Regardless of your feelings about the Mini's price, or its A5 processor and non-Retina 7.9-inch display, here's what you'll notice when you pick it up: it's really shockingly nice to hold.
That's not the case for the Mini. The iPad Mini is an extremely easy-to-hold tablet that, despite its wider form, feels as light as a Kindle. Not a Kindle Fire, but a Kindle. At 0.28 inch thin and 0.68 pound (0.69 for the LTE versions), it's the slimmest and lightest 7-inch-range tablet around, although it has a larger footprint (7.87 inches by 5.3 inches). It's thinner than an iPhone 5, and seems proportionally as razor-thin as the new iPod Touch.
Gripping, swiping, and typing: Thumbs and fingers
So, what about that smaller bezel? Holding it suddenly becomes a delicate-seeming proposition. I worried I'd accidentally start an app with my big palms, or turn a page by accident. That didn't happen to me. Apple has worked finger-rejection technology into the hardware and software of the iPad Mini that's context-dependent. All I know is that when reading books on the Kindle app or iBooks, I found holding on the side wasn't a problem. When I typed, the entire edge-to-edge surface became sensitive to my entire hand.
The screen: Retina-free
Your feelings about the iPad Mini's screen will all depend on how much time you've spent with Retina Displays or high-pixel-count devices. If you own a recent iPhone or the last iPad, you'll feel that this screen is blurry. Text isn't as sharp. The pixels per inch don't even match what's available on a Kindle Fire HD or Nook HD. The iPad Mini has a 1,024x768-pixel display, just like the iPad 2's, but writ smaller with a denser pixel count per inch. However, the smaller-screened Kindle Fire HD has a 1,280x800-pixel display. So does the Google Nexus 7. TheNook HD has an even higher-res display at 1,440x900 pixels.
However, if you've used an iPad 2, the text is crisper. It's readable, even with smaller fonts such as those used in e-mail. With games and videos, you won't notice quite as much because graphics and videos are often in constant motion. Even there, though, I could see a clear difference playing HD videos and a variety of games. The IPS display has excellent wide-angle viewing, and it's very bright. It may not be as good as a Retina Display, but it's every bit as good as the iPad 2's screen. I held both up side by side and found the colors and vibrancy to be similar, although the iPad Mini is less bright at its highest setting.
iPad Mini as e-reader
You could be of two minds about this. Yes, the non-Retina Display means text that's less sharp. It feels like a miscalculation on a device so clearly targeted at reading. Yet, hold the iPad Mini back a foot and increase the font size, and you probably won't notice.
iPad Mini as video player
That 4:3 aspect ratio has a drawback, of course, and that's video playing. Movies and HD TV shows will inevitably be more letterboxed than on a 16:9 tablet like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. On a Retina Display iPad, you at least have enough pixels to make for sharp video viewing in the space provided. On a 1,024x768-pixel display, it means the letterboxed video has an even lower resolution.