They’re half the size and weight of the iPad, small enough to be pocketable but powerful enough to run today’s modern games and apps. And they’re in a battle for your coat pocket and pocketbook, this holiday season.
Will Apple’s iPad Mini or Google’s Nexus 7 win? Let’s find out which tablet deserves its place, and your dollars.
”Every inch an iPad”
Unless you were a fan of the Kindle Fire or Nook, the iPad was pretty much the only name-brand tablet out there before the Nexus showed up. It’s still arguably the only one, even though all three of its competitors are now putting dents in its impressive sales figures.
The new iPad Mini isn’t some weird new device that happens to carry the iPad name. It’s basically 2011’s iPad 2, with the same class of non-Retina screen, except small enough to hold and use with one hand despite being two-thirds the size of a full iPad. The side bezels are extremely thin, barely large enough to rest your thumb in between flicking to scroll, and the hardware is almost as thin as the iPod Touch.
What will you miss from a full-sized iPad, if you get one? The Retina screen, and the drag on your arm from the weight. That’s about it, unless you count being able to play the very latest of the latest games. The iPad Mini’s year-old innards lag behind the latest full-sized iPad’s a little. It doesn’t skimp on the storage, though; it goes all the way up to 64 GB.
”The Playground is open”
The Nexus 7 was designed to be the perfect gateway to the Google Play store, which sells movies, ebooks, apps, and games. Like the iPad, it can also use Amazon and the Nook store; unlike the iPad, it can also use the “Amazon Appstore for Android” that the Kindle uses, and take advantage of its free-app-a-day promotion.
Even with that, though, its selection of hot games and apps lags behind the iPad’s. Games can take up to a year to get Android versions sometimes, although the gap’s narrowing thanks to the Nexus’ popularity. A lot of console-quality games are already designed to take advantage of its Tegra 3 processor, including many of the “name brand” ones on iPad.
The Nexus still lacks many of the most popular productivity apps from the iPad, such as iWork and OmniGraffle. There also isn’t quite as large of a selection of third-party accessories. If you’re an Android fan, though — or if you think you might become one — the Nexus 7 is your tablet. It’s simply faster, more powerful, and more responsive than the Kindle or Nook, with a much better game and app selection. It’s also smaller than the iPad Mini, and much, much cheaper.
How much cheaper?
The iPad Mini starts at $329 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model, and goes up to $659 for the 64 GB, LTE model. The Nexus 7 starts at only $199 for its 16 GB Wi-Fi model, and goes up to $299 for the 32 GB, HSPA+ model, which lists AT&T as its only carrier option. So even the most expensive Nexus 7 is still cheaper than the cheapest iPad Mini.
Is it worth it?
To iPad fans, no. You’d have to re-buy all your apps on a Nexus 7, assuming it had all of them. And if the person you’re gifting for has their heart set on an iPad, they’re bound to be disappointed by anything else.
The Nexus 7 isn’t a generic-brand rip-off, though. It’s the best “pure Android” tablet out there. It’s worth the $199, much more so than a Kindle Fire. And it’ll run your Kindle or Android smartphone’s apps, too.