iPad mini vs Google Nexus 7 vs Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Apple has taken the lid off the much-rumoured iPad mini. But how does it stack up against the 7-inch competition?

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The iPad mini sports a 7.9-inch screen and lighter, slimmer design than its big bro -- desirable traits for sure. But how does it compare to the other popular 7-inch slates? Here I pit it against Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD in a tiddly tablet tumble.

Design

At 200mm long and 135mm wide, the iPad mini is considerably smaller than its 9.7-inch bigger brother. When you compare it to the Nexus however, it doesn't seem quite as tiny. The Nexus is almost the same length as the mini but it's only 120mm wide, making it somewhat easier to slip into a pocket.

The Fire HD meanwhile shaves a few millimetres off the mini's length but adds a couple on to the width. There's not much between the two really but I doubt you'd slide either into your jeans. At only 7.2mm thick, the mini casually beats both the Nexus 7's 10mm and Fire HD's 10.3mm thicknesses.

Both the Nexus 7 and Fire HD are encased in a black plastic shell, whereas the iPad mini offers an all-metal design that looks like a cross between the new iPod Touch and iPhone 5. It's certainly got a more attractive and premium look to it and hopefully that unibody design will make it far more hard wearing too.

Even with the metal body, the mini manages to be only 310g. The Nexus 7 weighs in at 340g while the Kindle Fire HD comes in at 390g, making the iPad the lightest of the three.

Screen

At 7.9-inches, the mini has the biggest screen of the three. It's a chunk bigger than the 7-inch displays of the other two but as it has a much smaller bezel, it doesn't bulk out the chassis more than it needs to.

The larger display does not unfortunately translate into a higher screen resolution, which at only 1,024x768-pixels, makes it less impressive than the 1,280x800-pixels found on both the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. Whether you'd really notice that difference side by side is debatable but if you're looking for the best resolution, the iPad isn't the one to go for.

Apple has a good history of crafting screens that are delightfully bold and colourful. I haven't been able to get a proper eyes on with the slate yet, but early reports are good. I found the screen on the Nexus 7 to be adequate, but not mind-blowing in terms of colour, so the iPad has a decent chance of beating it.

Software

The mini is running on the latest version of Apple's mobile software iOS 6 . It's a much more stripped down offering than Android Jelly Bean found on the Nexus 7, which makes it easy for beginners, technophobes, children and even cats to get to grips with it.

It's the same software you'd find on any other iPad or iPhone (assuming they've been updated) so if you've got an iPhone 5 already, you'll be familiar immediately with the interface. It brings deeper Twitter and Facebook integration than previously offered, as well as the voice assistant Siri.

The Nexus meanwhile is running on the latest version of Android, which allows you to put apps and widgets on the various homescreens so you can see live information without needing to open individual apps. The ability to place widgets is one of the main things that Android users lord over Apple fans, as iOS devices only allow for normal grids of apps on its homescreens.

Jelly Bean also brings Google Now, the service that aims to learn from your actions to bring you information before you've even had to search for it. I found it to be pretty useful once I'd synced all my Google accounts, as it was able to warn me in advance of public transport delays while I was on my way to a meeting it knew about.

It's also able to bring up quick map directions from typed or spoken queries, such as "where's the nearest pub?" Apple's new maps software on iOS 6 has taken a considerable amount of heat since its launch as it offers nowhere near the same level of details as Google's maps. Although Apple is working hard on updating its service, it's still not a patch on Google's.

Amazon's Kindle Fire HD meanwhile is an interesting beast. Its software is based on Android at its core, but it's not a true Android device so offers a totally new interface. It's very much geared towards using only Amazon's services for ebooks, movies and music.

It also means that it doesn't have access to the full Google Play store and the official Google apps. You can connect your Gmail account for email but that's about it. Amazon claims it's got "tens of thousands" of apps for the Fire HD which probably covers most of the essentials you'd need but it pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands offered by Google and Apple.

If you're obsessed with having the latest version of your chosen operating system and love engaging in conversations about the latest apps, games and services on your device, then the Kindle Fire probably isn't going to suit you best.

The Kindle Fire HD will be in our hands very soon for a comprehensive tear down, so stay tuned for the final verdict on this chap.

Power

Inside the iPad mini's slim new shell is Apple's A5 processor found on the iPad 2. Considering that since launching the A5 chip, Apple has since released the A5X, A6 and -- as of last night -- the super-charged A6X processors, you'd be forgiven for finding this old chip a little underwhelming. It's unlikely to be sluggish -- after all, the iPad 2 was hardly slow -- but it won't handle demanding tasks like recording multi-layer songs in GarageBand or similar with quite the same gusto as the new iPad .

The Nexus 7 however packs in Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor. I found it to be extremely powerful and easily capable of handling the essentials such as web browsing and social networking, as well as flying through photo editing and demanding 3D games like Riptide GP. Its performance was well above what even more expensive Android slates were able to achieve, so I was very impressed given the low price.

The Kindle Fire HD meanwhile uses a 1.5GHz dual core processor which isn't exactly what you'd call burly. Still, the stripped back interface is less power-hungry so it shouldn't be lacking too much in the power stakes. It's unlikely to tackle the really demanding tasks as well, but with a much more restricted app store, those options aren't really available to it anyway. The most you're likely to ask of the Fire HD is to play some Fruit Ninja, which it should cope with fine.

Connectivity

The iPad mini is set to be the first of Apple's tablets to run on EE's new super-fast 4G network . It'll allow you to download stuff when you're out and about much faster than you could previously do on 3G, although you will be paying quite a premium for the privilege. You can still use it with a regular 3G SIM card too though, giving you access to maps, and web-based services like Spotify when you're away from a Wi-Fi network.

Neither the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD offer 3G or 4G connectivity so you'll be relying completely on your home connection, or mobile hotspots when you're out and about. For the most part, that's not likely to be much of a problem -- especially if you have a smart phone -- but it does limit the usefulness of services like Google Now.

Price

The Nexus 7 rewrote the tablet pricing rule book when it offered high-end features for the bargain basement price of £160. It helped that the base model only came with 8GB of storage but even the 16GB model was only £200.

The Kindle Fire HD is similarly low priced, starting at £159 -- although annoyingly it's ad-supported -- and going up to £210 for 32GB of storage without ads.

Apple broke a few hearts when it announced that the iPad mini would start at £269 for the 16GB model, putting an end to the fanciful rumour that it would cost £200. Fully detailed price lists aren't available yet, but if you want a 64GB model with 3G and 4G connectivity then don't expect much change from £400.

Conclusion

The iPad mini might not have quite as sharp a screen as its competitors and its processor might be a few generations old, but its slim, lightweight and stylish design help it win some points.

Whether you prefer Android or iOS is a matter of personal choice, but there's no denying that each camp has its benefits. The simplicity of iOS will work well for some, while others will appreciate the customisability of Android. Amazon's Kindle meanwhile might appeal to those of you who just want to gorge on media.

The mini's high asking price might be a bit much for some, but that's unlikely to stop it selling by the boatload. If you're already an Android user then the Nexus 7 offers a lot of features to be excited about.

It's too early to make a definitive call on which tablet offers the most pleasant experience. When we've given all three the full review treatment we'll be updating this piece with more information.

 

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