I'm trying to decide between purchasing a iPad mini or an iPad 4--this will be my first tablet. I went to the Apple Store and was struck by how heavy the iPad 4 feels in comparison to the iPad mini, but also by how gorgeous the iPad 4 screen is. The main question is if the weight and heft of the large iPad is worth the retina screen in comparison to the smaller, lighter, but not so crisp iPad mini. My primary uses of the device will be ebooks, rss reading, document viewing, social networking, streaming video, light emailing, occasional gaming.
No. Unless you are showing clients pictures or using a remote desktop access to control a computer and do work, the mini is so much lighter than the retina iPad that it's not even fair to compare them in terms of ease of use.
Yes, you can tell the difference between something drawn with retina versus the mini screen - especially for foreign texts and line art, but in practice it doesn't matter much.
I have and use both and easily, my use slants 10 to 1 in favor of the lighter mini - especially for short bursts and casual reading and gaming. For several apps, I do increase the font size one notch from what I prefer on the retina display, but I don't find any critical failure in not having a retina display despite using the device heavily for work and pleasure.
At half the weight and almost all the power, the mini is the device to get except for some very specialized situations. You can also put the money you save into AppleCare plus or a wireless keyboard or just apps and have a better all around solution.
It's really a personal thing, but I can offer my experiences.
I love my retina iPad, I waited to get an iPad until the retina one came out and I'm glad I did. In comparison to the iPad 2 (which I got to use fairly extensively for a week or two), it's night and day for me, particularly for reading.
That said, the iPad Minis I've tested in stores have been very impressive — the form factor and especially the casing are great. If I hadn't been spoiled by the retina screen and was buying my first iPad, it would be a close call. However I think I would still go for the big iPad, for two reasons. Firstly, most of my use is either lounging on the couch or sitting with the iPad resting on a table, so the weight isn't as much of a concern for me. Secondly, so much of my use is for reading that the retina screen really makes a difference to me.
My best advice is to consider what your likely use is, and how much of a difference the weight will really make.