iPad mini First Impressions: A Tablet In It's Own League

The iPad mini seems like it's a Google Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD competitor. But after spending just a few minutes with this device we think Apple's new tablet is in it's own league. The 7.9-inch size is one-hand friendly but doesn't feel like a shrunken tablet. And while the 1024 x 768 display isn't as sharp as the competition, images looked clear and colorful when viewing websites and running a couple of apps.

More important, the iPad mini is actually lighter and thinner than the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD, and is amazingly slim at just .28 inches. As you would expect, the aluminum body of the mini feels sturdy, which will come in silver and black. The right side houses the volume controls, while the back has a 5-MP iSight camera. Even in fairly dim lighting the iPad mini captured fairly sharp images. And this is a device you're much more likely to shoot with than a 9.7-inch slate.

At first, we thought the bezel around the 7.9-inch screen might be too slim, but we had no problem holding the device without accidentally launching apps. Another plus: Apple designed a new Smart Cover

At $329, the iPad mini is in its own league in another way. It costs $130 more than the Nexus and latest Kindle. But given Apple's huge apps advantage--275,000 and counting--we suspect a lot of shoppers will be willing to spend a little extra to get a mini in their hands. Stay tuned for a full review.