I’ve had the Mini in school now for five days and I am loving it. The ability to hold it one hand completely changes the experience and functionality (and my hands are not huge by any stretch; one of my students quipped that to the Mini is to Shaq the way the iPhone is to the rest of us).

Here’s a summary of my experience so far.

The case. I struggled with this. I certainly didn’t want a keyboard case like I have for the iPad2 (ZaggFolio, which I love and am using to type this right now); that’s not how I envisioned using the Mini. But I also didn’t want anything too bulky; the whole point of the Mini is its size / thinness and I didn’t want a case to ruin that. I love the simple Apple iPad1 case (the black suedish one) because it gives that basic measure of protection while adding very little bulk. That’s ultimately what I was looking for.

I ended up getting two different cases, since two of us have the iPad. One is on the thin (flimsy?) side, the Griffin, and the other is bulkier but more functional (the Targus). I ended up with the Targus and my colleague the Griffin.

I used the Griffin initially and liked its low profile, but the edge of the window infringes a bit too much on the screen of the iPad, making x-ing out of anything in the corner difficult (lots of unwanted trips to the App Store between Words with Friends turns) and moving apps from one screen to another less efficient at best.

The Targus certainly adds bulk but it includes a propping feature (which the Griffin did as well, similar in functionality to Apple’s original iPad1 case) and, more important, a rotating propping feature, i.e. you can prop in either portrait or landscape view. One of my complaints about that Apple case was that it would only prop in landscape view (acknowledging of course that the rotation mechanism adds a lot of the bulk to the Targus). So I might for now prefer the Targus. It is bulkier but I’ve not noticed the bulk too much.

My idea, though, is to perhaps go the sleeve route. I saw on a site devoted to iPad Mini cases a beautiful leather sleeve which I might spring for myself. I like the sleeve because it affords protection but still maximizes the size advantages of the mini. My tech person wondered what happens when the Mini drops, but I won’t be letting that happen (right?).

In Class. This is where the Mini shines. Being able to hold it in one hand and type with the other is ideal for grading homework, mobility, etc. One of the big questions was about Splashtop, about whether the smaller screen size would hamper Splashtop’s functionality. The early assessment is a qualified no. Writing notes via Splashtop was no different (and there wasn’t the lag time between stroking and appearance that I had experienced before) from the regular sized iPad. Controlling the computer was a bit trickier on the smaller screen, but not enough to offset the other advantages of the smaller size.

An interesting side note about using Splashtop. The Mini is easier to hold in portrait view than landscape view, but of course Splashtop works better in landscape view. The thinner vertical margin (in portrait) become the top and bottom margins in landscape, which leaves no place to put your thumb when holding the Mini. This took a bit of experimenting, but I finally found a position that works, with the thumb in the far bottom corner (where the thicker margin is). This helped with using Splashtop considerably.

So far so good with the iPad Mini. Some aspects of it are clearly lacking to the regular sized iPad but for mobile (i.e. on the go) use there’s nothing to complain about.

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