In October of this year, Apple added a Retina display to their iPad mini as well as bringing its performance up to par with the larger tablet in their line the, iPad Air. The new question is what does this mean when you compare it to other small tablets?
Last year’s iPad mini had very few complaints about it. It was a little more difficult to hold due to its width, and the screen was considered sub-par by those who had gotten used to the HD screens that are on many other tablets. This has all changed now.
The Nexus 7 is the best tool to compare with, there aren’t any unnecessary applications added or special overlays on the Android OS to contend with. It comes with what is called “Stock” or “Vanilla” Android (a callback to Google’s penchant for naming OS iterations after desserts) At $229, it is just over half the cost of the iPad mini. Also it is slimmer since Android devices maintain a 16:9 aspect ratio in comparison to the iPad’s 4:3 ratio.
The Nexus ships with Android OS 4.3 Jellybean on board. Time will tell as far as how far it is upgraded by Google, they tend to have a little shorter of an update compatibility window than Apple does. The iPad mini comes with iOS 7 and you could probably expect iOS 9 or 10 to come out and still be working on the model you buy this year.
The display on the iPad is a 7.9 inch diagonal compared to the 7 inches on the Nexus. There isn’t any real difference in clarity on the screens, Nexus has 323ppi, iPad has 326. The aspect ratio is the only real decision maker between the two. Reading or browsing web pages is considerably easier on the iPad since you get more content on the page regardless of whether it is in portrait or landscape orientation. However there will be letterboxing on the iPad when watching video while the display on the Nexus will be filled with the video.
The Nexus is smaller in width by 3/4 of an inch and lighter than the iPad by one ounce. This doesn’t make the iPad a behemoth by any means, both are very small and very light tablets. They would both be easy to throw into a coat pocket and not feel weighed down.
The iPad wins here, by more than a little. Apple has almost a half million apps in their App Store that are optimized for their tablets. Google’s offering is negligible in comparison for tablet optimized apps. Though they do attempt to say that their phone applications look and perform just as well on the tablets, this is not always true.
If price is a consideration, the Nexus 7 is the best small tablet you can buy right now. If you hate everything Apple makes, this remains true. However, bringing the iPad mini’s specifications up to speed with its big brother and including the HD display this year may just make up that price difference for some. With the application discrepancies taken into account and the well known upgrade windows, I have to recommend the iPad mini over the Nexus 7.
Winner: iPad mini with Retina Display