The iPad mini is the tablet Apple said it would never make. Steve Jobs once said that tablets smaller than the 9.7in iPad just couldn’t offer a proper tablet experience, but now we have the 7.9in iPad mini. Has Apple changed its mind?
It’s possible that the Google Nexus 7 and co. changed its mind. The low-cost Asus-made tablet has become the best-selling Android tablet, and for good reason. It’s fast, it’s well-made and it’s keenly priced.
But can Apple’s latest really compete with the £150-odd Google Nexus 7?
iPad mini – From £269
Google Nexus 7 – From £159
The iPad mini is significantly more expensive than the Google Nexus 7. It comes as no surprise, and gives the Google tablet a little room to breathe.
Those who can afford a little more may not see the extra as too much of a hardship, though. It’s still a lot cheaper than the full-size iPad, and has significant benefits, especially if you’re already hooked up to iTunes for your music and video collections. And if you and your family are iPhone, iPod touch or iPad users, it’s even better.
The iPad mini starts at £269, £110 up from the lowest-rung Google Nexus 7. This gets you the Wi-Fi only model, with 16GB of storage. The top model is the 64GB Wi-Fi plus Cellular version, which costs £529.
Apple’s methods of construction for the iPad mini also warrant much of the extra cost. Both Apple and Google (and Asus, which makes the Nexus) deserve a round of applause for their consumer-friendly pricing.
iPad mini – Anodised aluminium, 308g
Google Nexus 7 – rubberised plastic rear, 340g
Asus, the maker of the Google Nexus 7, did a great job with the construction of the Nexus tablet. Although its casing is primarily made of plastic, it doesn’t feel at all cheap because of the finish used.
It’s carefully textured, giving the tablet the feel of a leather-bound book rather than a plastic tablet. The Google Nexus 7 is one of the swankiest-feeling 7-inch tablets around, and it’s also one of the cheapest.
It can’t quite compete with the iPad mini, though, which has a bonafide metal rear, using a similar construction to the full-size iPad. Its entire rear is a thin, crafted sheet of aluminium that snakes around to meet the glass front of the screen.
As with the full-size iPad, spaces for the connections are cut into this aluminium, giving it an immaculate unibody feel. It’s also available in black and white finishes.
Using metal and a slightly larger body (and screen), it’s a big surprise that the iPad mini is actually a little lighter than the Google Nexus 7. Both will be very comfortable to use one-handed.
iPad mini – 200 x 134.7 x 7.2 mm
Google Nexus 7 – 198.5 x 120 x 10.5 mm
These tablets are quite different in shape. The Google Nexus 7 is more widescreen in aspect than the iPad mini, which borrows the same basic shape as the full-size iPad.
The iPad have 3:2 aspect screens, stubbier than those of most Android tablets. Relatively speaking, they’re wider, and less tall, although the height of these two is nearly identical.
The Google Nexus 7 has the classic Android widescreen aspect, which is perfect for watching movies on.
iPad mini – 7.9in, 1,024 x 768, IPS
Google Nexus 7 – 7in, 1,280 x 800 pixels, IPS
The most important aspect of any tablet is – arguably – the screen. And here’s where the iPad mini and Google Nexus 7 differ a bit.
Apple is renowned for its top-quality smartphone and tablet screens, but the iPad mini’s resolution is actually lower than that of the Google Nexus 7, even though its display is larger. Text and images will look slightly less sharp, although with 163dpi, it’s absolutely not the Retina-grade display we’ve come to expect from Apple’s mobile gadgets.
However, let’s not forget that not too long ago we were perfectly happy with the screen of the iPad 2, which packed the same number of pixels into a 9.7in display, resulting in 116dpi pixel density.
Both tablets use IPS tech. This stands for in-plane switching, and supplies fantastic viewing angles and very good image quality.
iPad mini – iOS 6
Google Nexus 7 – Android Jelly Bean 4.1
Android or iOS? It’s one of those questions that’s been nagging away since 2008, and there’s yet to be a conclusive answer. The iOS operating system is all about keeping things simple, with a look that’s basically a window pane with a bunch of app shortcut stickers stuck on it.
Apple doesn’t let its interfaces become too “deep” – there isn’t a labyrinth of submenus to explore in here.
Android Jelly Bean 4.1, the operating system in the Google Nexus 7, isn’t so obsessed with keeping things simple and friendly. Here, the apps menu and home screen are split apart, instantly making the Google OS a good deal more complicated. There are also many features that you have to delve a bit deeper to find.
Android is a great system for tech fans, as it lets you change parts of the OS completely. You can customise it far more than iOS, and drop gadgets like calendars, Twitter boxes and clocks onto your home screens.