24 Oct 2012

iPad Mini vs. Nexus 7

Ever since the first rumors regarding Google’s own Nexus 7  budget tablet emerged online, a multitude of websites started reporting that Apple (the company that jumpstarted the tablet market with the introduction of the original iPad back in 2010) would bring to market a budget tablet of its. Fast forward a few months and both these rumors have finally materialized into two hardware devices.

Before we start analyzing which one of these devices is the better budget tablet, it might be best to first explain why the battle between the Apple iPad mini and the Google Nexus 7 is of ultimate importance for the future of both Android as well as iOS. As representational tablets for their respective ecosystems (as in Android vs iOS), these two budget tablets will undoubtedly play an important part in the market share battle between Android (and all the Android OEMs out there) and Apple and its proprietary operating system.

So, which one is better: the Google Nexus 7 or the Apple iPad mini ? Lets find out, shall we?


Schiller was quick to suggest that there's a huge difference when you tack on that 9/10th of an inch. Sure, when factoring in the total viewable screen, the iPad Mini has 29.6 inches of space where the Nexus 7 has 21.9 inches. But is that really a big deal? Though Schiller says yes, let's take his logic and apply it elsewhere. I'd be curious to hear what he thinks of the difference between the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen and, say, the 4.8-inch display on Samsung's Galaxy S3.

The ASUS / Google Nexus 7 uses a 7-inch display running at a 1280 by 800 resolution (16:10 aspect ratio), thus obtaining a Pixel Per Inch (PPI) density of 216. While it is not the best display currently available on a tablet, the Nexus 7 display is impressively crisp, bright, offers good color reproduction and decent viewing angles. Given that the most expensive component of a tablet is its display (not to mention that the display is also the main feature of a tablet), you’re probably going to be impressed by the quality of the display on the Google Nexus 7 (a budget tablet by definition). In the other corner, the freshly announced Apple iPad mini features a 7.9-inch IPS display running at a 1024 by 768 pixel resolution (4:3 aspect ratio), thus obtaining a PPI density of just 162. The iPad mini uses the same resolution as the second generation Apple iPad, but has a smaller display, hence the minor improvement in crispness over Apple’s second tablet (the iPad 2 has a 132 PPI ratio). Firstly screen utilization will be more in the Nexus 7 with the 16:10 ratio as compared to the 4:3 aspect ratio of iPad Mini. Also 162 PPI, is too low for a modern day gadget.

Schiller pointed out that the iPad Mini offers 49 percent more Web browsing space than the Nexus 7. it was clear that the iPad Mini offers more space. But I don't buy Schiller's claim that the open tabs at the top of Chrome and buttons do not matter to the browsing experience. I happen to love being able to hop from one open tab to another. The soft keys across the bottom come in very handy when going back or jumping to another Android app. Yes, it's true that they don't specifically factor into the Web experience, but many Android users like them. And their opinion isn't wrong because Apple says so.

Winner: Nexus 7

Software (Let the Apps War begin)

It is a fact iOS has a ton more tablet apps and games as compared to the Nexus 7. When Apple releases a new product, developers absolutely scramble to make compatibility happen. Granted, the iPad Mini will be less of a reason to scramble than a new iPhone or regular-sized iPad (at least for now), but they'll still move a hell of a lot quicker than Android app developers - because they know exactly what they're developing for, and they know lots of people are going to be using that device. It's not even going to be a contest. Granted, Android will start catching up as these cheap tablets become more and more popular in the western world

Most of the Android tablet apps could still use some polish. Generally iOS apps are of higher quality and usually look better than their Android counterparts. On the other hand, many Android apps have been written for Android 4.0 and later, most of which employ the Holo aesthetic. Also, while I'm being honest, Android developers do not have to write for tablets now that we've gone back to unifying the platform at Ice Cream Sandwich. This is much better than writing two different apps for mobile and tablet (iPhone/iPad).

I'm still not sure they'll ever catch up to Apple's iPad app selection. Android is so far behind here it hurts. Sure, we have a growing number of tablet apps to choose from, but many are remnants of the early days of 10" Android tabs, and have been left to basically rot on the Play Store.

Winner: iPad Mini

Processing Power:

The Apple iPad mini uses the Apple A5 System On a Chip (SoC). Even non-tech savvy readers are probably aware that this is the same CPU / GPU combination that was used by the Apple iPad 2 and the Apple iPhone 4S. This translates into a 1 GHz dual-core Cortex A9 CPU and a PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU. In the Android corner, the Google Nexus 7 uses a slightly underclocked version of the Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC: a 1.3 GHz quad-core Cortex A9 CPU, and an Nvidia ULP (Ultra Low Power) GPU.

The Google Nexus 7 uses 1GB of RAM memory, while the Apple iPad mini is said to have 512MB of RAM under the hood (Apple usually doesn’t mention RAM for its iOS devices during launch events).

While the Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU is generally faster than the A5 CPU, graphical performance should be a tad better on the Apple iPad mini since its GPU (although similarly powerful as the Nvidia GPU inside the Google Nexus 7) has to power up less pixels (33% less pixels to be accurate). I’m one of those guys that prefers extra detail over a few extra frames per second.

Winner: Nexus 7

Other Hardware:

On to the cameras and ports, the Google Nexus 7 uses a 1.2 MP front-facing camera for videocalling, the same resolution used by the sensor on the Apple iPad mini’s front facing camera. Since it is not recommended to use a tablet for taking pictures, I’m not all that into the 5MP primary camera used by the Apple iPad mini, so I’d advise against giving too much attention to this aspect.

Since NFC is still a young technology, you’re probably not going to miss the fact that the iPad mini does not use an NFC chip. If NFC is a thing that you need, go for the Nexus 7, since it does carry an NFC chip.

Battery-wise, the Google Nexus 7 has a 4325 mAh battery, while the Apple iPad mini uses a battery of currently undisclosed capacity. However, we should expect the two tablets to have similar battery life spans: roughly around 10 hours.

Winner: Draw


Let’s get one fact clear, Nexus 7 was marketed as a budget Android tablet, Apple is not doing this with the iPad Mini. Currently, the Nexus 7 starts at $199 for the 16GB model and $249 for the 32GB variant. The iPad Mini is priced at Wi-Fi: $329 (16GB), $429 (32GB), $529 (64GB). Cellular: $459 (16GB), $559 (32GB), $659 (64GB).

Finally, we have to consider that the 32GB Nexus 7 is rumored to replace the current 16GB model and retain the same $249.99 price. Do we then compare the 32GB iPad Mini and its $429.99 sticker? If so, then the new Apple tablet could be construed as being 72 percent more expensive than its closest competitor.

Winner: Nexus 7


I’m sure the iPad mini will sell. There are already 100 million iPad customers that are locked into an ecosystem and this would be a great upgrade for those that are still using the first-generation iPad at a much smaller price tag. Those that are coming from the iPad 2 won’t complain either since they’ll actually get the same tablet at a smaller form factor and also cheaper. If you think of it, the move wasn’t so crazy since those who own a 3rd-Generation iPad have barely owned it for 9 months and are not likely to be iPad mini customers any time soon.

For the first time in over half a decade of iOS products, Apple has launched a me-too device. Something that’s just there to offer another option, but not really capable of making the rest of the market worry. I honestly feel that Steve wouldn’t have been proud of such a device, and I know many of you will agree with me here. There’s really no point in a beautiful product that doesn’t serve its purpose better than any other product in the market. That’s just a fact Apple will have to deal with.

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, the Nexus 7 is an obvious choice.

It'll be an interesting battle to watch unfold, for sure, but by no means does a small iPad spell doom for the Android tablet.

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