When Apple announced the first iPad, many joked that it was a big iPod touch. Now that the iPad mini is here, some are reviving that old line. How big of a difference is there between a small tablet and a phone-less iPhone? Let's take a look, and see how the iPad mini compares to the 5th-generation iPod touch.
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As "mini" as the iPad mini is, it's still much larger than the iPod touch. About the only thing their dimensions have in common is that they're both ridiculously thin. The iPod touch is one of the thinnest mobile devices ever made, but the iPad mini isn't far behind.
Much has been made of the iPad mini's weight (or lack thereof), but it's still over three times as heavy as the smaller iPod touch. There's a big difference between extremely light for a tablet, and extremely light for a portable media player.
The iPad mini's display is a double-edged sword. On the plus side, it provides an extra 22.9 mm (0.9") in diagonal real estate over its seven-inch rivals (like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD). On the negative side, though, its resolution is nothing to write home about. The iPod touch nearly matches the mini's number of pixels, despite giving up almost four inches.
If you want a spacious screen, look at the iPad mini. If you want much sharper text and images, look at the iPod touch.
Both devices have the same Apple A5 chip, but it's clocked a bit higher in the iPad mini. Performance shouldn't drastically differ, but the iPad mini might have a slight edge. Unless iOS developers start pushing the envelope, though, neither device will struggle with anything in the App Store.
Both devices tote 512 MB of RAM, so this is another area where performance should be roughly even.
The only difference here is that the iPad mini comes in a 16 GB base model. The 32 GB starting storage for the iPod touch helps to justify the mere US$30 price difference between the small media player and the miniature tablet.
If you want cellular data, then your only choice is the iPad mini. The only caveat is that you'll add another $130 to the corresponding Wi-Fi only model; that price nearly matches the Wi-Fi only full-sized iPad.
Apple lists slightly different usage estimates for the two devices, so it isn't the best comparison. If web usage and video playing are roughly the same (they may not be), then the iPad mini should outlast the touch by about two hours.
It looks like Apple put the same cameras in both devices. The rear camera is fine for basic photography, but it's a couple of generations behind the latest smartphone shooters. Apart from improved lenses, the camera is similar to the one from 2010's iPhone 4.
Both devices have access to the bounty of applications in the iOS App Store, but the iPad mini has the advantage there. The iPod touch can only run apps made for it and the iPhone, while the iPad mini can run all of those (scaled up) in addition to over 275,000 iPad-specific apps.
Perhaps the biggest intangibles, though, relate to the displays. As we mentioned above, the iPad mini's display is almost twice as long (measured diagonally), so you get much more real estate. But only the iPod touch's display is Retina, so it will look much sharper. Each display has its pros and cons, you'd be wise to look at them both in person before making a decision.