iPad mini vs. Nexus 7: The debate
The iPad mini and the Google Nexus 7 arent the only 7-inch tablets on the market, but right now theyre the two that matter most: More buyers will be looking at those two models this holiday season than at any others, by a fair margin.
Its hard -- perhaps impossible -- to compare them objectively. You can't just compare the specs. You have to use them to truly appreciate their differences.
That's why we asked Macworld senior editor Christopher Breen and TechHive senior editor Melissa J. Perenson to have a little debate over the relative merits of Apple's and Google's little tablets. Both editors have used both of the tablets, and both experts have definite opinions about whats good and not so good about them. Heres how their conversation went.
Christopher Breen: Reading is one of the primary reasons I use a tablet this size, and to me the iPad minis wider display area -- 4.75 inches versus the Nexus 7s 3.75 inchesmakes it a more pleasurable device for that. In both portrait and landscape orientations, pages feel more natural and readable. The Nexus 7's display seems too narrow, as if Im reading a tall and skinny page. For reading in landscape mode, pages feel too wide and squashed from top to bottom.
Melissa J. Perenson: I appreciate the extra width of a larger screen too, but only for some specific uses -- games with navigation controls overlaid on top of the action, for example. I actually don't find it better for reading: It feels as if the page is too wide for books at an average font size. However, for large print, the iPad mini's extra screen space comes in handy.
CB: Although I like the size of the iPad mini's display, I have a hard time acclimating to its resolution, most likely because of my experience with the Retina display on the third-generation iPad. Pixels are evident in all text-based apps -- small text in Web browsers is particularly annoying. My eyes get weary reading books on the thing because of the roughness of the text. Pixel-doubled apps look just awful. However, apps written for Retina displays and larger iPads -- particularly game -- scan look pretty good. Photos and videos look quite nice on it, too. And here again, the wider screen makes that media feel less confined.
MP: In today's market, I'd expect to find a relatively low-res screen like the iPad minis on a tablet thats priced a lot lowernot on a major product from Apple. The market has evolved, and high pixel density -- which Apple itself pioneered with the third-generation iPad -- is now the norm. After using a display with higher pixel density on my phone for more than two years, I'm not willing to go backward and see all of those pixels on a tablet. The reason is simple: I spend a lot of time looking at my tablet's display.
So there's no getting around the fact that the iPad minis 163-pixels-per-inch resolution is not only paltry, its not even close to being competitive. The Nexus 7's screen is 216 ppi; that's not even the highest in this size class, but it is far superior to the iPad mini's display.
Dimensions and weight
CB: The Nexus 7 is easier to hold than the iPad mini if you like to wrap your hand around your device. That's because, again, its narrower than the iPad mini. If, however, you tend to hold the tablet by its edge, the iPad mini is (I find) a more comfortable device to hold, because it's lighter. If I switch between the two, the Nexus 7 feels heavier -- and, at 0.75 pound compared to the minis 0.68 pound, it is heavier.
MP: No question that the Nexus 7 is heavier; lighter tablets such as the iPad mini (and Barnes & Nobles Nook HD) are friendlier to hold one-handed for long reading sessions. That said, I think the Nexus 7's weight is still acceptable for such sessions.
CB: If youre looking for the greatest possible capacity, the iPad mini has it at 64GB of storage; the Nexus 7 tops out at 32GB.
MP: The bigger question is whether youll want to spend $529 on an iPad mini to get that much storage.
Its true that the Nexus 7 tops out at 32GB. And unlike most other Android tablets, the Nexus 7 has no MicroSD expansion slot, so you cant add storage. But I will say thatlike all Android tablets the Nexus makes managing that storage space easy: Because your computer sees it as a mass storage device, you can just drag and drop content over to the tablet. (If your'e using a Mac, youll need to download the Android File Transfer application to access the Nexus's storage, which doesnt appear on the Mac's desktop.) The iPad mini still relies primarily on iTunes to transfer content locally, as opposed to accessing it through the cloud, so I find the Nexus 7 easier to use.
CB: The front-facing cameras on the two tablets are both 1.2 megapixels. The rear-facing camera on the Nexus 7 is, well, missing.
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