Let's look at what it doesn't have first. There's no Micro-HDMI output like Motorola's Xoom 2, so you cannot stream video and music over a cable link to your TV or AV receiver. There is no Infra Red remote transmitter, so it cannot be used as a remote control. Sony's new Xperia Tablet S and the Xoom 2 have this.
Instead, the new iPad Mini streams audio and video through wi-fi to an Apple TV (£99) and you can connect this into a hi-fi digital-to-analogue convertor (DAC) in your hi-fi system, or direct to an AV receiver or 'digital' amplifier (one with a DAC on-board). Apple TV has an HDMI output for connection into an AV receiver or TV to transmit pictures and HD video, Apple say.
The iPad Mini has Bluetooth 4, so it will stream music to a Bluetooth receiver like Cambridge Audio's BT100, that connects into their Stream Magic 6 DAC. Bluetooth and Apple TV offer CD quality only, not high resolution audio (24/96).
The new Lightning connector will stream analogue audio and digital USB audio through an Apple proprietary Lightning to 30pin adaptor (right) that, Apple say, carries analogue and USB (digital) audio, but not video. This can connect to an iPod dock or similar with an optical digital output, like the Cambridge Audio iD100 dock. How well all this will work we will have to see through future tests – when we can get an iPad Mini!
Note also that the Lightning plug has on-board authentication, so for the time being you can only use Apple branded leads and adaptors.
Why use cables instead of wi-fi? For higher data rate, better quality, greater reliability and security, and less faffing around! A cable from settee to TV is messy though.
There is a microphone input for recording purposes, something the Xoom2 lacks, and a 3.5mm headphone jack providing an analogue output. Don't expect great quality; on-board DACs are usually noisy. It should be possible to get an Epiphany E-DAC with high quality headphone output working with the iPad Mini, through a USB adaptor (right). Fingers crossed!
Measuring 200mm high, 135mm wide and 7.2mm deep, the new "7in" Tablet is relatively small and very light at 308 gms, but has a healthy 10hour battery life.
Comparing the new Mini with the Motorola Xoom 2 and Sony Experia S tablets in our chart below pulls out differences and shows the new Apple looks good all round, with small size, affordable price tag and wide ability.
For more details go to APPLE STORE
Read about the Motorola Xoom 2 as a music player in the latest December 2012 issue of HI-FI WORLD, on sale October 31st.
We will be reviewing Sony's Experia S tablet shortly. It has been delayed for a few weeks, they tell us, by a production difficulty over waterproofing.