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Tablet deathmatch: iPad Mini vs. Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire HD

Galen Gruman | Nov. 6, 2012
A new generation of small tablets has reinvented entertainment on the go, but which is best? Find out now and gear up for holiday gift-buying

Although the iPad Mini doesn't use Apple's very crisp Retina display (with 2,048-by-1,536-pixel resolution), the 8-inch screen size means its 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution results in a higher number of dots per inch than that of the iPad 2's display.

The iPad Mini is barely bigger than the Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7; it's just a fraction of an inch longer than the Kindle Fire HD and a fraction of an inch wider and longer than the Nexus 7. Yet its screen size is nearly an inch longer diagonally, for a noticeably larger screen. The iPad Mini is also noticeably thinner than the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7, although their weights are similar (the iPad Mini and Nexus both weigh 12 ounces, while the Kindle Fire HD weighs 14 ounces).

The iPad Mini has no storage expansion capability -- a hallmark Apple limitation -- but it supports 5GHz Wi-Fi for increased range and speed. Plus, it offers LTE versions (to ship in mid-November) for the three top U.S. carriers: Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint. It also sports low-power Bluetooth 4.0 and AirPlay streaming if you own an Apple TV and AirPrint wireless printing if you have a compatible printer.

The iPad Mini's Lightning connector is compact and versatile, if you're willing to pony up for such pricey peripherals as video connectors ($49 each) and wait for the peripheral makers to offer Lightning versions of all those Dock-connector devices that made the first three generations of the iPad so versatile. Taking its wired and wireless capabilities together, the iPad Mini can connect in almost every way that matters.

The iPad Mini's aluminum casing feels lovely in your hand, and the iPad Mini is beautiful to see. By contrast, the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 feel plasticky and lack visual sophistication.

The Pad Mini costs $329 for a model with 16GB of storage. The 32GB model costs $429, and the 64GB model costs $529. The cellular models cost $130 more.

Nexus 7. This unremarkable tablet is designed with an unobtrusive look that focuses you on the screen's display. The screen's visual quality is adequate, though its screen resolution of 216 ppi doesn't help it appear as sharp as the iPad Mini or even the Kindle Fire HD. Also, the screen is too reflective and a bit dim, making it difficult to use in normally lit offices (forget about daylight use outside). The Nexus 7 lacks a rear camera, so you can't use it for picture-taking, but it has a front camera for video chats.

The Wi-Fi support is basic 2.4GHz, so your range and speed are less than those offered by some other devices. There's a Bluetooth radio, but it's the older, power-hungry 3.0 version. And there's no expansion capability for storage, nor support for video-out. Like the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7 comes with a dual-voltage USB wall charger and MicroUSB charge/sync cable. Like its two competitors, it has no SD card for adding storage.


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