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Even though we have a first generation and third generation iPad, I don't really like the product. I don't use it all that often, and when I do, it's usually as a helper in the studio. I don't get nearly the productivity benefits out of it that some of my ZDNet colleagues do.
Even so, when the iPad mini came out, I bought one. I figured that if I was going to write about the darned thing, I ought to use it.
And, guess what? I like it. No one was more surprised than I was. People were complaining left and right about the iPad mini's lack of a Retina display, but it's never bothered me. Now, let me be clear here: my wife and I both have Nexus 7s (which we love) and Kindle Fires (she uses it, I don't). So adding the iPad to the mix seemed, frankly, overkill.
But the fact is, it works and it works well. It's all about the size. It's easy to use as a scrap of paper (I tied Penultimate to Evernote), it makes a great bed-reader, it's handy to bring into the studio, it doesn't take up too much space, it's light, and it doesn't require a separate briefcase to pack when going out. The full-sized iPad, by contrast, is like a small ultrabook once you add a cover or a keyboard.
The iPad mini is just exactly what a seven-inch tablet is meant to be: a replacement for the small, convenient notepads we've all had and loved. The nice thing is that all my iOS software also runs on the iPad mini, so it's pretty much grab and go.
There's an iOS device I actually quite like. I'm as shocked as you.
Product page: iPad mini
Mac mini server
Sit down. This is gonna take some 'splaining. Here's the thing: my favorite Windows desktop computer is the Mac mini. I explained it briefly in my DIY-IT gift guide last December and back then, we owned two of them.
We've since bought two more, and I've installed Windows 8 on three of them. As I said in the gift guide, I've been hard pressed to find another box this small, this powerful, and this inexpensive. It takes far less desk space than even a laptop, it has a ton of ports, with SSDs it can be fast as all heck, and it's relatively inexpensive for a 16GB machine.
I buy the server version, which comes with two drives. The biggest issue is I have to set up Boot Camp and then install Windows 8, but that's not a whole lot of work.
With the exception of the studio machine, which runs Mac OS X Mountain Lion, I never boot the Mac minis into the Mac side. They've been rock-solid Windows machines and I don't have a single complaint about them.
In fact, I'm thinking of pulling the trigger on a fifth. I'm running an old Zotac in my private office, and I'd like something quite a bit faster and more capable.
Of all Apple's product, the Mac mini running Windows 8 is, by far, my favorite. Now, would I buy these if I had to run OS X on all of them instead of Windows 8? Probably not. I find OS X a tedious chore to use.
Product page: Mac mini