The latest member of the Apple family, the iPad Mini, has just joined the rooster and finally, the moment that we have all been waiting for has arrived. With all participants gathered at the start line, the race for the most wanted 7 inch tablet is ready to begin. But before you rush into stores and purchase the first product that feels great in your hand, read our thoughts as we analyze the Nexus 7, the Kindle Fire HD and the iPad Mini, in a classical versus match.
The verdict that we are going to pronounce today will be based on several important factors such as performance, visual aspect, pure feeling and most of all, the complete user experience. Price and availability will also be accounted but at the end of the day, you must pick the tablet that is most suited to your needs and not precisely what we would choose. Now, let’s see who the meanest kid on the block is.
iPad Mini vs. Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire HD
As a short introduction, the iPad Mini has just been announced and how Apple usually customs, it was presented as a fully capable device with impressive technical specifications, a classic design which resembles its larger-sized siblings and great battery life. The Nexus 7 on the other hand, was built by Asus in cooperation with Google and came into the market as the first device to bear Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
Apart from the latest mobile OS, the Nexus 7 is also a power hog that hides impressive gear under the hood and has a nice design. Lastly, the Kindle Fire HD is Amazon’s best bet this year, and we consider it to be a tablet that just might stole customers with its impressive features and a wide range of media goodies, even if there are enough reasons not to buy one.
Design and general feel
We put great value on the design and general aspect of a tablet, especially if we are thinking about purchasing one for ourselves. In this category, the iPad Mini goes without question by Apple’s guidelines, by having a smooth aluminum back and a light, thin body. Actually, the slate is so thin that you may be frightened to hold it at first or confuse it with a small stack of papers. The device can literally be held with only one hand, and without putting much stress on the wrist. The iPad Mini can easily accommodate fingers onto the fingerprint-free surface and it’s 200 x 134 x 7 inches will surely make an impression.
Weighing just 308 grams, the iPad Mini comes with a shiny polished front-facing surface and back colors that resemble the iPhone 5, in both white and black models. But speaking of similiraties with the iPhone 5, we greatly fear that the small slate will come with the same design issues of the smartphone, especially the ones caused by the back-aluminum surface. This material is very easy to scratch and may come damaged right from the box. Plus, for some people, aluminum is simply not an option, as it feels cold at hand and very sharp, unlike the plain plastic who is always welcoming.
Apart from these, the iPad Mini comes with the classic home button situated in the bottom-middle of the front side, the classic apple on the back alongside the iPad logo and, on the sides of the slate, owners will find two volume buttons and the power toggle.
Nexus 7: slightly heavier and thicker
Now that we’ve got the Apple out of the way, it’s time for the Nexus 7. Google has designed its first tablet in a candy-bar shape that has no hardware buttons and the only element visible on the front side is the small video-chat camera. Users can navigate through the menu using three capacitive buttons (home, return and search) while volume adjustments and power-related options can be made using the three buttons located on the side.
The body of the Nexus 7 measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm in size, being slightly thicker than the iPad Mini and a bit heavier. Although in matters of lightness, the iPad Mini cannot be outgamed, Google’s slate has the advantage of being entirely made out of plastic, and the design of the back panel bestows a professional look and feel, similar to the one received when strapping driving gloves on your hands. On the other hand, the stylish corner cuts and the “slim” bezel seem amateurish and sloppy in front of Apple’s.
Last, but certainly not least, the Kindle Fire HD made by Amazon is a bit larger than the Nexus 7 and if it wasn’t for the length of the iPad Mini, it would certainly be the biggest of them all. The slate comes with classic black bezels on the front, a stylish back plate made out of plastic and the addition of Amazon’s logo on a slim line that occupies the whole length of the device.
When taking a look at the sides of the Kindle Fire HD, owners will find two volume buttons and one for power, right next to the 3.5mm headphone jack. Amazon’s slate has a candy bar shape blended with shell-like principles, making it feel robust at touch. The newest Fire is also thicker and heavier than the iPad Mini but its plastic material makes it very friendly at touch and the extra grams assures the owner that it won’t slip out of hands.
Verdict: Once more, we go for the Nexus 7 by his impressive looks and by the fact that it uses plastic as the main material. We don’t like aluminum at all, because its sensible and disperses a lot of heat but if you are crazy about it, go for the iPad Mini.
Display and viewing Area
The display is another note-worthy feature of a device and as you probably know, Apple makes a stand right from the start. The iPad Mini comes with a 4:3 aspect ratio, being ideal to be used in portrait modes. As a comparison, both the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD come with 16:9, which offers slightly lower results. Moreover, the display mounted on the iPad Mini is 7.9-inch wide, which translates as 0.9-inch wider than the ones equipped on the other two tablets and a significant boost in viewing area.
As it has been rumored for long and also suggested by product makers, the small advantage and the fact that Apple has used really small front bezels give the iPad Mini a 40% larger viewing area in portrait mode, and a whopping 67% in landscape orientation.
But, this extra viewing area will not be 100% usable, as most videos, for example, are optimized for stretched areas, with 16:9 aspect ratios. So, when viewing such a movie on a classic 4:3 ratio display, black bands will appear above and below of the actual picture, reducing the effectiveness of the display. In this case, the iPad Mini viewing area will only be increased with 13% compared with the Nexus 7 and with zilch against the Kindle Fire HD, on a device larger with 11.5%.
On the other hand, Apple blew it with the pixel density mark, achieving only 163 PPI at an 1,024×768 resolution. This is so low that even the old iPhone 3GS and the original iPad can match it. Both the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD come with higher 1,280×800 pixel resolution and 216 PPI, very close to the retina standard.
All three displays are built with IPS technology and offer very bright and good-quality results, but we’ve noticed that the Nexus 7 has a disappointing contrast when viewing the Home screen. In any other menu the results were very good, but still far away from the other two tablets.
The Kindle Fire HD offers great colors, intensive brightness and a high number of black levels. The only downside we could find was that the anti-glare coating is pretty useless, because the panel was shiny above average in most environments.
Verdict: the iPad Mini, by whiskers.
Battery and Connectivity
Taking in considerations that the following numbers are extracted from manufacturing sheets, there may be some differences between what is advertised, and the real-end results.
With that in mind, the Kindle Fire HD is said to last 11 hours on a regular usage, but when turning up the Wi-Fi and browsing the web this amount will shorten dramatically (we’ve managed to squeeze 5 hours of video play). On the other hand, the Nexus 7 can offer around 10 hours of video playback (this is actually tested) and the iPad Mini is said to offer just as much.
Although Apple has hidden the capacity of their battery, the Nexus 7 has 4,325 mAh and the Kindle Fire HD comes with 4,400 mAh. When speaking of connectivity, Apple has the advantage of supplying an LTE antenna for a “couple” of extra bucks, a feature which is not encountered on any of the other two. A small downside can be spotted on the Nexus 7 though, which comes without a HDMI-compatible interface.
Verdict: Nexus 7 on battery, iPad Mini on connectivity.
The iPad Mini comes with a dual-core A5 chip of an older generation and disappoints right from the start, mainly because the iPhone 5 packs a dual-core Apple A6 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz. The last one tops the tablet with flying colors and the fact alone that Apple has a smartphone that outwits a bigger product seems strange to us. Of course, the lower price tag must have been met with costs.
On the other side, the Nexus 7 comes with a high performance quad-core Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA clocked at 1.2 GHz. The same frequency is encountered on Amazon’s slate but the Kindle Fire has only two cores, which are no match for the Nexus 7. As for the RAM section, Apple has concealed theirs and both the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD come with 1GB of RAM.
Winner: Nexus 7, without a doubt.
When it comes to operating systems, the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD were given the pleasure to have Android 4 on board. While the tablet made by Asus comes with a more evolved version, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the Fire HD comes with a highly modified 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The stock experience can be seen as an advantage by some users, because Google likes to keep its mobile OS fast, and without any unnecessary features.
On the other hand, the Fire HD can be hardly recognized by the Android OS, because Amazon has deleted most traces and inserted its own graphical interface. As it was reported by most users, this interface introduces an unnecessary number of taps to get from one point to another, while confusing the user in the process. There are simply too many elements and the experience is burdened by to many ways of opening the same application or reaching a certain place inside the system.
On top of all things, Amazon’s UI is laggy, the keyboard feels delayed and some gestures may cause the device to freeze. Right awful. When taking a look into Apple’s garden, the iPad Mini will ship with the latest iOS 6, which has some troubles with the location, GPS, Siri’s weather and pretty much everything that has to do with a satellite. But, after Apple fixes them, this match becomes a classic Android vs. iOS battle.
To sort things up, Android has a greater liberty factor, allowing the user to take advantage latterly of everything under the hood (especially when rooted), while iOS has the advantage of being very straightforward, simple to use and, to receive updates in no-time.
Verdict: Nexus 7 or iPad Mini, it’s up to you.
Right from the start we can see that both the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini have no tablet-optimized features. They are simply slates running on a spread operating system and do not hold any other interesting feature, besides the ones presented above.
On the other hand, the Kindle Fire HD comes with Amazon’s no-limit streaming Prime service which can be attached for $79/year. This service will allow users to access a wide range of videos for free and offer discounts on certain items. Amazon is also the house of thousands of books, videos, music, but remains handicapped when it comes to applications.
Moreover, Amazon has included advanced tech like Whispersync, which allows owners to return on enjoying content right from the point they left it off, and which works even for borrowed items. Another feature is called X-Ray search and lets users search through movies, music and books by unusual parameters, such as the name of the actor, a passage of action and so on.
Winner: Kindle Fire HD.
Price and availability
One important matter is the one of monetization, because the iPad Mini starts at a whopping $329, for the 16 GB Wi-Fi only version. Customers will have to pay an extra $100 for the 32GB and $200 for 64GB, while the LTE-friendly version can only be purchased with at least $459. The product will become available for pre-order on October 26th and will ship starting with November 2nd.
On the other camp, the Nexus 7 starts at $199 for the 8GB Wi-Fi only model, and the Kindle Fire HD hangs in the same price sector, but for 16GB.
Nexus 7 vs. iPad Mini vs. Kindle Fire HD: specifications comparison
|iPad Mini||Nexus 7||Kindle Fire HD|
|OS||iOS 6||Android 4.1||Custom Android 4.0|
|Size (inch)||7.9 x 5.3 x 0.28||7.8 x 4.7 x 0.41||7.4 x 4.7 x 0.45|
|Display||7.9-inch wide IPS with 1024×768 pixel resolution and 163 PPI||7-inch wide IPS with 1280×800 pixel resolution and 216 PPI||7-inch wide IPS with 1280×800 pixel resolution and 216 PPI|
|Processor||Apple A5 dual-core||1.2 GHz Tegra 3 quad-core by NVIDIA||1.2 GHz dual-core TI OMAP4460|
|Connectivity||Lightning connector, LTE||microUSB, NFC||microHDMI, microUSB|
|Battery||10 hours||4325 mAh (10 hours of video)||4400 mAh (5 hours of video)|
|Camera||5 MGP front, 1.2 MGP back||1.2 MGP front||720 front|
|Price||Wi-Fi: $329 (16GB), $429 (32GB), $529 (64GB).Cellular: $459 (16GB), $559 (32GB), $659 (64GB)||$199 (8GB), $249 (16GB)||$199 (16BG), $249 (32GB)|
The overall decision will be made in this case mostly by the price. Apple has failed to include its small slate in the same cost sector as the competition and thus, it will attract a different category on the market: one that has at least $329 to spend on a small tablet, with no 3G connectivity. To reiterate, iPad mini is just a smaller (and not meant to be cheaper) iPad, and hence comes with a great ecosystem.
To wrap things up, the best overall score is given to the iPad Mini but we do not declare it as the winner. This high score comes attached with a thick price tag. So those who can afford a high price can go with iPad mini. And for others, the Nexus 7 does a pretty good job, for a far smaller price.