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iPad Mini vs. Google Nexus 7 vs. Amazon Kindle Fire HD

We compare the just-announced iPad Mini with its closest competition, two solid 7-inch tablets based on Android’s OS.

Apple executive Phil Schiller showing off the iPad Mini.

After dominating the larger tablet market it popularized, Apple has turned its attention to the slightly smaller screen. The 7.9-inch iPad Mini has Apple’s attention to style and detail behind it, but it certainly isn’t the only slate of this stature that’s worth considering, especially with the Mini’s stepped-down processor and screen resolution.

When you line up the specs and the intangibles, which tablet has the upper hand: the iPad Mini, the Asus-made Google Nexus 7 (an original Android 4.1 Jelly Bean device), or the Amazon Kindle Fire HD?

As the days march on after the iPad Mini’s announcement, we’ll continue to update this story with further impressions, hands-on details, and results from our iPad Mini rated review.

 

Apple iPad Mini Google Nexus 7 Kindle Fire HD
Operating system iOS 6 Android 4.1 Custom Android OS
Price Wi-Fi: $329 (16GB), $429 (32GB), $529 (64GB). Cellular: $459 (16GB), $559 (32GB), $659 (64GB). $199 (8GB), $249 (16GB) $199 (16BG), $249 (32GB)
Release date November 2, 2012, for Wi-Fi; cellular 2 weeks later July 13, 2012 September 14, 2012
Display 7.9-inch IPS, 1,024×768 pixels (163 ppi) 7-inch IPS, 1,280×800 pixels (216 ppi) 7-inch IPS, 1,280×800 pixels (216 ppi)*
Size 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.28 inches 7.8 x 4.7 x 0.41 inches 7.4 x 4.7 x 0.45 inches
Weight 0.68 lbs/308 grams (0.69 for cellular) 0.75 lbs/340 grams 0.88 lbs/400 grams
Processor Dual-core A5 processor Quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP4460
Memory 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB 8GB or 16GB; 1GB RAM 16GB or 32GB; 1GB RAM
Camera 5-megapixel rear-facing, 1080p HD video; 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, 720 HD video 1.2-megapixel front-facing 720p “Web chat” front-facing
Battery “16.3-watt-hour”; 10 hours battery life (rated) 4,325 mAh; 10.1 hours video battery life (tested) 4,400 mAh; 5.1 hours video battery life (tested)
NFC No Yes No
Extras 4G LTE versions available Tegra games Whispersync, X-Ray, Amazon Prime
Ports Lightning connector Micro-USB Micro-HDMI, Micro-USB
Color Black, white Black Dark gray

* 8.9-inch version also available with a 1,920×1,200-pixel resolution.Who wins?
At this point, it’s clearly too soon to tell, but keep in mind that the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD already target slightly different audiences from the beginning. The former lures gamers, multimedia enthusiasts, and Android fans looking for the “pure” Jelly Bean experience. The Fire HD is a steal for Amazon Prime members looking to maximize their Amazon membership while keeping tablet costs low, memory high, and the screen mighty.

So where does the iPad Mini stand? Certainly existing Apple fans will gravitate toward it, but there’s a question mark over how good the Mini actually is. Yes, it’s lighter and thinner than the competition, but the screen resolution lacks Apple’s crystal clarity, and the battery life is on-par with rivals, but won’t surpass it.

Beyond that, the iPad Mini’s A5 dual-core processor could easily fall to the Nexus 7’s quad-core CPU. Of course, we don’t know how performance stacks up without testing the tablets in-house.

Offering two colors, three capacities, and a cellular option with 4G LTE connectivity will certainly help flood the market with iPad Minis, especially with the tablet presumably hooking into Verizon and AT&T’s shared data plans — it’s coming to AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Still, I’ll agree with  Molly Wood when she observed that, “They missed the price point that would have crushed the competition.”

As far as I’m concerned, Apple may have the edge when it comes to product lore and sheer ubiquity, but for those deliberately seeking an affordable, portable in-between device, we’re looking at a much more level playing field for smaller-size slates — and an open door for future Android and Windows 8 tablets.

 

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