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Weekend Roundup: iPad mini reviewed, Google Nexus smartphone and tablet line-up arrives, AMD fends off sale rumours

iPad mini scores top points

Apple’s unveiling of the iPad mini last month was the launch heard around the world. Though it didn’t quite prompt iPhone-style line-ups in front of Apple stores, the miniature tablet sold out quickly online and Apple is still struggling to keep up with demand, with some iterations of the device facing up to two weeks in shipping delays. But does the iPad mini live up to the hype?

This week, we turned in our own verdict. Our editorial director Riyad Emeran, a self-avowed first-time iPad buyer, cast a vote in favour of the device, scoring it an 8 out of 10 and giving it the coveted ITProPortal ‘Best Buy’ title. In particular, Riyad was impressed by how light and portable it is; at 308g, that’s definitely among its key selling points. Despite being slighter than its bigger brother, however, the 7.9in tablet is just as beautifully built. And its clever design means that "the iPad mini can recognise when your thumb or finger is holding the device, as opposed to interacting with it – in practice this worked flawlessly, and never has my resting thumb at the edge of the screen caused any problems,” according to Riyad.

“If you’re just looking for a 7in tablet, with no preference to OS or ecosystem, it will be hard to ignore the value proposition of the Nexus 7. But if you’ve already bought into the Apple ecosystem and want a light and slim tablet to extend that ecosystem, the iPad mini is exactly what you need,” he concluded, pointing out that Apple’s dominance in the app sphere is difficult to match.

Google to challenge competitors with Nexus family

But Google is desperately trying to shake Apple’s grip on the tablet market, and this week saw the arrival of a refreshed Nexus 7 - now available in 32GB and with 3G - as well as the brand-new Samsung-built Nexus 10 tablet and the LG-produced Nexus 4 smartphone. Together, the Nexus family is set to give Google an edge hardware-wise.

In his review of the Nexus 4, Jamie Lendino sounded a positive horn for the handset, scoring it an 8 out of 10, no doubt boosted by its competitive pricing, its quad-core processor, and its pure Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS. Meanwhile, Will Dalton measured the Nexus 4 against the Galaxy Note 2 and James Laird compared the Nexus 10 to the fourth-generation iPad, ultimately concluding that for many customers, it will come down to an OS preference and to subtleties in the build quality that Google’s hardware partners deliver.

Public response has been promising – the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 10 both sold out quickly on the Google Play store, with customers grabbing all available stock of the former within 30 minutes. While that amounted to a success for Google, it was followed by sobering news for those would-be buyers who were later informed that their orders could face three-week delays.

Still, with the Christmas season just around the corner, the Nexus line-up is likely to continue selling steadily. That just piles the pressure on Google to get its supply chain in order by then.

AMD continues to slump

While smartphones and tablets seemed to dominate much of the news cycle this week, we also saw some commotion over at chip manufacturer AMD. The Sunnyvale, California-based firm, which has seen its semiconductor business slow in the face of the decline of PC sales and the corresponding rise in mobile computing, was the butt of acquisition rumours fuelled by the news that it had hired a bank to explore its financial options.

But in spite of its massive losses and the consequent dropping of 15 per cent of its global workforce, AMD is not looking to be sold or even to sell off major assets, insisted chief executive Rory Read in a memo to staff.

However, not everyone is convinced by Read’s insistence that the company is on the right track. Joel Hruska warns that “AMD’s ability to survive through 2013 and into 2014, when new parts (and its ARM-based server chips) arrive is very much in question. It’s simply not clear how much more the company can cut its payroll or other expenses before it directly jeopardises its long-term ability to deliver a roadmap that investors trust to be competitive with other companies.” Looks like more tough times ahead.