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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.