comicbookGRRRL Do not offend the chair leg of truth; it is wise and terrible.


Review: Digital Comics and the iPad Mini 2

If there’s one thing that’s changed in the word of comics, for both readers and critics, it’s the huge market shift towards digital over the last decade. As comics have become more and more mainstream, from superheroes on our cinema screens to award winning graphic novels in book stores, the medium has embraced the potential of digital distribution in a way that took many by surprise.

As an ex-bookseller, comics as physical objects are something I’ve been quite stubbornly defensive of. But as an avid webcomic fan, and someone rapidly running out of space in my house, I was starting to come around to the idea of digital comic reading. I’d tried a Kindle for reading books and it hadn’t quite stuck – yet another piece of tech to lug around – but the iPad seemed pretty attractive, with the added bonus of being able to read full colour comics on a screen that did them justice. And the iPad mini looked particularly tempting.

So I figured, why not give one a whirl?

iPad Mini 2I should note that in all honesty, going into this experiment, I thought that the iPad mini would be a pretty cool toy, but not something that would be on par with my laptop or mobile phone in terms of how much I came to depend on it. Oh how wrong I was – it’s place as a necessity for both work and leisure has actually taken me completely by surprise!

I had recommended the iPad to friends and family previously: my Grandma uses hers to enlarge the print on the books she’d found increasingly difficult to read, while one of my brothers uses his for internet browsing, social media and goofing around with games. But I didn’t really think it was for me, partly down to the size. The great thing about my phone is how portable it is, especially compared to a laptop or full size iPad.

But when I looked at the size of the iPad mini 2 with retina display (check out here), which has a surprisingly large screen (7.9” with 2048 x 1536 resolution at 326 ppi) for such a small device (200mm x 134.7mm x 7.5 mm, and 331g), I started to see the appeal. In fact, it fits in all of my various bags and means that I’m very rarely without it.

So first things first - after admiring the new shiny object, I started it up, played around with the buttons, and got the one thing that had really tempted me over to the iPad – The Phoenix comic. This great little all ages comic is available in print by order, but the convenience of being able to press a button and have it immediately available was incredibly persuasive. I’d actually never been able to read an issue before, and now I had a huge number to choose from. It was also impressive seeing just how easy it was now to support a project that had previously been a little too out of my way.

When reading comics you can zoom in panel by panel, but the screen is certainly large enough to read in full page view which is what I do. It’s really the Retina display that makes the comics look so fantastic, with the same resolution as the iPad Air, and of course the new iPad mini also has the same processer as the 10” iPad Air (A7), and the same storage (I went for the 16GB), same battery life and so forth. But cheaper, and more portable.

I popped across several of the digital review copies of comics I had on hand to test them out, and found myself whittling through that pile in the following weeks as I could read through them on the bus and train, or just sitting on my couch when I didn’t want to start up my work laptop. Good news for me, my editors, and the comic creators.

iPad Mini 2

Of course it’s not all about work; I appear to now be slightly addicted to Hay Day, and the existence of a Murder She Wrote game saw me flip out in nostalgic glee. The quality of the games available varies hugely, but as someone who qualifies as a somewhat ardent gamer as well as enjoying casual games, I was pretty impressed by the variety on offer and the flashy graphics. It’s not too surprising given how great films look on the screen – I installed the Netflix app pretty early on and can now lounge in bed and watch whatever documentary, cartoon or movie I fancy. That A7 processor is put to good use with even HD games and films running as smoothly on screen as they do on my MacBook Air.

The speakers are pretty good, stereo sound and located at the bottom, while the FaceTime HD camera on front is very impressive – plus there’s a 5 megapixel camera on the back for those who use their tablets to take photos. Those are things I take for granted, but the battery life is a different story – given how much hard use I’m putting the iPad mini through it only needs charged every 10 hours. If I’m using it mostly for reading or with lighter use, that stretches to a few days, even half a week.

Another medium I had in mind when getting the iPad was the magazine – I’m not a huge magazine buyer but that’s mostly because they take up space, then I lose them, and I never get around to reading them. I’d heard of Yippee Ki-Yay! magazine, an iPad (and iPhone) exclusive, so downloaded that for a read. Sure enough, just like with the books and comics, this is definitely a preferable method of reading for me. Now I just need to get myself a waterproof case seeing as I do a lot of reading in the bath…

I figured that since I was so impressed with how great comics and magazines looked, I should perhaps give the Kindle app a try. Lo and behold, reading on a brighter screen suits me far better, and images look fantastic. In fact every page looks amazingly crisp and clear – perhaps even more so than on the larger sized iPads. While I begrudged the Kindle itself as an extra thing to remember to take everywhere, the iPad mini had quickly found its space in my bag which gives me the welcome luxury of being able to catch up on my reading on long journeys. And I hadn’t realised quite how many books I had passed by because of my subconscious awareness of how little space there was left on my bookshelves – I’ve probably read more (for fun) in the last month than I did in the previous six.

iPad Mini 2

Overall, trying out the iPad mini has been a very pleasantly surprising experience. As someone who was previously quite anti-digital reader, and who was a bit sniffy about the Kindle, I didn’t expect for this to be something I’d consider now completely necessary for my work – and a welcome luxury for my downtime.

I’ve realised that this is definitely the way I want to be reading magazines and, yes, some comics and books from now on. Instead of an overflowing pile of single issue comics, they can all be on this little device. Instead of mountains of books, I can have a library on the iPad – and feel less guilty about buying the occasional beautiful book. For graphic novels and trade paperbacks I’ll be sticking with the paper editions – the impact of the two page transfer of information can’t (yet) be replicated digitally – but I’m amazed at how many books and comics I’m popping on to the iPad, and reading more than I was previously.

Funnily enough I’ve heard a few friends and family members recently swithering over whether to buy the full size iPad or the mini and I’ve recommended the mini every time. If you already have a main computer or laptop, and want something that is either portable or just lighter for sitting on the couch or in bed to watch films, read books or comics, or browse the net, then the iPad mini is a real winner. The smaller size but gorgeous display, fantastic performance and great battery life all ensure that I use this far more often than I would a larger tablet of any kind.

Now to try Comixology and MonkeyBrain Comics!

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I have a full size iPad and an 8″ Galaxy Tab that I use to read comics on. When I’m at home and can sit down to read, I tend to gravitate towards the full size screen. Lately however, I’ve been taking care of a newborn so all of my reading has been done on my Tab which is much easier to hold in 1 hand.

    As far as I’m concerned, with the exception of Marvel’s Epic Collections and the odd Omnibus (Infinity Gauntlet!) – I’m done with print and a full convert to digital.

  2. I use my Google Nexus for reading comics mainly using Comixology. I love it despite, like you previously being a staunch defender of the comic in hard print. I think they both have their place and actually the availability of online comics can only be good for writer/creators. I have certainly spent more on comics since reading them on my tablet than I did when I had to go into town, browse the shelves and not perhaps get the back issue I wanted.

  3. Greatly appreciate for your review of ipad mini 2, particularly for comics. I can now peacefully go and get it without having to think will it be sufficient for comic-viewing.

    Btw, the DC Comics figure’s are a excellent touch!

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.