By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
October 31, 2012

FORTUNE — The initial reviews of Apple’ (AAPL) iPad mini are what theater critics would call mixed positive. A sampling:

Walt Mossberg, Wall Street JournalSizing Up the New iPad Mini. “I’ve been testing the iPad Mini for several days and found it does exactly what it promises: It brings the iPad experience to a smaller device. Every app that ran on my larger iPad ran perfectly on the Mini. I was able to use it one-handed and hold it for long periods of time without tiring. My only complaints were that it’s a tad too wide to fit in most of my pockets, and the screen resolution is a big step backwards from the Retina display on the current large iPad.”

David Pogue, New York TimesThe iPad Mini. “Apple’s masterstroke was keeping the screen shape and resolution the same as on the iPad 2 (1,024 by 768 pixels). As a result, the Mini can run all 275,000 existing iPad apps unmodified, plus 500,000 more iPhone apps. The text and graphics are a little smaller, but perfectly usable… Over all, the Mini gives you all the iPad goodness in a more manageable size, and it’s awesome. You could argue that the iPad Mini is what the iPad always wanted to be.”

Harry McCracken, TIMEThe First Small Tablet That’s an iPad. “In retrospect, it’s not the least bit startling that Apple chose not to take on the $199 7-inchers directly. They’re all clad in plastic cases, and their makers price them at the break-even point — or maybe even a bit below it — in hopes of turning a profit on later sales of books, videos, apps and other content. Apple, by contrast, has an aversion to plastic; nearly every gadget it makes has a unibody aluminum shell. It also prefers to make an up-front profit on its hardware, which is presumably more doable at $329 than at $199. Aesthetically, the 7-inchers are all nice considering their price. The Mini is nice, period.”

Edward Baig, USA Today: The skinny on Apple iPad Mini. “I’ve never hesitated to travel with the bigger iPad. It’s terrific for reading, watching movies and playing games on an airplane — but given a choice, before a road trip I would now more likely grab the little guy. It’s the right size for immersing yourself in a novel. Held sideways, it’s simple to bang out an email with your fingers. Battery life is excellent.”

Joshua Topolsky, The Verge: It looks dangerous and feels great. “Moments after I held the iPad mini at Apple’s event in San Jose, I hurriedly wrote that it made other tablets in this class feel like toys. Perhaps I was a bit hard on the competition in the heat of the moment, but I will say that there isn’t a single product in the 7-inch tablet market that comes close to the look, feel, or build quality of the new iPad. It is absolutely gorgeous to see, and in your hand has the reassuring solidness of a product that’s built to last. If the iPhone 5 is reminiscent of jewelry, the iPad mini is like a solidly made watch.”

Charles Arthur, The GuardianBuild quality: seamless. “Jonathan Ive doesn’t like seams. He doesn’t like any sort of break in the surface of objects, even manufactured ones. One of the notable things about the first iPod was that there was no obvious way to break it open, and the trend in all of Apple products – including the computers – is the same. You’ll do well to get a scalpel blade between the iPad mini’s screen and its bezel.”

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: The iPad mini. “’Wow, it feels like a Kindle. Ew, the screen is terrible.’ That was my wife’s initial reaction when I handed her the iPad Mini to see what she, an avid daily user of an iPad 3, thought. Her initial reaction matched mine exactly, and perfectly encapsulates the experience. The iPad Mini is not a device you need to spend a lot of time with to understand. My snap reaction from a week ago remains unchanged after a week of daily use.”

MG Siegler: TechCrunch. The iPad mini. “While we’re on the subject of the screen, let’s not beat around the bush — if there is a weakness of this device, it’s the screen. But that statement comes with a very big asterisk. As someone who is used to a ‘retina’ display on my phone, tablet, and even now computer, the downgrade to a non-retina display is quite noticeable. This goes away over time as you use the iPad mini non-stop, but if you switch back to a retina screen, it’s jarring.”

Shane Richmond, Telegraph: iPad mini review. “With a retina display this would be a knock-out device but its unlikely that Apple could put one in a tablet this size at this point. The third-generation iPad has a retina display and it is thicker and heavier than the iPad 2. The battery needed to power such a display to the 10-hour battery life Apple insists on for its iPads would probably have compromised the mini’s size too much. Apple could probably have matched the pixel density of the 7-inch tablets if it had wished to but that would have changed the screen resolution, meaning that existing iPad apps would have run with black bands of unused pixels alongside them. As it is, the 1024×768 display means the existing library of 275,000 tablet specific apps are all available.”

Jim Dalrymple, The Loop: Review: iPad mini. “I was wrong. I have wondered publicly whether or not a smaller tablet would fit into my workflow and even suggested the larger iPad would be better. I was wrong. I picked up my iPad mini and iPad 4 from Apple just after the special event ended last week in San Jose and have been using them ever since. I haven’t used the mini to the exclusion of my iPad, but I wanted to see where this new device would fit into my lifestyle without being forced. What I found was surprising to me. I actually used the iPad mini more than my iPad.”

Tim Stevens, Engadget: iPad mini review. “To us, the joy of a 7-inch tablet is walking across the office or the airport, holding the slate in one hand while tapping away at it with the other. The [Google (GOOG) Nexus 7, with its 16:9 aspect ratio, is relatively narrow and easy to carry securely one-handed — even by those whose mittens are size S. With the iPad mini, holding the slate in the same way can be a bit of a reach. This editor, who wears XL gloves, had no problem palming the littler iPad, but when we handed it to other, dainty-fingered people they sometimes struggled to hold it securely.”

Rich Jaroslovsky, Bloomberg: IPad Mini Is Crazy Thin, Crazy Light. “How much is Apple’s superiority in software and content worth to you? How about $130? That’s the price difference between the iPad mini, which starts at $329 for a Wi-Fi model with 16 gigabytes of storage, and a comparably equipped Nexus 7 or [Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire HD, which both go for $199… I can tell you the iPad mini is the best small tablet you can buy. The question you’ll have to answer for yourself is whether it’s that much better.”

Scott Stein, CNET: The perfect size, but at a price. “The good: The iPad Mini’s ultra-thin and light design is far more intimate and booklike than the larger iPad, and its cameras, storage capacities, optional LTE antenna, and general functionality offer a full iPad experience. The display’s dimensions elegantly display larger-format magazines and apps. The bad: The iPad Mini costs too much, especially considering the lower resolution of its 7.9-inch non-Retina Display. The A5 processor isn’t as robust as the one in the fourth-gen iPad and iPhone 5. Typing on the smaller screen is not quite as comfy. The bottom line: If you want the full, polished Apple tablet experience in a smaller package, the iPad Mini is worth the premium price. Otherwise, good alternatives are available for less money.”

Shane Dingman, Globe and Mail: iPad Mini: A little less tablet than you’d expect. “If Apple’s competitors are going out of their way to be dismissive of the Mini, it’s partly because they would all happily kill to make a device of its quality or own an ecosystem with the same reach and strength. Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung and Google are all well-funded, hungry and may eventually surpass Apple, but they haven’t yet. In that light, the iPad Mini is only unimpressive when compared to its fellow iThings: It’s the best total package for a “small” tablet on the market, even if it’s not a device that puts much more space between Apple and its pursuers.”

Clayton Morris, Fox News: Apple iPad mini smaller, still the gold standard. “To get your hands on an iPad mini you’ll pay $129 more than you will for Google’s Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD. Apple no doubt wants to compete with those 7-inch tablets — so why did the company price its offering above these competitors? Because Apple can. Those tablets don’t have the complete experience that the iPad does. Come on: The iPad is still the gold standard for tablet computing after all. With stellar hardware and hundreds of thousands of apps, the iPad is the Kleenex of facial tissue. The Tivo of DVRs. It has all the perks of using an iOS device: AppStore, iMessages, FaceTime, etc. It’s the iPad. Just runtier.”

Vincent Nguyen, Slashgear: Apple aims for the everyman. “In the end, it’s about an overall package, an experience which Apple is offering. Not the fastest tablet, nor the cheapest, nor the one that prioritizes the most pixel-dense display, but the one with the lion’s share of tablet applications, the integration with the iOS/iTunes ecosystem, the familiarity of usability and, yes, the brand cachet. That’s a compelling metric by which to judge a new product, and it’s a set of abilities that single the iPad mini out in the marketplace. If the iPad with Retina display is the flagship of Apple’s tablet range, then the iPad mini is the everyman model, and it’s one that will deservedly sell very well.”

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