If you're looking to pick up a smaller tablet this holiday season, it's hard to beat Apple's Retina iPad mini and the Google/Asus Nexus 7. If you've narrowed your search down to these two, do you go with the bigger screen or the smaller price? Join Gizmag, as we compare the features and specs of the iPad mini with Retina Display and 2013 Nexus 7.
The tablets are both 200 mm (7.9 in) tall, but that's where the similarities end. The Nexus 7 is 16 percent narrower, giving it a very different look and feel. The Nexus isn't by any means a beefy tablet, but it is also 16 percent thicker than the svelte iPad mini.
The Retina iPad mini is actually heavier than last year's model. It isn't a huge difference in hand, but it also doesn't feel quite as feathery as the 1st-gen iPad mini. The extra heft has it coming out at 14 percent heavier than the Nexus 7.
We're looking at a familiar aluminum construction for the iPad mini, and a matte plastic build for the Nexus 7.
Neither tablet is uncomfortable in hand, but one thoughtful little software touch by Apple gives the iPad mini the advantage. If you grip the side of the tablet, your thumb resting on the edge of its screen won't register as a touch. On the Nexus 7, it will.
You have two color options for the Mini, and a standard black for Google's tablet.
Screen size is a huge advantage for the iPad mini. The Nexus 7 only gives you 74 percent as much display area as Apple's tablet does. When you take the Nexus 7's ever-present onscreen navigation buttons into account, the difference is even bigger.
The 2012 Nexus 7 and 1st-gen iPad mini both had sketchy display resolution. But no worries there anymore, as these latest models are razor-sharp. The Nexus 7 does display a wider range of colors, though that probably isn't something you'd notice unless you put the two side-by-side.
iOS and Android each have their fans, but the iPad's App Store still has a much bigger and better selection of tablet apps. The Nexus 7's screen is small enough that stretched-out phone apps don't look too bad on it, but its dedicated tablet app library lags far behind.
The Android 4.4 KitKat update is still in the process of rolling out to the Nexus 7. So if you buy one today, you might still be on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean for a little while.
The iPad mini offers two extra storage tier options. Neither tablet has a microSD card slot.
Both slates are sold in both Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + cellular models. The cellular models in both devices support LTE, as long as your carrier provides it.
The above numbers show battery capacity, but we have some much more telling numbers. In our hands-on test, where we stream video continuously (with Wi-Fi on and brightness at 75 percent), the Nexus lasted 5 hours and 33 minutes. In the same test, the Retina iPad mini lasted 10 hours and 50 minutes. We wouldn't call battery life a huge concern on the Nexus 7, but it also doesn't compare to the excellent uptimes from the Mini.
The iPad mini's A7 chip is faster than the Nexus' Snapdragon CPU. In regular use, though, both tablets are plenty zippy. The iPad mini's performance just has more room for improvement, if developers ever start pushing the 64-bit A7 to its limits.
The Nexus 7 doubles the iPad mini's 1 GB of RAM.
Nothing mind-blowing in the camera department, but since tablets make for awkward cameras anyway, we don't think that's anything to worry about.
It's hard to believe, but the 2nd-gen Nexus 7 has already been around for four months. If Google sticks with its established cycle, we could see a 3rd-gen Nexus 7 about eight months from now.
The iPad mini gives you a much bigger screen, a superior app selection, and terrific battery life, but you're also paying for it. It starts at US$170 more expensive than the Nexus 7.
But $170 is a big price difference. In fact, for only $60 more than the cost of one Retina iPad mini, you can buy two Nexus 7's. If you're trying to keep your budget down, the Nexus 7 gives you a very light and powerful device with a razor-sharp screen for much less.
If you're thinking about throwing down for the Nexus, though, just be sure to research Google Play's tablet app selection first. If the iPad mini has your favorite apps, and the Play Store doesn't, then Apple's tablet is probably going to be worth that extra $170.
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