Saturday, November 3, 2012

Reviews of iPad mini that compare it with Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus...Apple corrects its Specs page by changing "speaker" to "speakers"... Excellent find and explanation of iPads and their speaker layout.

"Lines for Apple's iPad Mini Are Surprisingly Short"

Of course that's a relative thing -- there are still lines, and in NY, the main store had quite a few people show up, even if it wasn't what it's been in the past.

  But the headline is somewhat typical, and the reason I'm doing this follow up is that a reason given for the decreased interest in the new smaller iPad is that the competition from the Kindle Fire HD (and Amazon's ecosystem) and from the Google Nexus is too strong for a device that is priced $130 higher but has lower screen resolution that makes words on the web harder to read on a 7" tablet.

  This first article cited and the image used was from Business Insider's Huw Griffith.

When Apple decides not to be clear
Before I post some excerpts from the comparative reviews, I'm including a general follow up on Apple's iPad mini 'speaker' confusion (explained in footnotes in other blog entries here).

  Readers of this blog will know about the speaker controversy and will see that gadget-news sites are writing (and will continue to copy one another) that Amazon "made an error" in their comparison table saying the iPad mini has only "one speaker."

  That 'error' was clearly Apple's error, since their own website's specs page -- The reference 'sheet' -- listed only a built-in speaker (singular).

  Vendors release specs for a reason - they describe what you will be getting if you buy their product.  Those reading the blog this week know that Apple's own specs page had said, since launch date October 23, that the Input/Output included a "built-in speaker" on each variation of that model and that it has the usual stereo headphone minijack.  This has been true of the other iPads.

  The picture showing 2 grilles (one identified as a speaker) was discussed in detail at Mac forums as well as at more general ones because Apple has shown two speaker grilles before on iPhones but only one had a speaker in it, so people were confused by Apple's Marketing SVP who wrote in email to a customer "It's in stereo."

  Many of us don't post specs without checking the company's own spec sheets. I imagine that's what Amazon did too.  When you see a specs sheet referring to a built-in speaker, you don't normally imagine there are two of them or they'd say so.  Why question what the company stated?  Yet we're seeing a river of articles saying Amazon did not check first.  (This is because those columnists did not check the specs sheet first, so they didn't know what it was still saying.)

The Correction to the Specs page
  YESTERDAY, Nov. 2, after requests by some of us that Apple correct their specs page so we can be assured the technical staff stands behind the Marketing email, Apple rather quietly changed "Built-in speaker" (for each model) to "Built-in speakers"...

  The correction Apple made yesterday was made without comment on the page.  I think this lack of clarity will help Apple with the current stream of copycat stories that blame Amazon for the 'error' they made in actually accepting the Apple specs page information.

Solving a Mystery - Interesting Factoid Learned about all other iPad Speakers
The discussions in the forums were very interesting.  One in particular, ending one forum thread in which multiple theories were given, gives us some information from tear-downs that hasn't been mentioned elsewhere this week.
' By m0dest
This was spot on:
Originally Posted by Intell
Technically the iPad 4, as well as all other iPads, have stereo speakers.  They have a left and right channel speaker on the inside, but only one external sound baffle.
As it turns out, iPad 3 has two stereo speakers, too.  The full-size iPad 4 probably does, too.'
We've always known that iPads have two speakers.  Two speakers ≠ stereo, but it's a start.  The teardowns make this clear.  (iPad 1 speakers, iPad 2 speakers)

I just tested an iPad 3 with sample audio that alternates between the left and right channels.  Sure enough, the left channel plays only on the left speaker and the right channel plays only on the right speaker.  Unambiguously.  Run the same test yourself with GarageBand.

So, all current iPads have 2 stereo speakers with separate left and right audio channels.  Apple never talked about it because the speaker placement sucks. People never noticed because both speakers were behind a single grill.  Mystery solved. '

'Stereo' is experienced when somewhat different sounds are heard from speakers at a distance that allows a listener to hear those differences.  In any comparison of the iPad mini speakers with the Kindle Fire HD's, it'll normally be noted that in movie- or video-viewing mode, the KFHD's speakers are on the left and right of the tablet user, and Amazon licensed the Dolby Plus system to enhance both the spatial qualities and clarity of speech.

  With the original Kindle Fire, most of us ran to get small portable external mini-speakers or had to use head phones or a good external set of normal speakers because there was barely any volume from it.  The new KFire HD's volume control doesn't have to be at max volume and the sound is very clear.  I watch video using the built-in speakers now.  For good bass though, you'll want headphones or an external set.

Excerpts from other iPad mini reviews that mention the Kindle Fire and Google Nexus
  .  Ipad Mini Release Date Draws Small Crowds, Is Apple's Price Too High to Rival Google Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Fire Hd? - Books & Review, by Cole Garner Hill.  "...its higher-than-expected $329 price tag may not be competitive enough against other popular 7-inch Android tablets like Google's Nexus 7, and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD..."

  .  NBC News's Wilson Rothman shows us the difference in text-display between the iPad 3 and the iPad mini, though the difference won't be experienced that strongly.

  But it shows what the difference in pixel size means to relative clarity.  you can see the original size of the image by clicking on the thumbnail here.   Rothman writes:
' If you're mainly into watching movies and reading books, there are two key bonuses that the Kindle Fire HD brings to the table, besides a cash savings of $130: a 16x9 screen aspect ratio, meaning movies like "The Avengers" fill up the whole display; and a higher pixel resolution than the iPad Mini, that you may notice while watching high-def content and can definitely see when reading text.  [Emphasis mine.]

So what does paying $130 more for an iPad Mini actually get you? The iPad has a much better Web browser and email experience, and though Amazon has cloud storage and streaming music (and even a music matching service like Apple's), the iPad's iCloud suite promises more, including synced contacts, documents, notes and browser history, not to mention advanced services like iMessage, Photo Stream and Siri.

The biggest reason to choose iPad, however, is apps. Apps, apps, apps. More of that next.

WINNER: Draw (because of the $130 difference and the screen resolution) '
He recommends that those who would want this for the good reasons given wait for the later model of the iPad mini, which he and others feel will come within a year with the Retina feature included.

  .  IGN's Nic Vargus points out how good the 5MP back camera is, relative to the one that came with the iPad 2.  Neither the Nexus or the Kindle Fire HD have rear-facing cameras.  In the comparison section, he writes:
' a reading device, though I'm not sure I'd use it much until there was a Retina-ready version.  I've never been a big fan of reading on seven-inch tablets (I much prefer e-ink to LCD), but the Kindle Fire HD has shown me that a crisp screen can sway me.

'...I recently read all of Jeff Eugenide's "The Marriage Plot" on my Kindle Fire HD, partly because the device was always in my bag, and partly because reading on it didn't bother my eyes as much as reading on a Nexus 7 '
I have no idea why that might be, since they have the same screen resolution.  Maybe it's the laminated anti-glare layer the KFire HD uses, which works for some and not so much for others.

  [I've seen a Nexus since, at Staples, and I was surprised to see that it actually has noticeably less contrast and therefore doesn't appear as sharp - or at least their demo Nexus has a lack of contrast.]

He likes the higher-quality feel of the iPad mini and that it works with all the iPad 2 apps, though he finds "The lack of a Retina Display is a big downer." If you already enjoy Apple's apps and he does, there really is no other choice though, except waiting for a later version with Retina.

  .  San Jose Mercury News's Troy Wolverton also feels iPad-inclined should "hold out for next year's model." He mentions the several good points of it but then adds:
' The difference between a Retina display and other screens isn't readily apparent -- unless you've been using a device with one of the higher-resolution screens.
  If you have, you don't want to go back because the graininess of text and pictures on lower-resolution screens is obvious.
  Apple's decision to not include a Retina display with the Mini leaves the little tablet's screen outclassed by those of the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7.
  But the Mini's biggest problem is its price. '

  .  AfterDawn's Andre Yoskowitz absolutely loves the iPad mini and explains why at length.  He finds it smoother than the Kindle Fire HD but, in addition to the somewhat lower resolution of the mini, he adds something I hadn't read before (emphasis mine):
' Moving away from that, the colors are fantastic on the Mini, as are the blacks, but they are not as vibrant as the Kindle or the Nexus.  A clear loss for Apple here, although the Mini's display was nowhere near "bad." '

  .  Cult of Mac's John Brownlee also thinks people should wait but he feels more strongly about its downsides.  I think when you've long admired the 'Quality' that Apple's been known for and are very aware of the compromises with this model, it's a tougher sell.

" The form factor’s perfect, it’s beautifully designed, you will love holding it… but the screen’s awful ... Even at the price, it’s a deeply disappointing product that most people should think twice about buying right now. "

  He highlights his displeasure with a big re-quote of part of the second sentence below:
' But the performance isn’t nearly as disappointing as the screen.  Boy, it’s just awful: so awful you can’t believe Apple would actually sell a new product with this display in late 2012...

... The pixel density is a step up from the iPad 2, but just barely, and it’s notably worse than the quality of not just the last three iPhones and two iPads, but the likes of the Kindle Fire HD 7 and Galaxy 7.

...Why did Apple release the iPad mini with a screen this terrible, especially when it’s competing with devices like the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kindle Fire 7 and the Galaxy 7 that aren’t just much cheaper but have displays that are so much superior for reading text? '

Otherwise he finds handling the iPad mini "is just bliss" though using it "is another thing entirely."

  He's probably right that Apple couldn't make the margins it needs if they'd used a higher resolution and they need something right now to compete, which could run all their apps.   The commenters are not all in agreement with his distress.

WELL, that should be enough.  I just grabbed ones I saw on the first search results, in the order I saw them, but I'd say that with the compromise in screen resolution, Apple did price the Mini too high, which is added reason for the disappointment quite a few describe.

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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