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iPad mini First Impressions: A Tablet In Its Own League

The iPad mini seems like it's a Google Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD competitor, but after spending a few minutes with this device, we think Apple's new tablet is in its 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-pixel display isn't as sharp as the competition's screens, images looked clear and colorful when we were viewing websites and running a couple of apps. 

More importantly, the iPad mini is actually lighter and thinner than the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD; it's amazingly slim at just 0.3 inches. The aluminum body, which comes in silver or black, feels sturdy. 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 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 for this device, which will come in handy when you want to prop up the mini for viewing content.

At $329, the iPad mini is in its own league in another way. It costs $130 more than the Nexus 7, the Nook HD and the latest Kindle Fire. 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.

Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.