Apple iPad Mini vs Google Nexus 7 vs Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Android, Apple, Features, Google, iPad, Round ups, Tablet, Tech Digest news

iPad-Mini-vs-top.jpgreview-line.JPGYears of leaks, rumours, hopes and more than a fair few dismissive remarks on the worth of seven inch tablets from Steve Jobs are over! The Apple iPad Mini has finally been revealed. But in the intermittent years between the launch of the original iPad and today’s packed launch event, the tablet space is busier than ever. The 7-inch market that the iPad Mini finds itself in is particularly competitive, with great, low price Android offerings such as the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

So which should you be popping into your oversized back pocket? We compare the pros and cons of the Apple iPad Mini, Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD in our tech face-off below!

Apple iPad Mini

Picture an iPod Touch in your head, then blow it up to 7.9 inches in size. That’s basically the newly revealed iPad Mini, a diminutive iPad or oversized iPod Touch depending on how you look at it. Still built from aluminium, it’s dimensions measure 200mm x 134.7mm x 7.2mm, and weighs just 308 grams, making it the lightest tablet on this list. As is standard with Apple mobile products, a single Home button sits on the bottom edge of the bezel, with a video conferencing camera up top. With a thinner bezel on the sides and a curved back, it’ll fit nicely into one hand. Being made from aluminium, it’ll match the same solid construction standards that make Apple products so darn attractive.

Google Nexus 7

Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, built by ASUS, measures 7 inches across. ASUS have impressed us in the past with their Transformer tablet range, and the practice they’ve put in building their own gear sees the Nexus 7 come together quite wonderfully. Measuring 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm and weighing 340 grams, it fits nicely in one hand, without being too heavy or unbalanced. A black bezel around the screen gives room to rest fingers, without impeding the size of the actual display. A scratch resistant Corning glass display should go some way to protecting the device from bumps and scrapes, and while its casing is built from plastic rather than the metal build found in iPad models, its black pockmarked back still has a premium feel to it.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is roughly the same size as the Nexus 7 at 193 mm x 137 mm x 10.3 mm, and a bit heavier at 395 grams. Again, it fits nicely in one hand, but has a slightly wider black bezel than we’d usually hope for. Gorilla Glass protects the screen from scrapes, and though built from black rubberised plastic, the casing still looks good and feels solidly put together.

Apple iPad Mini

Under the hood of the iPad Mini you’ll find an Apple A5 dual-core processor, the same as is found in the full size iPad 2, but not as speedy as the brand-spanking new A6X chip in the just-unveiled iPad 4th generation. This should be perfect for watching high-definition video and scrolling through web pages and 2D apps, though intensive 3D gaming apps that run smoothly on the newest full-size iPads may not work at all.

Both Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity is available in the iPad Mini, meaning that even if you’re away from a Wi-Fi connection, you’ll still be able to get speedy web access on the tablet over a mobile connection. In the UK, EE offer 4G mobile connections, and they’re not too outlandishly priced; expect a £5 to £10 premium per month over standard 3G connections.

Two cameras feature on the iPad Mini, a 5MP iSight Camera on the rear and a 720p HD Facetime camera for video calling up front. Apple’s imaging technology tends to be pretty good, so expect good results from the rear camera for still photos. You’ll still look a pillock using a tablet-sized device as a camera.

Sadly, the Retina Display doesn’t make it into the iPad Mini. The 7.9 inch display runs at a relatively low 1024×768 resolution, with a 163ppi. That’s lower than all the other tablets on this list, and disappointing considering Apple’s pedigree in this field.

Other features include an accelerometer, Bluetooth, GPS and gyroscope, but there’s no NFC contactless data transfer option, one of the tech industry’s current most-wanted features.

Google Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 uses a speedy NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, with a 12-core GPU that allows games and apps to run marvellously smoothly. You’ll rarely find a moment when the tablet has to catch up with the actions you’re asking of it.

Wi-Fi connectivity is built in, but there’s no 3G or 4G option with the Nexus 7, meaning you’ll always need to be near a Wi-Fi network or public hotspot to access web features.

A microphone and front-facing 1.2MP camera is available for video calling, but there’s no rear-facing camera of higher resolution, as you’d find in some rival tablets. This is no bad thing; you look like an idiot holding up a tablet to take a picture, and the results are uniformly awful.

With a resolution of 1280×800 (with a 216 ppi), the Nexus 7 screen is not of Retina Display standards. It’s still great for watching films on and is a good match for its Android rivals of similar size, but those spoiled by Apple’s super-high resolution displays will notice a lack of definition.

Other features include an accelerometer, GPS, magnetometer and gyroscope. NFC connectivity is available too, letting you use the Android Beam feature to touch two devices together to share information and files. Eventually, NFC payment points in stores will let you hook your Nexus 7 up to your bank details, and pay with your tablet by placing it against payment points.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

The Kindle Fire HD uses a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. That’s fine for basic web browsing and apps that aren’t too graphically intensive, but 3D games can struggle to keep consistent frame rates. For most tableting tasks though, it shouldn’t be a problem; watching 720p video for instance is great.

Wi-Fi connectivity is built in, but again there’s no 3G or 4G option here, meaning you’ll again need to be near a Wi-Fi network or public hotspot to access web features.

A microphone and front-facing HD camera is available for video calling, but there’s no rear-camera. Again, no bad thing considering how bad they usually are.

Screen resolution is an exact match for the Nexus 7, with the same 1280×800 screen and 216ppi. However, colours are more vibrant and black levels deeper, making this our preferred screen of the two. Still not quite a Retina-beater though.

Other sensors include an accelerometer and gyroscope, as well as Bluetooth connectivity a microUSB connection and a handy micro-HDMI connection for pushing videos and pictures to a big screen, a great feature missing from the other tablets here.

Interface and Apps
Apple iPad Mini

iOS 6 sits in Apple’s iPad Mini, and it’s wonderfully designed. While not as customisable as Google’s Android, it’s easy on the eye and incredibly easy to use; put an iPad Mini in a tech novice’s hands and they’ll figure out how to work it in minutes.

iOS 6 is Apple’s most current mobile operating system. It puts software known as apps into a grid of icons. Simply tapping them fires them up. Apps can be dragged on top of each other to create folders, or spread across multiple homescreens. Notifications such as email alerts and social networking updates can be accessed by dragging a toolbar down from the top of the screen. It’s all very simple and intuitive.

Apps can be purchased from Apple’s App Store. Seeing as they invented the whole concept of mobile “Apps” as we know them today, it’s unsurprising that their’s is the most comprehensive offering on this list. Over 700,000 apps are available to iPad Mini users, 275,000 of which are optimised for the iPad Mini. Be it gaming apps, educational apps, photography apps, music or reference, the App Store’s wares are of a consistently high standard. “There’s an App for everything” to coin Apple’s phrase, but its pretty much true, and plenty of them are free too.

Google Nexus 7

Being a Google-branded device, the Nexus 7 is obviously be going to use Android, the search giant’s own mobile operating system, as the base of its software. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is the latest available version of Android, and it’s installed here on the Nexus 7.

Android is a great operating system, and it’s here in its “vanilla” version, unsullied by bloatware or design changes that other manufacturers sometimes lay on top of Google’s open OS.

As well as the afore-mentioned Android Beam NFC functionality, Android has plenty working in its favour. Multiple homescreens can be totally customised, with intuitive “long presses” letting you add app shortcuts across the device. There are also resizeable Live Widgets available through Android; these are larger icons spread across the homescreens that offer live updating information at a glance. These may come in the form of condensed Twitter or Facebook feeds, email inboxes or weather reports, for example. It’s a great looking OS and incredibly flexible, though it’s slightly more complex than Apple’s iOS, which idiot-proofs all access to settings and customisation options. Tech tinkerers will get the most from Android.

Apps come courtesy of Google’s Play Store. Over 600,000 apps are available through the store, and unlike Apple, Google are open to more wacky (sometimes dubious) submissions. While this makes it slightly more prone to attracting hackers and unsavoury apps, there are also loads of really incredible apps for unlocking the full potential of your hardware. The standard of Android apps has greatly improved in recent times; whether you’re a gamer, a reader, someone hunting news stories or recipes, a photographer or a blogger, there’s something for everyone. Many are free too, and few cost more than £3 or so. When it comes to mapping, Google’s Maps app, included here for free, is far and away the best solution, particularly in comparison to the woeful Apple Maps.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

A heavily-altered version of Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS is installed on the Kindle Fire HD. Clearly directed at encouraging you to buy content from Amazon’s online stores, it’s not very customisable at all, and not always a pleasant experience to use.

On the main screen a central carrousel of your most recently used apps, books, videos and magazines can be spun through. Once you settle on one, a row appears below that suggests similar content that other users have bought. A search bar sits at the top of the screen, while a list of categorised sections houses similar content together below that. It’s easy to find what you want, though the connected content stores are often slow to load, and don’t make great use of the screen real estate on offer to display the information you need.

Despite being an Android device, the Kindle Fire HD has its own Android app store. This is bad, not because it doesn’t work or isn’t easy to navigate, but because it offers far less apps than the standard Google Play Store does. You’ll still get all the big names (Twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds etc), but there’s just not as much to chose from. If you buy an Android app for Amazon’s app store though, it’ll be available on all your other devices using the Google OS. Gamers may want to look elsewhere regardless; the dual-core processor isn’t quite up to the task of playing more advanced Android games.

Apple iPad Mini

If you’re familiar with Apple’s iTunes store then you’ll be right at home downloading movies and TV shows on the iPad Mini. A gigantic catalogue of films in both standard definition and high definition can be both rented and bought from the store. New releases in HD quality are usually about £13.99, and standard definition films about £9.99. The quality of films on iTunes is top notch; if you can buy it online or in your local HMV, chances are you’ll find it on iTunes. It’s a shame the screen resolution is lower than on a regular sized iPad, though with the screen significantly smaller, it’ll still be very easy on the eye.

Transferring your own content onto an iPad can be bit troublesome, as you have to connect to a Mac or PC and use the desktop iTunes software to manage your content. It can be picky about which file formats it accepts, so it may be worth investing in some file format conversion software or hunting down a reliable one online.

Regardless, the App Store has loads of great movie streaming apps, including LOVEFiLM and Netflix. Movie buffs will be spoiled for choice.

Google Nexus 7

The default option for getting movies and TV shows onto the Google Nexus 7 is Google’s Play Movies store. Here you can rent movies, or if you live in the US TV shows too. New releases are never more than £3.49 for standard definition or £4.49 for HD content. There’s a good selection of movies from across the ages (though there’s a bias towards newer blockbusters), and the widescreen display works well for playing them back, with decent audio quality from the built-in speakers.

As well as easily adding your own personal video collection from a PC over the included microUSB connection, the Google Play app store has access to many other video playing and streaming apps, such as Netflix. There are plenty of options for film fans here.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Through the Amazon Prime one-month trial that comes with the tablet (usually £49 a year with a host of other benefits), you get unlimited access to the Amazon Instant Video collection, offering Netflix style streaming. Searching for content is easy and the library is robust. If you’re a LOVEFiLM Instant subscriber, you also get “X-Ray” features with movies, which hooks up to the IMDB movie fact database and overlays key details over the action. There are less movie options available to Kindle Fire HD users, but what’s on offer here is of a high standard, in terms of both titles and the way they’re presented.

Also, the speakers on the Kindle Fire HD are superb, loud enough for a few friends to comfortably cram around the screen and have listen. Though sharing the same resolution and size display as the Nexus 7, contrast levels seem deeper and colours more vibrant. Visually and sonically, it’s the better of the two Android devices.

Apple iPad Mini

iBooks is your portal to literature on the iPad Mini. It offers 1.5 million books (many of which are free) and arranges them in an attractive bookshelf-style library. Text can be resized to suit your preference, with books slightly cheaper than their paper-and-print counterparts.

iCloud features mean that if you own another Apple device, like an iPhone, you can read on one device and pick up on another exactly where you left off on the other device. The new version of iBooks launched tonight also offers continuos scrolling as an option if you’d rather read your books as one long document, and adds Twitter and Facebook sharing of your favourite quotations and passages.

If you’re after newspapers of magazines, Newstand is your app of choice, letting you add subscriptions to many major publications, automatically downloading new issues as they become available. Many publishers put most effort into the iPad versions of their magazines, making for the most interactive and visually appealing versions available in any medium. The same goes for comics, with a really love selection of apps available for fans of the superhero’s medium of choice.

Google Nexus 7

As with Play Movies, there’s the Play Books app for literature on the Nexus 7. It’s an easily navigated store, broken down into categories and highlighting new releases or popular collections or seasonal genres. There are plenty of free classic books on the store, while new releases are pretty much a match for other outlets, and usually a few quid cheaper than the paper versions. Magazines are available through the Google Play Magazines app too, offering subscriptions and back issues. They look great, with full screen, colourful photography. Books come in open ePub and PDF formats, which work with most devices other than the Kindle eReaders.

Again, the Google Play Store houses plenty of other reading material, from Amazon’s own excellent Kindle app to comic book readers form the likes of Marvel and DC, as well as standalone single book apps.

Reading on the Google Nexus 7 is comfortable; many apps offer adjustable text sizes and the backlight makes it good for reading in the dark, though it’s not a patch on how comfortable it is to read an e-Ink eReader or regular paperback.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD is probably the best option if you’re into your books of the three tablets compared here. Tapping into the extensive Kindle book store, you’ve got nearly a million books on offer, the majority of which are under £3.99 and many free too. Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI and PRC files formats are handled natively, and there’s also support for Audible Enhanced format (AAX), DOC and DOCX formats through other apps. Whispersync technology keeps all your bookmarks and last page read in books tracked across devices; if you read on a smartphone or Kindle eReader as well as the Kindle Fire HD, you’ll go back to the right point as soon as you pick up the next device.

Amazon Prime members also get access to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, letting you “rent” 180,000 titles for free, with no due dates. You’ll get one book a month, with a one month free trial for Amazon Prime with the Kindle Fire HD. Prime subscriptions cost £49 year, and adds unlimited free one-day delivery to all your physical orders as well as other benefits.

150 magazines are available through the Kindle Fire HD too, including Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair, as well as newspapers such as the Guardian. Subscriptions are uniformly cheaper than print editions and look great on the vibrant screen.

Apple iPad Mini

16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions of the iPad Mini are available, offering a nice spread of storage options for all budgets. However, with the size of iOS apps skyrocketing since the introduction of the Retina Display, you’re best to grab the 32GB version at the very least. There’s no microSD expansion on offer here either; once you’ve bought it that’s all the physical storage space you’re ever going to get.

If you need more storage space, you’re going to have to find a cloud storage provider. We’d suggest Dropbox (being free and offering the easiest ways to expand your storage space without spending an extra penny), though Apple’s iCloud may be more up your street, particularly if you regularly use other Apple products. 5GB of iCloud storage comes as free, but for a fee that can be expanded to as much as 50GB.

Google Nexus 7

The Google Nexus 7 currently comes in 8GB and 16GB versions, but with no microSD support, that’s what you’re left with forever. However, rumour has it that a 32GB version will launch in the coming days or weeks, and will be priced no more than £199 (the current price for the 16GB version). At that price, a 32GB option is an absolute steal. You can of course supplement storage with a cloud-based solution. We’d suggest Dropbox which is free, and offers plenty of ways to easily boost your storage space for free too as well as premium options.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

16GB and 32GB versions of the Kindle Fire HD are available, and all models are well priced for the storage they offer. Again, there’s no microSD slot here, so you’ll need to supplement storage with a cloud service. Amazon offer unlimited free cloud storage space for any item you buy from their stores and limited storage space for your personal files, though we’d still recommend Dropbox for your own files.

Battery Life
Apple iPad Mini

You’ll get 10 hours of web browsing, video viewing or music playback from the iPad Mini, or 9 hours if you’re connected to a cellular network. From our experience with other iPads, that’s a pretty trustworthy estimate, and pretty much as good as it gets in tablet land.

Google Nexus 7

Google quote 9 hours of HD video playback, 10 hours of web browsing, 10 hours of book reading and 300 hours in standby for the Nexus 7. That’s above average and commendable.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

the Kindle Fire HD offers 11 quoted hours of reading, surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music. Again that’s above average and a good amount of time, but as Amazon admits, that’ll vary depending on your usage.


Apple iPad Mini

In the UK the iPad Mini Wi-Fi will sell for £269 for the 16GB model, £349 for the 32GB model and £429 for the 64GB model. Pop £100 onto the end of each of those prices if you want a version with a 4G connection. However, they’re not on sale yet; pre-orders open on October 26, with Wi-Fi models shipping by November 2nd. Those with cellular connections will follow a fortnight later.

Google Nexus 7

Google’s Nexus 7 costs £159 for the 8GB version, and £199 for the 16GB version. However, a 32GB version at the same £199 price point is hotly tipped to be launching soon, and would be well worth holding out for.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Amazon have a slightly different approach to pricing the Kindle Fire HD, offering a slightly cheaper version that pops the odd advert onto the lock screen. The ad-supported version costs £159 for the 16GB version and £199 for the 32GB version. These adverts aren’t intrusive, so if you’re counting the pennies, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

If you cant handle adverts of any kind, the ad-free 16GB version costs £169, with the 32GB set at £209. Whichever version you go for, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD is cheap as chips.
WINNER: Google Nexus 7

It’s a close-run race, but on overall value, features and hardware quality, we’re putting the 7-inch tablet crown on the head of Google’s Nexus 7.

It’s not as cheap as the Kindle Fire HD, but offers a far better, open software experience, and while not as expensive as the iPad Mini, looks like it’ll be a match for the premium metal build quality of Apple’s newest toy.

Storage space, especially when the 32GB version launches, is well priced on the Nexus 7, and while the screen isn’t quite as good as the Kindle Fire HD, it should be notably sharper than the iPad Mini.

It’s missing a cellular connection as on offer by the iPad Mini, but offers a useful NFC option, and a far more streamlined way of getting your own content onto the tablet over USB.

Of course, Apple’s App Store remains the pack leader, but Google’s Play Store is now of a comparably high standard, as are its media content and books stores. Amazon’s App Store really lets it down in this regard, as does its pushy commerce-driven interface.

There’s not much in it, there’s no denying that, and if you already have a kinship with Android or iOS, you probably had already picked out your favourite device of the three long before we compared their features. But when you weigh up the pennies, it seems you get more for your money with the Google Nexus 7.

Gerald Lynch
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