When Apple announced that the iPad mini with Retina Display was coming "later in November," most of us assumed that meant the end of the month. Well, who said Apple couldn't surprise us anymore? Yesterday the company quietly launched the highly anticipated tablet, and, despite limited supplies, we got our hands on the Retina iPad mini. Read on for our first impressions.

If you've used the original iPad mini, then you already know the basic design and feel of the iPad mini with Retina Display. And if you've used any high-res Apple device, then you know what a Retina Display looks like. Put the two together, and, surprise surprise, that's pretty much what you're dealing with here.

The biggest question I had before handling the Retina mini was whether you can feel the extra weight and thickness. It's actually 7.5 percent heavier and four percent thicker than the first iPad mini. Do you feel it? And, more to the point, does it take away from the iPad mini's killer feature: its ultralight, razor thin form factor?

My initial impression is that the differences are negligible. The thickness is a non-starter. Even if you're looking at a closeup of the two tablets (like in the shot below), it's hard to tell much of a difference. The weight is a little more noticeable, but I don't think it takes anything away from the iPad mini's ultra-portable build. It's "extremely light" vs. "7.5 percent less than extremely light." Not a huge deal at all, and really only noticeable if you've just been using the old model.

When you look at the upgrades that led to that extra heft, it's even easier to blow it off. The Retina Display is awesome. It reminds me a lot of the screen on the 2013 Nexus 7, only it's much bigger – 34 percent bigger, to be precise.

Another big question is how it feels compared to the iPad Air. Though the mini is much lighter, it feels a bit denser to me. That's because if you look at weight relative to surface area, the iPad Air comes out lighter. The Air is much heavier than the mini, but for its size, it's insanely light.

But I think the mini's form factor is hard to beat. The original was one of my favorite tablets from the past year, despite its lower-res screen and last-gen performance. Now we have the Retina Display, and we have some of the fastest performance in a mobile device (courtesy of its A7 chip). And it's only ever-so-slightly heavier. I think a lot of tablet shoppers are going to be very happy with this new iPad mini.

But we're just scratching the surface here. There's much more testing and playing to do, before we give you our full review. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, you can peruse our iPad Air review.

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