I have been playing around for a couple of months now with a shiny new iPad mini. And the verdict is in.

The iPad mini is what the original iPad should have always been. And I can say this without any equivocation. I can’t see myself returning to the original (big) iPad.

Why?

Size:

I don’t know what to say, but the iPad mini is more ergonomic than the original iPad. Which I will now refer to as the ‘maxi’. But compared to the mini it’s cumbersome and big. Plenty others disagree and love the size of their iPads. Some people even go to the trouble of setting up blue tooth keyboards.  But by the time you set all that up, why not use a laptop?

The idea of the tablet computer after all is portability. And, in the case of Australian Traveller, how suitable it is for travelling. And in that regard the iPad mini is excellent.

The iPad mini is the perfect size for throwing in a bag. Any bag. Any time. After a while it becomes a bit of a competition with yourself…

Could I possibly fit my iPad into this already impossibly small camera bag along with memory cards and a notepad? No worries.

What about that little pocket on the outside of a laptop bag or almost any piece of overhead luggage? No worries.

Surely it doesn’t fit in the document pouch of this moleskine notebook that’s isn’t even the size of an A4 page? No worries.

In the portability stakes the iPad mini wins hands down. It will almost fit in a pocket, but it will fit in almost ANY bag without many problems. And when travelling, portability is everything.

Typing

Oddly enough, it is easier to type on the iPad mini than it is on the full size ipad. It sounds weird, but you can use the keyboard like you are using an oversize iPhone. Typing feels more like texting. And because it’s that little bit smaller, it’s easier on your wrists meaning you can type on it for an extended period of time.

Conventional wisdom has become that the iPad is a contention consumption device and not a content creation device. For instance, this article has been entirely written on an iPad mini. The image at the top of the article was done on a desktop computer. Not because you can’t do that on an iPad. It’s just easier to do photo editing on a desktop PC.

But the point is you can create content on the iPad.

But load yourself up with a basic apple app like pages and give it a go. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Reading

This is where the iPad mini truly shines. Because of its size, the mini is great to read books on. Trying to read a book on the old iPad maxi just feels awkward now. It just doesn’t feel right. It feels top heavy. On a long haul flight the mini is so much more enjoyable to read for an extended period.

There are now plenty of great books available from iTunes. In the past Amazon was a better bet to purchase your books on but the pricing between the two seems to be reaching some sort of parity. However, the fact that your books purchased from iTunes are in Apples proprietary format is concerning, and something that could become problematic for you in the future.

The world of apps

We don’t need to tell you about all the great apps for travel, but apps work beautifully on the iPad mini. As time progresses, these apps will only get better and better. For instance, some camera manufacturers offer wi-fi in the camera, so it can talk to the ipad. You can then sort, delete or move the images on the cameras card from your iPad. Some will even mirror the screen on the back of the camera and let you control the camera using the iPad! These amazing implementations of already existing technology are sure to continue and the iPad mini will be great for these types of apps.

Drawbacks

Many of the issues with the iPad mini stem from the Apple iOS operating system rather than the device itself. And the problem is 3G, wi-fi and the iCloud in general. As apps move to become service based, they are relying on a constant internet connection. And when travelling in Australia or overseas that can be a bit of a joke.

The problem is developers develop their apps in an environment with strong wi-fi and 3G signals. They also have extravagant data allowances. Americans, for instance, are still coming to terms with the concept of download limits on their broadband connections! The upshot of this has been a proliferation of “cloud” based services. And in outback Australia the concept of clouds only applies to rainfall. And that, like 3G and wi-fi access, hardly ever happens.

So Dropbox doesn’t really work well when travelling. Evernote won’t work unless you upgrade to premium. TripIt won’t open properly without trying to call back to it’s mothership. And the list goes on. Hell, Apple even have their own iCloud now! As it becomes more of an issue, I am sure the problem will be resolved. But for now, there will be frustrating times when apps simply won’t work correctly because there is no signal.

Which one to buy?

Get the mini. The good news is you don’t need the 3G models. You don’t need to be paying for an internet connection with an expensive 3G sim card dedicated to your iPad. The smart thing to do is upgrade the data plan on your phone and pair it with your iPad. And when you are travelling, you can use the hotel, Starbucks and McDonald’s wi-fi.

Unfortunately, that covers your travel in the western world.