Why we love it
➝ The 7.9-by-5.3-inch iPad Mini remains a tester favorite after nearly a year in the field, thanks to the easy-to-use interface, the longest battery life, and the largest selection of quality apps. Testers loved the preloaded Photo app, which automatically organizes pics in smart groupings and is built for sharing select “streams” with friends and family. Apple’s free iMovie app provides simple tools to edit and build HD movies with cinematic transitions and impressive effects.
In the field
➝ The Mini returned best-in-class battery life, with our tester netting 14 hours of nonstop mapping from one charge and up to 30 hours of battery life during light use. The Mini’s 5-megapixel iSight camera is superior. Like the Galaxy (page 47), it has built-in autofocus and records in 1080p HD video. But it also sports an infrared filter which helps cancel out digital noise and boost image fidelity. While hiking Rabbit Mountain outside of Lyons, Colorado, a tester put the lens to work when he fired up the 360 Panorama* app, which created an immersive, Google Street View-style image that captured the view from Longs Peak to Boulder’s far-off Flatirons. Before heading out on trips, another tester preplanned his routes in BACKPACKER’s Map Maker app—available only on iPad—that offers easy drag-and-drop waypoint entry (see right). Then he was able to have a custom topo map sent to his house right from the app using MyTopo’s map builder. Cool feature: Apple’s new Maps app for desktop computers syncs with the iPad’s Maps app, which bridges front- and backcountry use. Get directions, 3D views, and satellite imagery for streamlined trip planning. “While getting ready for a climbing weekend in Colorado’s South Platte area, I preplotted our route to the trailhead and bypassed metro Denver traffic,” one tester says. Ding: The screen resolution lags slightly behind the Samsung. $329/16 GB, $429/32 GB, $529/64 GB (Wi-Fi, non-retina version tested); 10.8 oz.; apple.com
➝ Lifeproof Fre with portfolio cover
This svelte tablet wrapper is the big cousin to the iPhone case that won our Editors’ Choice Award in 2013. The snap-together, rubber-sealed sleeve is immune to water, the clumsiest hikers, and the rowdiest toddlers, but it’s spendy. $100 (case), $40 (cover); 12.1 oz. (case & cover); lifeproof.com
*Panorama tip Move the tablet ever-so-slowly to capture all the fine details and a nice, crisp shot.