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iPad Mini with Retina Display vs Nexus 7 (2013): What's the best small tablet?

Seth Barton
22 Oct 2013
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Now that the iPad Mini with Retina Display has been revealed, we compare it to Google's new Nexus 7 to see which is the best

Apple has finally revealed the latest iPad Mini, adding a Retina display and new A7 processor to bring it in line with the iPhone 5S. It's a significant upgrade and one that makes the iPad Mini with Retina Display the best specified small tablet around.

However, specifications are only half the story. With Christmas coming, many of us will be receiving our first tablet, or giving a tablet to a first-time user. In that case the big choice is likely to be whether to opt for the new iOS-based iPad Mini with Retina Display or the recently updated, Android-based Nexus 7 (2013).

Here we're going to compare the two tablets, their hardware, software and range of apps and content to see which one is best suited for you. The iPad Mini with Retina Display is a hefty £120 more than the Nexus 7 (2013), but it's certainly not as simple as how much you've got to spend.

DESIGN

The iPad Mini with Retina Display sits apart from practically every Android tablet we've ever seen thanks to its aluminium unibody outer shell. Now the look and feel of plastic tablets has come a long way but nothing yet touches the iPad range in this regard.

iPad Mini with Retina Display

Its larger screen, see below, means that the iPad Mini with Retina Display is significantly larger than its main rival, though that also allows it to be slimmer, with more space to spread the other components out behind the display. Despite that larger display, the iPad Mini with Retina Display is barely any heavier than the Nexus 7.

New Nexus 7 review - Hands on

The Nexus 7 is a very nicely designed little tablet, and if you're looking for something that easy to hold securely in one hand then it's a great choice. However, the Mini's aluminium body, slimmer design and relatively low weight all put the iPad Mini with Retina Display on top here.

iPad Mini with Retina Display
Dimensions: 200x135x7.5mm
Weight: 331g

Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Dimensions: 200x114x8.65mm
Weight: 290g

WINNER - iPad Mini with Retina Display

DISPLAY

Screen resolution has been a huge battleground for tablets and smartphones over the last couple of years but it finally looks like we're coming out the other side, with pixel counts reaching a point where additional detail simply isn't necessary.

Despite this the new iPad Mini with Retina Display packs an incredible 2,048x1,536 pixels into its 7.9in display. This amounts to 326PPI which is well beyond the 264PPI that Apple markets as a 'Retina Display' on the full-sized iPad - that being the point where Apple claims the human eye can't discern any further detail. The resolution wasn't chosen primarily for how it looks then, but rather to provide developers with a single screen resolution to design for when creating apps.

iPad Mini with Retina display

From first impressions the IPS-technology display is just as good as previous efforts from Apple and so makes this possibly its greatest display to date, though the law of diminishing returns is in full effect here and in reality there's little to choose between this and any of the Retina-class displays dating back to the iPad 3.

The Google Nexus 7 (2013) has a 7in screen, making it a far more narrow device than the iPad Mini with Retina Display. It may not sound like a big difference but the iPad display is actually 35% larger than the Nexus 7's. You won't notice benefit from that extra space when watching widescreen TV or movies, but it's handy for browsing the net and for reading books, magazines and graphic novel content.

Google Nexus 7 (2013)

The Nexus 7's screen is also a top-drawer example with vibrant colours and great contrast. It's too early to say which is objectively best, but based on previous Apple displays we can't see their being any great gulf in quality.

iPad Mini with Retina Display
Screen size: 7.9in diagonal
Resolution: 2,048x1,536
Pixel density: 326PPI

Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Screen size: 7.02in diagonal
Resolution: 1,920x1,080
Pixel density ppi: 323PPI

WINNER - Tie

PERFORMANCE

The iPad Mini with Retina Display is powered by an Apple A7 processor, the sme as the iPhone 5S, which is the first 64-bit mobile chipset. It's not just marketing nonsense either, with the iPhone 5S proving to be the fastest mobile device we've ever tested. It also has the M7 co-processor that helps extend battery life.

The Google Nexus 7 uses the very capable 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro, but this chipset just isn't in the same league as the A7. The tablet feels slick to use and we've had no problems with any apps, but looking forward the iPad Mini with Retina Display certainly has the edge when it comes to 3D games and other demanding apps.

WINNER - iPad Mini with Retina Display

SECURITY AND USERS

We were hoping that theiPad Mini with Retina Display would include the iPhone 5S's TouchID sensor, but this wasn't to be and so there's little new to seperate the devices when it coems to security.

Google has taken a huge stride forward though of late with support for multiple users. You can have more than one user on the Nexus 7 and when they log in they get their own home screens, apps, email and browser favourites. It's a revelation for a tablet OS and it makes the Nexus 7 a brilliant family device. Better still you can set up limited user profiles, basically subsets of full profiles, for kids that let them only access the apps you want, while locking them out of say your email. You can even set up a guest profile for visitors to your home to use.

WINNER - Google Nexus 7

APPS AND CONTENT

Android has come on leaps and bounds when it comes to content, with apps for all the major online services being available (Netflix, Kindle etc) with the only exception being LoveFilm which Amazon restricts to its own Kindle devices and iPads only.

There's plenty of books, movies, TV series and the like available on both formats then, but the iPad is still ahead when it comes to the like of magazines with interactive enhancements, though that's a fairly niche area admittedly. The big differences still come in games. There's practically nothing available on Android that isn't already available on iPad, but plenty that has yet to make its way over the over way.

WINNER - iPad Mini with Retina Display

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

The Google Nexus 7 is available now, in good supply and you can hunt around for the best price or deal. It's available for £189 from www.ebuyer.com, or you can pay the full £199 but get a two-year warranty by buying from www.johnlewis.com.

You won't be able to buy the new iPad Mini with Retina Display until later this month, and when it arrives it will cost a whopping £319. That's a lot of money for a small tablet, though the new iPad Mini doesn't cut any corners and does provide a great experience for the money.

Overall though, we feel the Nexus 7 just edges out the iPad Mini with Retina Display for value-for-money and so is a narrow winner here.

(narrow) WINNER - Nexus 7

CONCLUSION

The iPad Mini with Retina Display has taken Apple's small tablet from a slightly outdated and overpriced device and made it into a powerhouse with a fantastic chipset and super-sharp display - but the price matches its new found might. Google meanwhile has updated the Nexus 7 to be exactly what you want and nothing more.

Google Nexus 7 (2013)

It's a very close call, with both devices being rather great. If you want the multiple-user accounts of the Nexus 7 or the better game support of the iPad Mini with Retina Display then your choice is clear. If neither of those appeal, then we think that the Nexus 7 just edges it for the money, at £189 it does everything you want and won't disappoint.

OVERALL WINNER - Nexus 7

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