- In horizontal orientation, the onscreen keyboard works nicely for thumb-typing, when you're holding the iPad Mini in two hands. The width of the Mini is perfect for such use.
- In either horizontal orientation or vertical orientation, the onscreen keyboard works well for one-finger typing, when you're holding it with one hand and pecking at keys with the other's index finger. The keys are large enough to accurately tap.
- When the iPad Mini is on a surface such as a desk, especially if tilted up at an angle with the likes of Apple's Mini Smart Cover -- which works just as nicely as the full-size iPad's Smart Cover -- you can touch-type with both hands. You need to adjust your fingers' travel, but after a few minutes, some friends and I could serviceably type on it. Again, it's not what I would do all day every day, but it works when on the road and for short-term needs like taking notes in a meeting or when on a phone call.
Of course, you can also use a Bluetooth keyboard with the iPad Mini as you can with a full-size iPad. In fact, you can use the same Bluetooth keyboard you already have for your full-size iPad.
The make-or-break factor for the iPad Mini: AppsWhen I use my full-size iPad on the road (I no longer travel with my laptop) or even at my desk, the 9.7-inch screen can be tight when working with documents or Web pages designed for large monitors. Zooming helps, but it adds work.
Thus, I was concerned that the 7.9-inch screen on the iPad Mini would be too small for such activities. Keep in mind that iPad apps run as is on the iPad Mini, with the same 1,024-by-768 screen resolution as an iPad 2. That means everything is shrunk proportionally to about 85% of the size of an full-size iPad.
Sure enough, the screen was too small in some cases. But more often, I could use the iPad Mini for text editing or Web surfing fairly easily. Yes, the text was smaller, and sometimes I needed my reading glasses (friends with better vision did not), but I could still get the job done. I wouldn't use the Mini as a replacement for my full-size iPad, but the iPad Mini can pinch-hit for it.
How much you can use an iPad Mini beyond entertainment, social media, and lightweight browsing depends on the apps. The key is how much they allow you to enlarge text to be more readable and ensure their controls are large enough to see and tap in the iPad Mini's smaller screen. That varies considerably.