We compare two brilliant dinky tablets, the Apple iPad Mini with Retina display and the Google Nexus 7
Apple’s iPad Mini with Retina display and the latest Google Nexus 7 are two of the best mini tablets around, boasting slick, portable design, plenty of power and gorgeous HD screens. They’re ideal for regular road warriors who demand top performance – but which tablet best suits your needs, and provides best value for money?
Both the Apple iPad Mini with Retina display and the Google Nexus 7 are ideal for carrying around all day, thanks to their slim and light form factors and long battery lives. Here’s their essential stats at a glance:
|Tablet||Thickness||Weight||Battery life (video)|
|Apple iPad Mini with Retina display||8mm||331g||8 hours|
|Google Nexus 7||9mm||290g||6 hours|
As you can see, there’s little between them in weight and thickness, although the Nexus 7 does feel a bit chunkier. The iPad Mini adopts a more square design, compared with the Nexus 7’s ‘stretched’ rectangular finish. However, both are comfortable to clutch in one hand, even for extended periods.
You can throw either into a bag and not worry too much about them getting scratched up or smashed, although the Nexus 7, with its soft-touch rear and Gorilla Glass screen, feels the more rugged to us. We’d expect the iPad Mini with Retina display to show signs of wear and tear earlier, despite the brushed metal rear plate proving a lot more hardy than we expected. That said, the iPad Mini undoubtedly wins when it comes to looks, with a truly gorgeous and quintessentially Apple design.
As for battery life, both devices will keep you going all day with normal use (web browsing, a bit of appage etc) and put in a respectable effort when it comes to streaming video. The iPad Mini lasted an impressive eight hours on full brightness, cleanly beating the Nexus 7’s six hours – which is still a damn fine result, and above average for a tablet.
Web and media
Movie fans are in for a treat regardless of which tablet they choose. Both the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7 pack high-res HD displays that are on top of their game.
|Tablet||Screen size||Resolution||Pixel density|
|Apple iPad Mini with Retina display||7.9-inch||2048 x 1536 pixels||326 PPI|
|Google Nexus 7||7-inch||1920 x 1200 pixels||323 PPI|
The iPad Mini’s screen is almost an inch bigger, and although that doesn’t sound a lot, it’s immediately obvious when switching between the two tablets. The square aspect ratio makes for a more natural and comfortable web browsing experience, as you can see more of each website on-screen and navigate around with ease. However, when it comes to movies, that extra space makes little difference, other than producing thicker black borders above and below the picture.
With their Full HD resolutions, your High Definition video will look its best on both tablets. The difference in sharpness is minute, with pixels indiscernible to the naked eye and both panels rock IPS technology, which results in rich colours and excellent viewing angles.
Both touchscreens are also perfectly responsive, a great relief after the original iPad Mini’s display proved a little fiddly at times.
If you wish to stream media or surf the web on the move, the iPad Mini with Retina Display comes with 3G/4G support – providing you shell out an extra £100. The cheapest SIM model is therefore £419. Alternatively, the Nexus 7 32GB model also has a SIM card slot (not available on the 16GB model). That’ll set you back £299. See the ‘price’ section below for full costing.
OS and ease of use
If you’ve never owned a tablet and you’re after something that’s simple to use, you might be drawn to the iPad Mini with Retina display. The iOS 7 interface is certainly streamlined, with the desktop displaying all of your apps in a clear fashion. You can rearrange the icons into whatever order, and gather your apps into folders to tidy things up a bit, but that’s as complex as things get.
Android OS, as found on the Google Nexus 7, allows a little extra customisation. If you wish you can simply arrange your icons in a similar manner to iOS, but there are extra features such as widgets to populate your desktops with, and it’s possible to keep less popular apps hidden from view. Many Android devices lay on a thick custom interface that often bogs down the tablet, but the Nexus 7 sticks with a vanilla look and feel, and is all the better for it.
Apps and games
Apple used to rule the apps roost with a vastly superior collection, but Android has done a great job catching up, and almost all of the premium App Store offerings are also available on Android. The prime exceptions are some of the specialist creative apps and a handful of exclusive games, so if you’re a big gamer or enjoy messing around with design, video or music suites, your best bet is still Apple.
Bear in mind that neither tablet has a memory card slot, so you’re stuck with the built-in storage. The Nexus 7 offers either 16GB or 32GB, while the iPad Mini with Retina display also comes in 64GB and 128GB flavours. That means you’ll be able to carry a lot more apps around at one time.
Both the iPad Mini with Retina display and the Nexus 7 sport dual cameras, so you can shoot your friends and family, and also chat with them using apps such as Skype and FaceTime.
|Tablet||Rear Camera||Front Camera|
|iPad Mini with Retina display||5-megapixel||1.2-megapixel|
|Google Nexus 7||5-megapixel||1.3-megapixel|
If you’re looking to keep in touch with loved ones, both tablets will suit your purpose, with very capable front-facing lenses. Both the iPad Mini and Nexus 7 have 5-megapixel cameras in the top left corner of the back plate, and although we’re not big fans of taking photos with a tablet, either lens will do a fine job of snapping your family in a pinch. Neither rear-facing camera has a flash for evening shots, however, and things do get grainy when the lights dim.
The Nexus 7 is the clear winner when it comes to price, starting at just £199, compared to the iPad Mini with Retina Display, which will set you back at least £319. Likewise, if you want a 3G/4G model, it’ll cost £299 for the Nexus 7 and at least £419 for the iPad Mini. Check out our full breakdown of tablet prices:
|Tablet model||iPad Mini with Retina Display||Google Nexus 7|
16GB Wi-Fi and 4G
32GB Wi-Fi and 4G
64GB Wi-Fi and 4G
128GB Wi-Fi and 4G
Both the Apple iPad Mini with Retina display and the Google Nexus 7 are fantastic bag-friendly tablets that will keep you entertained or productive all day. The iPad Mini is better for web browsing and still boasts more exclusive apps, and lasts longer when streaming video. However, the Google Nexus 7 is significantly cheaper, and also feels more rugged.
If cost isn’t a problem, we’d personally opt for the iPad Mini with Retina display. Those on a budget will be very happy with the Nexus 7.