Last year's Nexus 7 kicked off the small-tablet movement and predated the iPad Mini, with an aggressive price and comfortable design, but a set of features that were slightly bare-bones (no rear camera). The iPad Mini offered a deeper feature set, but the has taken the lead -- at least, on paper -- once again.
The new Nexus 7 has a 1,920x1,200-pixel 16:10 7-inch display, whereas the iPad Mini has a larger 4:3, 7.9-inch display at only 1,024x768 pixels. The iPad Mini's screen was bigger and better than the original Nexus 7, but the new Nexus 7 has the clear edge here -- although color quality, brightness, and viewing angles have yet to be determined.
The 2013 Nexus 7 has a 1.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and Adreno 320 graphics, plus 2GB of RAM. Eric Franklin points out that these graphics match the Samsung Galaxy S4's, but the processing power isn't as impressive as an Nvidia Tegra 4 might be. In terms of gaming graphics, the Nexus 7 could have a big edge, thanks to being OpenGL ES 3.0 capable, which adds a lot of extra graphics effects to games.
The iPad Mini's processor is an A5, with performance similar to that of the fourth-gen iPod Touch and iPad 2. In short: it's a capable but older processor. And, it has only 512MB of RAM.
In small tablets, price is everything. On nearly every level, the Nexus 7 offers a better deal than the iPad Mini, and its storage configurations are less of a markup.
The 16GB Wi-Fi Nexus 7 costs $229, versus $329 for a 16GB iPad Mini. The 32GB Nexus 7 is only $269 -- $40 more -- but the 32GB iPad Mini costs $429, a $100 upgrade.
The Nexus 7 also has an LTE-ready 32GB model for $349, and it's unlocked to work across Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T. Apple's LTE iPad Minis are carrier-specific. A 16GB LTE Mini costs $459, and the 32GB version costs a whopping $559. The Mini also comes in 64GB configurations.
The Nexus 7 comes in just black. The iPad Mini comes in black as well as white/aluminum.
The new Nexus 7 has a 1.2-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear camera. The iPad Mini does, too. We'll see which one takes better photos and video.
Both the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini support Bluetooth 4.0 for low-power connected wireless devices and 802.11n Wi-Fi, but the new Nexus 7 also supports NFC for near-field communication uses, like Google Wallet.
Operating system and apps
The iPad Mini currently runs iOS 6 but will get iOS 7 capability this fall, and it runs the exact same apps and features as the larger Retina iPad, minus the Retina Display. The Nexus 7 comes ready with , a new version of Android with a few additional tweaks like multi-user settings, which also enables Bluetooth Smart, the low-energy Bluetooth element.
The iPad Mini already has Bluetooth 4.0, and iOS 7 is said to enable better support for Bluetooth accessories like game controllers and health monitors.
Apple has more tablet-optimized apps on the whole than Google, as well as a larger selection of games, but Google is making strides in gaming on Google Play.
The Nexus 7 has an Micro-USB port that doubles as HDMI-out with a separate adapter. it also wireless charging. The iPad Mini has a Lightning connector for syncing and charging, and supports HDMI output, USB camera input, and SD card camera card importing with the purchase of Lightning adapter accessories. Both lack SD card slots.
Conclusion (for now)
The new Nexus 7 not only offers a better screen, processor, and bells and whistles, but it remains less expensive across the board than October 2012 iPad Mini.
The iPad Mini has a physically larger screen and the same wireless/camera capability, but it's clear that, right now, the Nexus 7 has a lot going for it. Of course, Apple's next iPads -- and perhaps a new iPad Mini -- may only be a couple of months away.