Is the iPad mini a College Kid’s Best Friend?

A little less than a year ago, I wrote an article about how the iPad could become that college student’s perfect machine. A little less than a year ago is a very long time for a product’s development life-cycle when it comes to Apple products. Even nowadays, I am constantly asked on campus by my colleges the same question, “Should I get an iPad or a laptop?” Luckily, Apple has made the answer to this question a little less black and white with the introduction of the iPad mini.

Has the last year made it easier for students to supplement their long-lived tradition of buying a laptop for an iPad? Is the iPad mini a better choice now that the power of Apple’s second generation iPad has been packed into a miniaturized form factor? Let’s find out.

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The iPad mini is a “must hold in your hands in order to fully appreciate it” device. Pictures, videos, and commercials do not do it justice. Unfortunately, whenever I ask someone what their opinion is of the device before they’ve held it, I get a similar response along the lines of, “it looks to me like a huge iPod touch”. This device is far from that description. Within minutes of using the iPad mini your eyes, fingers, and perception automatically adjusts to its size. Think of the first time you’ve ever used an “ultrabook” or small laptop. It could be a MacBook Air or any light laptop out there. The same thing applies here. The same concept can be applied to watching a movie on your cell phone, or a smaller television screen at a relatively close distance. It just happens.

The iPad mini is small, but not too small.

Typing on the iPad mini is relatively the same as on a regular-sized iPad. What’s more is that the vertical keyboard, when holding the iPad mini in a portrait orientation, is a very productive size for your thumbs. It’s not too small, and it’s not too widespread. This works in conjunction with the specially designed side bevel around the longer sides of the mini’s screen. Apple didn’t just shrink their original iPad down, they redesigned it to work with your hands.


Hardware is not the only thing that has evolved in the past year. Evernote has improved greatly since the last article. Before, Evernote presented itself with a very standard iOS user interface — a table view represented notes and notebooks in an ever-scrolling view to oblivion. It was as simple as that. Nowadays, notes in Evernote have developed a “notecard” kind of feel where instead of feeling like part of a table view, notes look like little index cards found in physical notebooks. Scrolling through your notes has a sort of pseudo-tactile feel that can be very useful to a student. If you include pictures in your notes, a thumbnail preview appears making it that much quicker to find what you’re looking for. This is all fine and good but just wait, the real prize is coming up next.

Digitizing your worksheets is a snap with Evernotes new document capture feature.

Earlier this year, the Evernote team created a special feature in the app’s image capturing abilities. This feature allows a student to capture pages and documents quickly and efficiently, by eliminating the usual margins of error. What do I mean by this? To start off, Evernote gives you a guide in which you can place the page you are trying to capture within. Now you can center your important notes or the text on the page without worrying if it will get clipped off. After that, Evernote will process the image so that the white balance is perfectly adjusted, and the text is easily visible at a quick glance. This makes it easy for you to read, but it also makes it easy for Evernote to analyze the text on the page. You then can search for anything on your newly captured page for quick access.

What does this mean for a student? If a teacher hands out a worksheet or quick notes for the day, you can capture it and store it for later. Boom. Your notes are digitally stored, analyzed, and synced to the cloud immediately. Later on you can fire up Evernote on your computer with all of your worksheets and notes for the day — all organized in personal notebooks and tagged so that all of your information is just a couple key presses away.

A Smart Notebook

Although laptops are also known as “notebooks”, the iPad mini takes this student standard to a whole new level. The mini’s size and resolution makes it an extremely smart digital sheet of paper for students to create, brainstorm, and share with. Apps such as Apple’s Pages and Dropbox make all the hassle of typing, saving, and locating papers a cinch. Researching a quick or important topic is easy with Safari, and the ability to add pages to your reading list so that you can study up later and sync with your mac at home puts a student’s already busy and worried mind at ease.

No longer do students have to cary around a large amount of notebooks and binders with them to class. With the iPad mini’s size and light weight, carrying around your entire school load has now become that much easier.

Which iPad is best?

There are three options to choose from. Which one best fits you?

The answer to this question is most-likely based on your major. Does your major require you to make a bunch of power points? Is it a graphic or artistically based major? The overall question is, “Do you need the regular iPad’s screen real estate?” If you plan on using the iPad to type a bunch of papers or take all of your notes, then the mini is the right fit for you. Remember that either way, you are getting a full iPad no matter the size. Every iPad app works on both devices. It’s all based on what you, the student, are comfortable with.


As I stated before, the iPad is ready for college now more than ever. With companies like Evernote and Dropbox constantly updating their apps to increase the amount of useful features and time savers, the iPad is constantly evolving to become the perfect in-between device between a laptop and a smart phone. With the introduction of the iPad mini, your options for finding that perfect digital educational solution are much more refined allowing you to choose a device that is traversable and yet fully functional. The iPad is still a college kid’s best friend.