time to see what is going on...
Google Now is the tool that Siri should have been. It is faster and actually works. Siri is a gimmick for the most part, to entertain you and to amuse your friends, but when you want a tool that WORKS, you use Google Now.
Apple Maps? LOL It's a joke. Every time someone gets lost on the way to my house, I tell them to turn off Apple Maps and use Google Maps and so far I have never been wrong. I can tell what phone they have by how many dropped calls they get or whether they get lost on the way here. haha
I think that Apple is still 2 years behind Android in the phone area, but they still have the edge in the tablet area.
It does lack features... no MicroSD... no HDMI... Speakers on bottom instead of front... The iPad uses the same 4:3 aspect ratio as a 1950's television... Still relies on iTunes(which sucks), and no real ability to use it as a portable USB drive...
But the build quality is top notch, it is simple, elegant, and it works very well. I think that for a general purpose tablet, Apple has the better product, for now at least.
I got the 32GB version, which obviously limits what I can do with it, but it will suffice. I think that I made the right choice going back to Apple for my tablet needs.
As a general media consumption platform, the iPad is a fantastic product. Clean, stable, more mature and more refined than any Android tablet that I have sampled. If you have to have the latest cutting edge platform, with customization and a host of hardware options to pick from, Android is going to be the better route, especially if you have a Steam account and want to use it as a mobile gaming platform.
If you are like most folks and just want a media consumption appliance, that while limited, does what it does very well, in a really slick and intuitive fashion, then the iPad is the clear winner, in this Andoid fanboy's humble opionion. If you are a power user and want customization, more control over the device and the best performance and list of features, then Android, or even the Windows Surface line of tablets is the clear winner.
Apple/iPad final opinions:
Elegant, premium build quality
Simple to use
Amazing battery life
Excellent screen and image quality
Tons of aftermarket accessories
UI is very outdated and lacks industry standard widgets and features, customization, etc...
No Micro SD slot for expansion, if you want more space you have to buy a new tablet
No HDMI port
No ability to seamlessly function with any USB port for easy file transfer
Heavy reliance on iTunes
Screen quality, while good, is not as good as Samsung's Super AMOLED displays
4:3 screen aspect ratio isn't up to par with industry standard 16:9 movie formats
Speakers, while decent quality, are not stereo(in landscape mode) or front facing for watching movies
Update #1, it is 5pm on Friday, and the iPad has been off the charger since 8am on Monday. I have used it every day... not all day, but an hour or two each day, and it has been off the charger for almost 5 days, and I still have 28% batter left. And I don't have the brightness turned way down, or even on auto setting. It's at about 45% brightness which is perfect for anything but direct sunlight... nice and bright, clear... That's phenomenal... My phone gets better battery life than the iPhone, but I have never owned a tablet that would go 5 days with a fair amount of use, and still have another day's worth of battery left. Now I realize that if I was watching videos for hours on end, but I hope that this paints the picture that the battery life is still pretty amazing.
Update #2 Another week has gone by, and I am noticing that the iPad is not as fast and smooth as I was expecting, particularly in web browsing, both in Safari and Chrome. . I think that the new iOS 8.3 was supposed to fix some of the performance issues that people have been complaining about, but some are still present.
A major difference that I see between the two platforms, is that with iOS with each new version, while it may run on the last generation hardware, it tends to slow it down. Many think that this is because they want you to buy the new model. I have seen it time and time again with the iPhone... You get the new update, and people like it, but it usually makes the phone slower, and not long after people feel the need to upgrade to the new iPhone. You have to drive revenue somehow I guess, and when the differences from each iPhone to the next are typically minimal, it's a good way to keep the product update cycle humming along, right?
With Android, the opposite is true. Each major release boosts performance and features on older devices, and typically breaths new life into the older hardware. It's weird, because iOS acts more like Windows in that regard... Yes, the new version has better visuals and does new things, but it does so with a performance hit. With Android, you get all the new features and improved visuals, but the device also tends to run better, faster, etc... It's much more optimized...