Rather than take on the mighty iPad, Google and Amazon decided to try a different tactic: they targeted an area Apple wasn’t interested in, where tablets would have small screens and even smaller price tags.
The result was the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, tablets that were warmly received by pundits and punters alike. Now, Apple’s moving its tanks onto their lawns, and the iPad mini is the smallest, cheapest iPad yet. So how does it compare to its rivals? Let’s find out.
Both the Google Nexus 7 and the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD are already on sale.
The Wi-Fi version of the iPad mini starts at £269 (US$329, AU$369) for the 16GB model, rising to £349 (US$429, AU$479) for the 32GB model and £429(US$529, AU$589) for the 64GB.
As you’d expect the mobile broadband version is more expensive: it’s £369(US$459, AU$509) for 16GB, £449 (US$559, AU$619) for 32GB and £529 (US$659, AU$729) for 64GB.
Both rival tablets come with two price tags, £159(US$199, AU$192) and £199(US$199, AU$192) but on paper at least you get more for your money with Amazon: the cheaper Nexus 7 has 8GB of storage compared to the Kindle Fire HD’s 16GB, and the more expensive Nexus 7 has 16GB to the Kindle Fire HD’s 32GB.
The iPad mini comes with a dual-core Apple A5 processor, most likely running at 1GHz.
The Kindle Fire HD processor is a Texas Instruments OMAP4 4460 (its bigger 8.9-inch brother has a 4470, which has faster graphics), which is a dual-core model running at 1.2GHz.
The Nexus 7 processor is a Tegra 3, a quad-core rated at 1.3GHz. All three devices promise all-day battery life, with the Kindle Fire HD promising 11 hours of continuous use – the iPad mini 10 and the Nexus 7 nine.
Amazon hasn’t specified how much memory the Kindle Fire HD has, but as its cheaper sibling the Kindle Fire 2 has 1GB, we’re betting on that.
The Nexus 7 has the same as the Kindle Fire HD with 1GB. Apple is similarly reticent, but we’d predict 1GB as well.
The iPad mini runs iOS 6, while both Amazon and Google’s devices run version 4 of Android 4.1: Jelly Bean in the Nexus and 4.0 in the Kindle Fire HD – although the version in Amazon’s tablet is a heavily customized one that keeps its origins well hidden.
That customization means Amazon can offer some interesting things, such as excellent parental controls that can limit not just what your little darlings can do, but also how long they do it for.
On paper at least, Apple is at a disadvantage here: its 7.9-inch 1024×768 display runs at the lowest resolution here, but it does mean it can run normal iPad apps without having to rescale them.
Both rival tablets have seven-inch, 1280×800 HD displays with Gorilla Glass, but Amazon reckons it’s got the edge with its polarising filter and anti-glare technology. The former improves the IPS display’s viewing angles, while the latter promises to cut glare by around one-quarter.
The Kindle Fire HD also has a Micro-HDMI connector for HD video output. Apple would rather you used AirPlay to stream to an Apple TV.
The iPad mini comes with a choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB versions, while both rivals come in two flavors: the Nexus 7 in 8GB and 16GB versions and the Kindle Fire HD in 16GB and 32GB versions. You can’t use flash memory cards to add more storage to any of the three devices.
Remember that the operating system needs some of that storage: for example Amazon says that the Kindle Fire HD gives you around 12.6GB on the 16GB model and 26.9GB on the 32GB, while iOS 6 takes around 1GB of the iPad mini’s storage space.
All three devices are also tightly integrated with their respective creators’ cloud-based media services, which you can use to supplement the local storage capacity.
Camera and speakers
The Nexus 7 and iPad mini have 1.2MP front-facing video cameras for video chat, while the Kindle Fire has an “HD” front-facing camera for the same purpose.
The iPad mini has a 5MP rear-facing camera for still photography and 1080p video recording. The Kindle Fire also has a pair of dual-driver stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus to deliver decent music playback and clearer video dialogue.
The iPad mini and Nexus 7 are both mono devices.
Both the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+Cellular versions of the iPad mini benefit from dual-band Wi-Fi, with support for 802.11a/b/g wireless and 802.11n on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands, and the cellular versions support Everything Everywhere’s 4G LTE as well as the various 3G network standards. All iPad minis also get Bluetooth 4.0 for low-power connections to accessories and peripherals.
For the time being both rival devices are Wi-Fi only (a 3G Nexus 7 is incoming), and the Kindle Fire has the edge: it has dual MIMO Wi-Fi antennas and operates in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands.
The Nexus 7 has a single antenna and only uses the increasingly crowded 2.4GHz frequency band, but it does have an NFC chip for device-to-device communication, and built-in GPS, accelerometer and magnetometer for location- and position-based apps. The iPad mini has a compass, gyroscope and accelerometer, and the cellular version has assisted GPS, too.
Dimensions and weight
The Nexus 7 is 198.5 x 120 x 10.45 millimeters and weighs 340 grams, while the Kindle Fire HD is shorter and heavier at 193 x 137 x 10.3 millimeters and 395 grams.
The overall dimensions of the iPad mini are 200 millimeters high, 134.7 millimeters wide and 7.2 millimeters deep, and the entire package weighs a slight 308 grams – making it lighter than its rivals.
Here’s some more articles you might like:
- iPhone 5 vs Lumia 920 vs Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X – Battle of the smartphones
- Apple iOS 6 Expert Review
- Apple iTunes 11: What you need to know
- Apple iPhone 6: What you want to see
- Apple iPhone 5 Expert Review – Why upgrade from an iPhone 4S?