If you're shopping for a smallish tablet, we wouldn't blame you for narrowing it down to the iPad mini and Google's new Nexus 7. But how do you choose between the two? Let Gizmag lend a hand, as we compare the specs (and other features) of the two mini-tablets.
The two tablets are roughly the same height, but are proportioned differently. The new Nexus 7 is 16 percent narrower than the iPad mini. The Google/Asus tablet is also a bit thicker, by 21 percent.
That narrower build helps the 2nd-gen Nexus 7 to tip the scales at 6 percent lighter than the iPad mini.
If you look at weight relative to surface area, though, the iPad mini actually comes in at about eight percent lighter. So it's possible the iPad mini will, in a sense, feel lighter in hand.
Like the original Nexus 7, the new model sports a plastic construction. The updated tablet does skip out on the rubbery backing of the 2012 model though: this one has a smooth matte finish.
The iPad mini is made of Apple's favorite, anodized aluminum.
This is probably the most important category in this comparison. And you could make an argument for either tablet, depending on your priorities.
The iPad mini's screen is larger, and those commonly-used diagonal measurements (7.9-inch and 7-inch) don't tell the whole story. When you measure the areas of both screens (a much more telling data point), you'll see that the Nexus 7 only gives you 74 percent as much real estate as the iPad mini. That's a significant difference, and worth taking into account.
But even bigger is the difference in sharpness, where the Nexus 7 has a huge advantage. Its 323 pixels per inch (PPI) blow away the iPad mini's mere 162 PPI. Or, put another way, the iPad mini only gives you 34 percent of the pixels you get with the new Nexus 7, despite having that bigger screen. The Google tablet will display much sharper text, much finer detail, and crisper images.
The new Nexus 7's Snapdragon processor is newer, has more cores, is faster, and outbenchmarks the iPad's A5. Performance should be a huge advantage for the Nexus 7.
Another big performance boost for the Nexus 7, as it quadruples the iPad mini's mere 512 MB of RAM.
The only difference in storage is the iPad mini's 64 GB option. Neither tablet has a microSD card slot for supplemental storage.
Both tablets are also available in LTE mobile data models. The big difference here is that while all three storage models of the iPad mini are available with 4G LTE, Google only sells the 32 GB version of the Nexus 7 with LTE.
We doubt you're planning on using your tablet as your primary camera, and it looks like Apple and Google are guessing the same thing. Both tablets have solid enough cameras, but don't expect anything mind-blowing.
Battery life will be worth keeping an eye on with the Nexus 7. It has less capacity and a much higher-resolution display than the iPad mini, so it might have its work cut out to match the Apple tablet's great battery life.
For what it's worth, Google estimates nine hours of active use for the new Nexus 7. Apple estimates ten hours for the iPad mini, and in our experience, it lives up to that promise.
If wireless charging is your thing, only the Nexus 7 delivers. It's compatible with Qi standard wireless charging stations.
If you're looking to use near-field communication (NFC) to do things like unlock your tablet with a ring, you'll want to lean towards the Nexus 7. Apple has yet to make a device with an NFC chip onboard.
What do you know, we're back to the well-trodden iOS vs. Android battle. We aren't here to tell you which you'll like better, but both have matured into advanced – yet simple – mobile operating systems. iOS still has an advantage in quality and quantity of tablet apps, but the Google Play Store has been improving in that area, so there shouldn't be too many worries there.
Unlike many Android devices, the Nexus 7 will always run the latest version of Google's software, and will be among the first to receive updates. Ditto for Apple's tablet, as Apple doesn't have manufacturer UIs or carrier politics standing in the way of its updates.
One cool new addition to the Nexus 7 is the ability to have multiple user accounts. This is a great feature for families who share one tablet.
In a way, this is an unfair comparison, as we're comparing Google's 2013 Nexus 7 to Apple's 2012 iPad mini. It isn't yet clear whether Apple will release a new model this year, and, if so, whether or not it will have that much-desired Retina Display.
Here's another huge advantage for the Nexus 7. You could easily argue that it "won" the majority of this comparison, yet it rings up for US$100 less than the iPad mini. Just based on its components and software, the Nexus 7 is shaping up to be one of the better tablet deals of the year.
This isn't the last word from us on these two tablets. But until we churn out our 2013 Nexus 7 review, we'd recommend keeping a close eye on this tablet. It's the first mini-tablet to have a high-resolution display. It does away with the excessive bezel on the 1st-gen model. It should deliver blazing-fast performance.
The iPad mini's form and screen size are still hard to beat. But our eyes feel anything but good after staring at the iPad mini's screen for too long. It's an Achilles' heel for Apple's tablet, and it's also the least of the Nexus 7's worries. This one is only going to get more interesting after we put the new Nexus tablet through the paces. Stay tuned.
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