So here’s the deal. I own both a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone and a Retina iPad 3, so I consider myself both an iOS user and an Android user, and thus relatively unbiased.
By happy chance, I was traveling in the US when both the iPad Mini and the 32GB Nexus 7 (previously only available in 8GB and 16GB) hit the shelves a few weeks ago, so I got a chance to play around with both in the store and decide which one to take home to Manila. I was expecting it to be a tough and challenging decision.
But much to my surprise, the call wasn’t even a close one. I bought the Nexus 7 without any hesitation.
There were a few key factors that made me decide on the Google tablet, and while they may or may not be applicable to your own decision making process, I present them here nonetheless.
1. The size
Let’s face it – I wanted a nice convenient device that I could use to read books or surf the web while lying in bed or draped over my couch. Ideally, something I could hold in one hand so I could scarf down potato chips with the other. The Nexus, with its 7 inch screen, fits my (smallish) hand perfectly. The iPad Mini with a 7.9 inch screen still kind of fits, but not quite as comfortably, especially for long periods of time. Score one for the Nexus.
2. The screen
Almost every iPad Mini review out there on the web goes something along the lines of “It’s a nice enough screen, for as long as you aren’t already used to a Retina display. Otherwise, you’ll notice the difference and it will annoy you.”
Well, I do own a Retina iPad and I notice a difference, and it does kind of bother me. The Nexus 7, while not quite Retina-caliber, is decidedly sharper and crisper than the Mini. I also like the fact that movies and TV shows take up almost all of the screen space on the widescreen Nexus, while there’s a lot of letterboxing and black space going on with iPad Mini video playback.
However, the flipside is that the Nexus 7′s dimensions don’t work as well with magazines. The Mini’s larger size and squarer layout is definitely better for reading periodicals. For me, though, the ideal magazine reader would still be a full-sized Retina iPad.
I’d say the Nexus wins this category as well.
I’m amazed that no reviewer out there seems to have pointed this out yet. Every model of Nexus 7 comes with GPS built in, and Google Maps, and, where applicable, Google Navigation. This comes in handy not just for driving around, but for GPS golf yardage apps, geotagging, etc.
The iPad Mini not only lacks a GPS chip (not until the LTE model ships, anyway), but it also comes with the much maligned Apple Maps. I declare this a definite Nexus win.
4. The apps
This one is almost automatically a win for Apple. The iOS App Store is about as good as it gets in terms of quality and selection. The Google Play store has a couple of gems, but most of the apps feel like filler. Nonetheless, I’ve spent and invested money in both ecosystems since, as I mentioned, I own an Android phone and Apple tablet.
Fortunately most of my favorite iPad apps have Android versions: the usual standards like Facebook, Dropbox, Kindle, Zinio, Flipboard, etc and even some of my more niche favorites like Pocket, GroupMe and LogMeIn. As a news and journalism junkie, the one app I do use a LOT on my iPad is an article aggregator called Longform, and the absence of an Android app for curated longform content depresses me. For that alone I want to give this category to Apple. (And yeah, where’s the Android version of Letterpress, eh?)
5. Other geeky things
I wouldn’t consider myself a power user, but I like maximizing the capabilities of my gadgets. So it appeals greatly to me that the stock, unmodified Nexus 7 can take not just a Bluetooth keyboard, but even a Bluetooth mouse. A MOUSE POINTER ON YOUR TABLET. That’s insane. In fact, I wrote most of this article on the Nexus using that setup – only WordPress’ somewhat mobile-unfriendly edit screen forced me to finish it off on the Mac.
With the right app and a USB OTG (On-The-Go) adapter, you can also connect a thumbdrive or other forms of external storage to the Nexus’s USB port, meaning you can carry around far more video and audio content than the device’s internal storage would otherwise permit.
Lastly, the latest build of Android’s Jelly Bean OS (4.2) includes multi user functionality. This means that you can safely hand off your tablet to a friend in Guest mode, or share the Nexus 7 with a family member or bored child, all without needing to expose your email inbox, Facebook or Twitter info, or other personal settings. Truly a feature that every tablet needs to have!
6. The price
This has to be one of the most glaring differences, and if you’re on a budget, it can’t be ignored. A 32GB Nexus 7 lists for $250, while an equivalent 32GB iPad Mini costs $429. Again, no contest here.
To sum things up: by no means am I saying that the Nexus 7 is the superior device.
Apple will sell a boatload of iPad Minis, and deservedly so. They’re well built, well designed, and exist in a wonderful ideal ecosystem. Apple fans reading this article will find nothing to dissuade them from buying a Mini, while Android fans will probably agree with every single thing I wrote. I’m not picking sides, I’m just picking which device works better for me. To each their own.
And as far as small tablets go, right here and right now – it’s the Nexus 7 for me.
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