The iPad Mini and the Nexus 7, from Apple and Google respectively, are the two best designed 7-inch tablet computers on the market today, but which is the best? Read through our review for comparisons on price, design, specs, features, hardware and software.
Apple's foray into the 7-inch tablet market with their 7.9-inch iPad Mini means yet another battle ground for the two tech titans to trade blows. It also represents the first time that Apple has followed Google to a new market. The question is: has Apple out-designed Google's Nexus 7, or has Google already perfected mini tablet design?
First, a bit of background. The iPad Mini is pretty much a scaled down version of the iPad 2, making it a powerful device but nowhere as powerful as the recently released iPad 4. Meanwhile, Google's Nexus 7 is arguably the best Android-operated 7-inch tablet on the market, running Google's latest mobile operating system.
Price: Luxury or Overpriced?
Prior to the iPad Mini's release, tech analysts and consumers predicted that Apple would have to keep their 7-inch tablet's price competitive with tablet's like the Nexus 7, which starts at $199. However, when the iPad Mini was finally unveiled it came with the hefty price tag of $329 and up.
So the question becomes: is the iPad Mini worth an extra 130 bucks? Apple's 7-inch tablet is slightly bigger, and it's also got the Apple seal of fine design, but the Nexus 7 is a great tablet with a sleek design for significantly less that the iPad Mini. There's no denying that Google wins when it comes to price, but let's see how the Nexus 7 holds up as we continue to compare the two tablets.
Design: How Big Should a 7-Inch Tablet Be?
The term "7-inch tablet" has come to mean any touch-screen device with a display measuring between 7 oches and 7.9 inches diagonally. Google proposes a sleek 7-inch device just big enough to qualify and just small enough to slide into you pants pocket. Apple took the opposite route, seeking to differentiate the iPad Mini by pushing the limits with a 7.9-inch device that's difficult to use with just one hand.
So the Nexus 7 is easier to hold, but the iPad Mini has a bigger screen. Deciding which design is better for you really comes down to what you're going to do with your new mini tablet. If you're looking for a tablet to use around the house leisurely the iPad Mini's bigger screen will make for a more enjoyable experience. However, if you're looking for a tablet for working on the go the Nexus 7 may be the better choice, thanks to it's size and weight.
Software: iOS 6 vs. Jelly Bean
The iPad Mini boasts Apple's latest iOS 6, which offers over 200 new features building on the massively popular mobile operating system. Apple's ecosystem of computer devices also makes it easy to sync your iPad Mini with your other devices and backup the tablet's memory. iOS 6 features an enhanced notification center and more useful Siri. The downside? iOS 6 marks the replacement of Google Maps with Apple Maps, a unfinished service that has left many Apple devotees frustrated with company.
The Google Nexus 7 runs the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS (though Google recently released 4.2 Key Lime Pie for the latest line of Nexus phones and tablets). Android 4.1 also offers it's own notification center and electronic assistant as well as hundreds of thousands of apps through Google Play.
Hardware: Processing Power vs. Memory Storage
The iPad Mini features Apple's house-designed A5 processor, a dual core 1GHz processor featuring 512GB of RAM. Apple's 7-inch tablet also boasts 16GB of memory and no possibility for expanding memory through microSD cards. At purchase, you can increase the iPad Mini's memory to 32GB or 64GB, for a price, of course.
Google's Nexus 7 is powered by the NVidia Tegra 2 T30L processor. This impressive quad-core processing chip features a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 with 16GB of RAM. While the Nexus 7 does feature noticeably more powerful processing chip than the iPad Mini, it starts at just 8GB of storage and can be expanded to 16GB.
Display Quality: Bigger Isn't Always Better
The iPad Mini's 7.9-inch screen is bigger than most tablets in the 7-inch market, but unfortunately that doesn't mean a sharper image. Apple's mini tablet features the same 1024x768 pixel resolution as the iPad 2 (so no Retina Display), and features just 162 pixels per inch (PPI). Google's Nexus 7 may just be a measly 7-inch screen, but it features an impressive resolution of 1280x800 and 216 PPI. Both 7-inch tablets also feature light sensor's and scratch-proof glass.
Conclusion: Apple Wins, But Just Barely
There's a lot of reasons to argue that the Google Nexus 7 is the better tablet, from it's powerful processor and impressive pixel resolution to it's sleek and slim design, but here's why Apple designed the better tablet. Steve Jobs famously stated that a 7-inch tablet would never sell and would be useless from anything besides playing games on the toilet. For years Apple followed Jobs' decree, but the combination of Google's success with the Nexus 7 and the death of Jobs over a year ago effectively pushed Apple into the 7-inch market. The result is a massive 7-inch tablet that boasts the best of Apple without costing to much. While many hoped Apple's iPad Mini would cost $199, other predicted it might cost as much as $450. What we got in the end was just right, and that's what we've come to expect from Apple.