If you’re shopping for a 7-inch tablet, there’s absolutely no shortage of options. It’s undeniable, however, that the leading choices are Apple’s iPad mini and Google’s Nexus 7. We’ve reviewed both of these devices individually, but it’s time to put them head-to-head.
Some might say that comparing the iPad mini to the Nexus 7 is like comparing apples to oranges. They’re very different devices, with different ecosystems and an even more contrasting user base. So comparing specifications simply does not make sense. Instead, I’ll be comparing certain important aspects which matter in everyday use.
Price and storage
Let’s begin with the most obvious comparison: price. If you’re on a budget, the Nexus 7 is the clear winner. The 16GB model is available at just under $200; whereas the iPad mini (Wi-Fi only model) in the same capacity is $130 dearer. In fact, the price difference gets even steeper as we move higher along the product line.
16GB Nexus 7: $199
16GB iPad mini: $329
Price difference: $130
32GB Nexus 7: $249
32GB iPad mini: $429
Price difference: $180
32GB Nexus 7 (Wi-Fi + cellular): $299
32GB iPad mini (Wi-Fi + cellular): $559
Price difference: $260
It doesn’t take much to see that the Nexus 7 offers better value. However, it’s important to note when making your decision that both devices do not have storage expansion slots. So if you need more than just 32GB of storage (actually less after taking into account the operating system) or if you think you might in the future, only Apple offers the iPad mini in 64GB configurations for both Wi-Fi and cellular models.
The displayI’ve been criticising the iPad mini’s screen since I first heard that it wasn’t a Retina Display. Apple took a step backwards with that decision. The iPad mini is more expensive than its competition, so it’s only fair to expect a better display. Instead, the Nexus 7 packs more pixels into a smaller screen. To be more specific, the Nexus 7 has a 7-inch 1280 x 800 display, with a pixel density of 216 pixels per inch.
Another important point to consider is the fact that the iPad mini’s display is not only larger, it has an aspect ratio of 4:3 while the Nexus 7′s display carries an aspect ratio of 16:9. Basically, the iPad mini is wider — and that makes web browsing more enjoyable because more elements can be displayed.
But is it too wide? I had difficulty grasping the iPad mini in my hand, but then again, my hands aren’t that large. Ultimately, I’ll just say that it’s too wide to hold with one hand, but I’m happy with the trade off for a slightly larger screen.
Admittedly, Google Play’s selection of books and magazines are pretty impressive, and most of them are significantly cheaper than the iBookstore. So again, the Nexus 7 wins the battle of electronic readers. As you can probably tell, I’m personally coming to the conclusion that the Nexus 7 is ideal as an ereader, disappointed only by the lack of great apps from Google Play. Unfortunately, that’s a shame because its Tegra processor is capable of so much more.
The bottom line
The Nexus 7 is a great, affordable 7-inch Android tablet, let down only by the lack of properly designed applications on Google Play. Before you decide on which tablet to purchase, you need to know what you’ll be doing with it: consuming or creating? Although the iPad mini has a superb selection of apps to fall back on, the Nexus 7 is a great all-rounder with excellent hardware specs.
Advantages of the Nexus 7:
- affordable price
- crisp, high definition display
- solid design
- capable hardware (including NFC)
Disadvantages of the Nexus 7:
- cramped display
- lack of hardware buttons
- lack of high resolution rear-facing camera
- needs better apps
- battery life could be better