Before Apple’s release of the first-generation iPad in 2010, the tablet market had been small and, to be blunt, rather unimpressive. Before the iPad, tablet computers were mostly ordinary Windows-based PCs with touch-sensitive screens and stylii, and were mostly confined to corporate use. The iPad brought the tablet crashing into the consumer market, and left Android devices scrambling to keep up. Since then, other tablet makers have scrambled to catch up and, by and large, have not been terribly successful.
The tablet makers who have enjoyed the most success have been those who aimed at a market Apple ignored: smaller tablets with screens around 7 inches. Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Kindle Fire, and Google’s new Nexus 7 have all done reasonably well in their competition for a distant second place in the tablet market. Now, though, Apple has launched into that segment of the market itself with the new iPad Mini. The big question is whether this smaller iPad can dominate the competition as thoroughly as its big brother. Part of the answer to that requires a look at how the iPad Mini stacks up against the competition in a few key areas.
For the rest of this article, we’ll be looking at how the iPad Mini compares to Amazon’s newest 7-inch Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7.
These days smartphones and tablets alike tend to be pretty close to one another in terms of hardware specifications. This is one place where competition really helps the consumer. As soon as one mobile device maker steps up their game in the hardware department, their competitors tend to follow suit. Such is the case with the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7, and the Kindle Fire HD. All three run fairly comparable hardware.
That said, there are a few differences that are worth noting. The first is screen size. The Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD sport identically sized screens - both are 7 inches on the diagonal and are 1280x800 pixels. The iPad Mini comes up a little short in this department. It’s screen is 7.9 inches on the diagonal, but only 1024x768 pixels. Significantly fewer pixels on a screen that’s almost an inch longer means that the iPad Mini’s display resolution will not be as good as that of the Kindle Fire HD or the Nexus 7.
On the other hand, the iPad Mini does have more options in terms of storage capacity than either of the other tablets. While the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD come in 16GB and 32GB models, the iPad Mini adds a third 64GB option (though with a correspondingly large price tag). That means that the iPad Mini will hold more music, movies, apps, photos, videos, or whatever else you care to put on it.
For those loyal to one particular platform, this is the make-or-break point. The iPad Mini - like all Apple’s iDevices - runs the iOS mobile platform. The Kindle Fire HD runs a version of the Android operating system that’s been heavily modified and customized by Amazon. The Nexus 7 is what Google calls a “pure” Android experience, which is to say it runs the latest version of Android in exactly the format Google intended.
The pros and cons of each individual platform are many, and have sparked plenty of... spirited debates among those loyal to a particular platform. The bottom line, though, is that each of these operating systems - iOS, Android, and Amazon’s modified version of Android - are all excellent. None of them is perfect, and there may be a way to objectively determine which is best, but the bottom line is that each is fine, and your individual needs, preferences, and situation will determine which is best for you.
While hardware specs and operating system may play a major role in many consumers’ tablet choice, price is really where the rubber meets the road. A consumer who isn’t particularly invested in one brand or one operating system will look long and hard at a tablet’s price tag before buying, and this is where Apple falls well short of the competition, so to speak. The Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD both start at $199, as do most other 7-inch tablets. The iPad Mini, on the other hand, starts a whopping $130 higher than the competition, at $329. For a lot of consumers, $130 is a lot to spend for an Apple logo - or even for access to the App Store, iOS, and other benefits of Apple’s ecosystem.
When all is said and done, it’s hard to say with any objective certainty which device is better. Different devices will be better-suited to individual consumers’ needs and preferences. That said, the iPad Mini leaves a bit to be desired in several respects, namely the hardware and the price. While the iPad Mini’s hardware specs are generally comparable to the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD, they fall short in a few categories - namely screen resolution. Combine that with the fact that the iPad Mini exceeds the competition’s price by $130, and the iPad Mini is at a distinct disadvantage. That said, it’s still an excellent tablet, and if you’ve already got other Apple devices - like an older iPad or an iPhone - then the iPad Mini may yet be the best buy for you.
Amazon Price: $329.00 $309.99 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 25, 2013)