I got to spend some time this evening with an iPad mini with retina display in the local Apple Store. The store was slow enough that I could take my own personal iPad mini and compare it side-by-side. I spent about 20 minutes putting the new iPad Mini through its paces and here are some initial impressions.
The Retina Screen
The retina screen is obvious and gorgeous. It's everything you expected. Because it has the same pixel count as the larger size iPad packed into a smaller display, it's actually sharper than the iPad air. All that being said, looking at the iPad mini with retina display and iPad air side-by-side, I couldn't tell any difference. Pixels were invisible on both devices. As an aside, I never noticed before how Apple cranks up the brightness to maximum on in-store devices. That's smart because they looked really great.
I could not tell a difference between the weight of the two devices. I understand the iPad mini with retina display is slightly heavier than my existing iPad mini. I thought I could perceive a slight difference between the two until I had an Apple Store employee hand them to me with my eyes closed and I guessed the wrong one of the two as heavier. If you're afraid about increased weight with the upgrade, you shouldn't be.
The new iPad Mini with retina display is a lot faster than its predecessor. Even doing silly little things like jumping between applications are noticeably quicker. It renders webpages faster, loads complicated applications faster, does Garage Band tracks faster, and generally kicks some serious ass. Having used an iPad mini for the past year, this upgrade was much more obvious than I expected it to be.
First World Problems
This truly has come down to the question of how big do you want your iPad. Whether you want large or small, there is an excellent option for you.
Bringing processor speed, weight, and retina screen parity between the two devices means everybody has a good option without having to compromise something. That's right. I said it. This is the Apple version of "no compromises". I suspect it's going to be a very happy holiday for Apple.