After dominating the larger tablet market it popularized, Apple has turned its attention to the slightly smaller screen. The 7.9-inch iPad Mini has Apple's attention to style and detail behind it, but it certainly isn't the only slate of this stature that's worth considering, especially with the Mini's stepped-down processor and screen resolution.
When you line up the specs and the intangibles, which tablet has the upper hand: the , the Asus-made Google Nexus 7 (an original Android 4.1 Jelly Bean device), or the Amazon Kindle Fire HD? And since we've now had the chance to review the iPad Mini, we've updated this chart with new information.
|Apple iPad Mini||Google Nexus 7||Kindle Fire HD|
|Operating system||iOS 6||Android 4.1||Custom Android OS|
|Price||Wi-Fi: $329 (16GB), $429 (32GB), $529 (64GB). Cellular: $459 (16GB), $559 (32GB), $659 (64GB).||$199 (16GB), $249 (32GB), $299 (32GB and HSPA+)||$199 (16GB), $249 (32GB)|
|Release date||November 2, 2012, for Wi-Fi; cellular 2 weeks later||July 13, 2012||September 14, 2012|
|Display||7.9-inch IPS, 1,024x768 pixels (163 ppi)||7-inch IPS, 1,280x800 pixels (216 ppi)||7-inch IPS, 1,280x800 pixels (216 ppi)*|
|Size||7.9 inches x 5.3 inches x 0.28 inch||7.8 inches x 4.7 inches x 0.41 inch||7.4 inches x 4.7 inches x 0.45 inch|
|Weight||0.68 pound/308 grams (0.69 pound for cellular)||0.75 pound/340 grams||0.88 pound/400 grams|
|Processor||Dual-core A5 processor||Quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3||1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP4460|
|Memory||16GB, 32GB, or 64GB||8GB or 16GB; 1GB RAM||16GB or 32GB; 1GB RAM|
|Camera||5-megapixel rear-facing, 1080p HD video; 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, 720 HD video||1.2-megapixel front-facing||720p "Web chat" front-facing|
|Battery||"16.3-watt-hour"; 10 hours battery life (rated)||4,325mAh; 10.1 hours video battery life (tested)||4,400mAh; 5.1 hours video battery life (tested)|
|Extras||4G LTE versions available||Tegra games, HSPA+ version available||Whispersync, X-Ray, Amazon Prime|
|Ports||Lightning connector||Micro-USB||Micro-HDMI, Micro-USB|
|Color||Black, white||Black||Dark gray|
* 8.9-inch version also available with a 1,920×1,200-pixel resolution.
CNET editor Scott Stein largely praised the in his review, but keep in mind that the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD already target slightly different audiences from the beginning. The former aims to lure gamers, multimedia enthusiasts, and Android fans looking for the "pure" Jelly Bean experience. The Fire HD is a steal for Amazon Prime members looking to maximize their Amazon membership while keeping tablet costs low, memory high, and the screen mighty. There's also the question of whether you need the iPad Mini if you already own a full-sized iPad and an iPhone or an iPod Touch.
So where does the iPad Mini stand? It's lighter and thinner than the competition, but the screen resolution lacks Apple's crystal clarity, and the iPad Mini's A5 dual-core processor could easily fall to the Nexus 7's quad-core CPU. What's more, the battery life is on par with rivals.
Offering two colors, three capacities, and a cellular option with 4G LTE connectivity will certainly help Apple reach a wide range of consumers, especially with the tablet presumably hooking into Verizon and AT&T's shared data plans. Also, along with the fourth-gen iPad, it's the first of Apple's tablets to land at Sprint. On the other hand, it's expensive when compared with its rivals. I'll agree with CNET editor Molly Wood when she observed that, "They missed the price point that would have crushed the competition."
Apple has the edge when it comes to product lore and sheer ubiquity, and the iPad Mini is a great all-around device. But for those seeking an affordable, portable in-between device, we're looking at a much more level playing field for smaller-size slates -- and an open door for future Android and Windows 8 tablets.
Update, 11:54 a.m. PT: Corrected the Kindle Fire's screen resolution and removed the expandable memory section.
Update, 5:05 p.m. PT: Added information following new Nexus 7 announcements and iPad Mini review.