Apple unveiled their newest member to the iPad family, the iPad Mini, yesterday. The tech giant is seemingly worried about the success of cheaper models from Google and Amazon, with the iPad Mini the cheapest tablet the tech giant has ever made – but crucially it’s still pricier than the competition – so which one should you buy this Christmas? Well, we’re here to find out.
Both the Google Nexus 7 and 7-inch Kindle Fire HD are currently on sale at the moment. Apple will open pre orders for the newly unveiled iPad Mini this Friday, October 26, and is expected to begin shipping November 2.
The iPad Mini is understandably the most expensive device of the three, starting at £269. For that price you get a Wi-Fi version with 16GB of onboard storage.
The Google Nexus 7 is considerably cheaper for the base model, but you’ll only get a paltry 8GB onboard storage, which considering you can’t supplement it with SD cards, is just not enough for your average tablet user. If you want apps and plenty of them – you’ll need to get for the 16GB version that costs £199, which is still considerably cheaper than the iPad Mini.
The Kindle Fire HD comes in two flavours; there’s the 16GB Wi-Fi version which retails at £169.99 and then there’s the 32GB version which retails at £199.99.
Just on price alone it’s clear that the Kindle Fire HD offers the best value for money, with Nexus 7 a close second and not surprisingly the premium iPad Mini is the most expensive.
The new iPad Mini comes with the same dual-core Apple A5 processor found in the iPad 2 – so it’s no slouch, but there’s no getting away from the fact it’s an old chip and is by no means the fastest out of the three.
The cheapest tablet, the Nexus 7, is packing the Tegra quad-core processor, which you can find in other devices like the Asus Eee pad Transformer and a myriad of other mobile phones. If were honest it’s overkill for tablet of that size, but is a welcome inclusion nonetheless.
The Kindle Fire comes with a relatively unknown processor from Texas Instruments, which is thought to be clocked at a around 1GHz.
All of the tablets offer similar battery life – the Nexus 7: 9-hours, the Kindle Fire HD: 11-hours, and the iPad Mini: 10-hours.
All three tablets have the same amount of RAM memory. Although, the amount hasn’t been officially unveiled by Amazon or Apple – but they’re all almost certain to have 1GB of RAM.
The iPad Mini runs the latest version of Apple’s iOS 6, while both Amazon’s and Google’s devices run Android 4.1: Jelly Bean. The Kindle Fire runs a heavily customised version of Android that will not allow users to use Google’s Play Store and other Google services. But it does offer robust parental controls that can limit what you watch and even for how long for.
One of major concerns about the iPad Mini, apart from price, is the screen. On paper it’s not great, and in reality it’s the same screen from the iPad 1 – which is several years old. That’s fair enough if the iPad Mini offered real value for money, but at £269 a sub-HD resolution of 1024 x 768 isn’t that good by today’s standards.
Both its rival offer screens with a resolution at 1280 x 800, at a 16:9 apsect ration – perfect for games and video, but not brilliant when used in portrait mode. Amazon reckons their screen is the best as it comes with its polarising filter and anti-glare technology. The former improves the IPS display’s viewing angles, while the latter promises to cut glare by around a quarter.
The Kindle Fire HD, on the other hand, has a Micro-HDMI connector for HD video output. Apple would rather you used AirPlay to stream to an Apple TV.
As you’d expect the iPad Mini come in a choice of storage solutions including 16GB, 32GB or 64GB. The Nexus 7 come in either 8GB or 16GB, but there might be 32GB version on its way next week, if rumours are to be believed. The Kindle HD comes with either 16GB or 32GB, and you can’t add any extra memory to all three devices.
You also need to be aware the operating system will eat into to some of your memory; for example Amazon says the 16GB model gives you 12.6GB and the 32GB model offers 26.9GB. iOS 6, on the other hand, takes around 1GB of the iPad Mini’s storage space.
Camera and Speakers
For photographers the iPad Mini is the device to have; on the front you get a 1.2 megapixel Facetime HD camera, and on the rear you get a 5 megapixel iSight camera. The rear camera is also able to records 1080p video. The Nexus 7 doesn’t have a rear camera, but does have a front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera, which is the same as Kindle Fire HD.
The Kindle Fire also has a pair of dual-driver stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus to deliver decent music playback and clearer video dialogue. The iPad mini and Nexus 7 are both mono devices.
The iPad Mini come with either Wi-Fi or 4G, and supports 802.11a/b/g wireless and 802.11n on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. The 4G versions support Everything Everywhere’s 4G as well as the various 3G network standards.
For the time being both rival devices are Wi-Fi only, but the Kindle Fire has dual MIMO Wi-Fi antennas and operates in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands.
The Nexus 7 has a single antenna and only uses the increasingly crowded 2.4GHz frequency band, but it does have an NFC chip for device-to-device communication, and built-in GPS, accelerometer and magnetometer for location- and position-based apps. The iPad mini has a compass, gyroscope and accelerometer, and the cellular version has assisted GPS, too.
Dimensions and Weight
The iPad Mini is the thinnest of the three tablets and is also the lightest. The Kindle Fire HD is the heaviest, but the Nexus 7 is the thickest at 10.45mm.
There’s no doubt that Apple’s iPad Mini will have the best build quality, and its app store is far better than its competitors. But you can’t help but think Apple are charging a premium just for their name and its cool factor.
Deciding on which tablet isn’t going to be easy. If you want an open system, customisation and a decent app store then you should go with the Nexus. If you want value for money and content then the Amazon is the tablet for you. But ultimately if you want the best build quality, the best apps and the best brand, then Apple’s iPad Mini is the best choice – it’s just a shame it’s just too expensive.