With the announcement of the iPad Mini, Apple has officially entered the market of small sized tablet computers. While there are existing market leaders in this space, the era of “HD” small sized tablets is now a reality. This holiday shopping season likely to determine the winner. While Apple’s devout followers buy up anything the company has to offer like a zombie army devoid of thought, other companies are certainly offering 7″ tablets worthy of hard earned dollars. Let’s take a look at the iPad Mini vs Kindle Fire HD and then add in a couple of other popular contenders with the Google Nexus 7 and the Nook HD.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, Gaming Illustrated has some excellent articles on each one of these devices. For the iPad Mini, be sure to read iPad Mini Specs as well as the Official Announcement of the iPad Mini. Another highly recommended read is the Official Kindle HD Announcement, while we have a similar article for the Nook HD and its Top 5 New Features. Finally, we have an extensive amount of articles on the Google Nexus 7, specifically Where You Can Buy a Nexus 7 as well as the Official Google Nexus 7 Review.
Here’s a matrix of the major features for each of the four devices:
|iPad Mini||Kindle Fire HD||Nook HD||Google Nexus 7|
|Resolution||1024×768 (163ppi)||1280×800 (216ppi)||1440×900 (243ppi)||1280×800 (216ppi)|
|Processor||Dual-Core A5||1.2GHz Dual Core||TI 1.3GHz Dual Core||1.2 GHz Quad-Core Tegra 3|
|Camera||Front Facing HD||Front Facing HD||None||Front Facing HD|
|WiFi||802.11 b/g/n||Dual WiFi + MIMO||802.11 b/g/n||802.11 b/g/n|
|Battery||10 hours||11 hours||10.5 hours||8 hours|
|Weight||10.88 ounces||13.9 ounces||11.1 ounces||11.99 ounces|
These figures were pulled from the specification documents unique to each device. Let’s take a look at a line by line analysis and do our best to form an “apples to apples” comparison. For the purpose of this article, we’re not going to examine each version of each line as the examination starts and ends only with the base unit for each device.
Starting Price Point
The Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7 (announced on 10/29/2012) and iPad Mini are all 16GB units while the Nook HD offers an 8GB unit at this starting price point. In today’s age of storing games, apps, books and especially movies on your tablet, the more space the better. In this category the Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini are both awarded a “+1″ for capacity.
The shocker here is that the iPad Mini has the worst resolution of the bunch at the worst PPI level of all the devices. It really is shocking to see that Apple’s offering has the absolute worst visual experience of the bunch, but that’s the case given the specifications. The sad part in all this is that consumers know exactly why – Apple hasn’t played their hand completely just yet with the iPad Mini as everyone on earth is expecting them to announce an “iPad Mini HD” next year that will sport Retina display graphics. Sad, right? But very, very plausible. That said the Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 have identical specs while the Nook HD is the winner with the best resolution level and PPI, so we’ll award the Nook HD (who would have guess that?!) a “+1″ for resolution.
This category’s ruling might surprise readers because we are not going to award Apple the point here because the iPad Mini has the biggest screen. Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the announcement is that the iPad Mini is frankly too big. If your device has the word “mini” or “miniature” or “nano” or “pequeno” in it, shouldn’t it be …. well … small? For this, Apple misses the mark and the whole point of a smaller sized tablet device. Instead of giving them the +1 we’re going to give them a -1 in this category and award no points to the other three that are in a tie with 7″ screens.
In this category, we really start to see why the iPad Mini is at the higher price point. The Dual-Core A5 processor according to tests on reputable websites does a great job and wins in performance tests over the Tegra 3 as well as what the Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD can do. While this is not a case where there’s a runaway winner, we are going to award the iPad Mini the point here fully expecting some debate around this one.
All of the devices, save the Nook HD, have front-facing HD cameras so that you can video chat, presumably with an app like Skype, with your friends. It only makes sense to have this in today’s age of instant communication and the Nook HD’s glaring lack of a camera despite the same price point as the Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 offsets the gains it took with the superior screen. A -1 is given to the Nook HD.
The iPad Mini, Nook HD and Google Nexus 7 all feature 802.11 b/g/n which is standard fare for all mobile devices. The Kindle HD, however, offers up Dual band Wi-Fi connectivity and MIMO technology for a superior connectivity experience. While this may not be a huge deal, for those of you that struggle with Wi-Fi spots, the Kindle HD could be the cure to what ails you. A +1 is awarded to the Kindle Fire HD for the best Wi-Fi technology.
This might be the category we can put least amount of stock into from the specifications because “what’s real” and what they have listed typically are two different concepts completely. For that, we’re going to conflate together the Kindle Fire HD, iPad Mini and Nook HD into the same “10-11 hours of life” lump, while the Google Nexus 7 will be handed a -1 for not being in that category.
The clear winner here is Apple with their iPad Mini (+1), literally weighing in at paltry 10.88 ounces. The clear loser here is the Kindle Fire HD, weighing in at 13.9 ounces, well above what the Nook HD (11.1) and Google Nexus 7 (11.99) weight in at. It’s not to say any of these devices are heavy since all are well under one pound in weight.
All three devices not made by Apple use standard forms of USB 2.0 technology, while the iPad Mini leverages the new Lightning connector which is no faster than USB 2.0 but certainly is different in form. For this, we award the iPad Mini a -1, again debatable given some of the merits of Lightning, but conforming to an industry standard with a mobile device seems like a much better idea than forcing the consumer to adopt a company standard, although Apple’s historical decision to go that road has marketing and adoption advantages we certainly respect from a business perspective.
Once again, we see the iPad Mini win this category coming in at an extremely thin 0.28 inches, while the rest of the devices are all very close at 0.4 to 0.43″ in thickness. Seriously, all of these devices are a win from the form factor perspective, but Apple definitely win the point here given that its a high degree ahead against the rest.
Surprisingly, there’s only one winner in this category – the Nook HD offered by Barnes & Noble. It has an expandable memory slot to add more capacity to your device. The other units do not offer this capability at all. +1 for the Nook HD.
Apple iPad Mini: 2 Points
Kindle Fire HD: 2 Points
Nook HD: 1 Point
Google Nexus 7: 0 Points
It’s really surprising that using our point system (admittedly far from anything sophisticated) that the Google Nexus 7 was the one trailing the rest. That said, the iPad Mini and the Kindle Fire HD both come in at a tie in the top. Given this, in the battle between the iPad Mini vs Kindle Fire HD vs Nook HD vs Google Nexus 7 we have a tie between the iPad Mini and the Kindle Fire HD. So, who wins?
Simple – you do. If you’re an Apple follower and you want to spend $329 then go out and buy an iPad Mini. If you want to save a few bucks and only spend $199, then you should buy a Kindle Fire HD at Amazon. For frugal consumers, two Kindle Fire HDs will cost you $398, which is only $69 more than the cost of a single iPad Mini tablet. That’s really telling for the consumer because if you are shopping for your kids and you have two kids, buying both a Kindle Fire HD is a heck of a lot smarter than just buying one of them an iPad Mini to share (and eventually destroy).
This holiday shopping season will certainly be remembered as the one when small factor tablet devices were at the top of everyone’s shopping list. While Apple is certain to win in terms of pure sales, thanks to typical slick marketing, media hype and consumer brand recognition, it’s not to say that the offerings from Amazon (Kindle Fire HD), Barnes and Noble (Nook HD) or Google (Nexus 7) aren’t going to continue to make waves in this segment of the tech industry.