K-PoP: Reviews iPad Mini, the Death Row Records of Tablets

December 6, 2012


It’s official: I’ve become that guy. 


You know, the one who buys products on their release date. (Didn't camp out though). 


There I was in late October, zipping around LA freeways like a madman until I could find an Apple iPad mini, the much anticipated, smaller iPad tablet. But at least my iPad mini has got some street cred: I got it at the Best Buy in Compton.


So my iPad mini and I have now officially been together for a little over a month and here’s how our little tech marriage has gone so far.


Less IS More

Much of the criticism of the iPad mini has to do with screen resolution and screen size. For the former, I do notice the difference between the higher-resolution “retina” display between my iPhone 4S and iPad mini, but after like five minutes, I just don’t notice. Maybe because I’m not a hardcore technophile or maybe because I grew up with grainy, analog VHS tapes. (At least it wasn't BetaMax). 


As for screen size, people will ask one of two questions depending on where their tech allegiances lay. If they're Android or Kindle people, they’ll ask, “Why should I pay $100+ for an iPad mini that has about the same screen size?” (This will be addressed later).


If they’re Apple aficionados, they’ll ask, “Why not pay another $70 bucks and get the bigger-screened iPad 2 (the older, full-sized iPad model)?”


For these folks, it’s key to remember that in the tech world sometimes you pay more for more -- like with TV screens. However, this axiom can also run opposite. 


Remember this?



And then this?




The iPad mini is NOT about screen size, it’s about portability. (Duh!)


Design IS Function

I don’t want to get into a pretentious discussion about design, so I’ll just ask this: If you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, how come all books come with covers?




Before I bought my iPad mini, I perused its two major competitors: the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7.


The plastic-y Kindle felt cheap. How cheap? Unfortunately, it reminded me of this:



The Nexus was definitely of higher quality and at first I was seduced by its cool, rubber-like, perforated backside.  


But then I watched the iPad mini’s premiere, saw that it had an anodized (what that means I don’t know but it just oozes nice) aluminum backing similar to the very first iPhone, and I knew she had to be mine. (Plus, the black iPad mini rocks a black-on-black apple logo which is just SO damn hip hop). 


I like to think that I am not a name brand snob, but a quality one. The iPad mini’s materials, assembly, and form-meeting-function design sets it head and shoulders above its peers. And nothing is more complimentary to a product’s design than the fact that it makes you want to use it. 


I remember renting a Cadillac on a road trip once. When I went back to my Toyota Camry, the hollow bump sound of the door closing just wasn’t the same. (Sigh.) In terms of design, the iPad mini is the Cadillac and its competitors are just trailing behind it.


"We’re all in the same gang"

Sadly, the tech world is getting all drama like a 90’s East Coast-West Coast rap feud.  


In one corner, you have the champion Apple and its heavy-hitting lineup of products (Macbooks, iPhones, and iPads) playing the Death Row Records click of Dr. Dre, Tupac, and Snoop Dogg.  


And in the other, you have Google and Amazon with less overall product talent as the Bad Boy camp. However, the trump card in this beef (the Notorious-B.I.G.-talent-level equalizer) is Google’s legendary online products and services (Drive, YouTube, gmail) and Amazon’s buy anything, anytime online store. 


I wish things in the tech world could be more like this 90's rap classic.


But they’re not. So I had to choose a tech universe and since I already had a MacBook and iPhone (plus my work uses Macs) and my music and photo libraries were in iTune and iPhoto, the decision to stay in the Apple universe was practically predetermined (like an immigrant kid going to college) when it came to choosing my tablet. 



And since I am not an expert in technology, choosing one tech ecosystem, especially one as user friendly as the Apple one, just made sense. For example, when I purchased Psy’s "Gangnam Style” video from my iPad mini, it magically and automatically appeared on my MacBook and my iPhone. 


Can the other tablets do that? Possibly.


Do I want to spend eons of hours finding out? No.


Overall Experience

So for a $130 premium, I get more screen size, a better design, and the functionality and convenience of the Apple experience.


Is it worth it?


Well, so far the highlights of my tablet include introducing one of my students to experimental, abstract art and Jackson Pollock right at her desk with my iPad mini. That's something that wouldn't have happened so promptly and intimately pre-iPad. 



And on a more serious note, nebulizing my asthmatic baby boy while he's mesmerized by Psy on the iPad mini has been a literal lifesaver. It's just like in this baby-watches-"Gangnam Style" video, except substitute albuterol for Benjamin’s food.


So in Dub-C lingo, I give the iPad mini four fingers up (and two twisted in the middle, of course).




K-PoP is short for Ky-Phong oPop Culture. Ky-Phong Tran is an award-winning writer and teacher based in southern California and he’ll be writing about music, art, literature, Los Angeles, fatherhood, and other musings.



Ky-Phong Tran


Ky-Phong Tran is a public school, latch-key kid from North Long Beach, CA. He's written for the Nguoi Viet Daily News, New America Media, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, and of course, Hyphen, which published his short story "A Thing Called Exodus." In 2010, he was a Work-Study Fiction Scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He holds an MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA and MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside. He's into pop culture, street art, music festivals, literature, clever people, and keen ideas.