Last week, Apple updated its iPad mini tablet, and gave the compact slate a Retina Display – plus Cupertino also boosted its performance with the new A7 chip. Of course, it was only a few months ago that Google refreshed the Nexus 7, an upgrade that really made people stand up and take notice. At just £199, the Nexus 7 offers a full HD display, quad-core processing power, accelerated Nvidia-powered 3D graphics, and 16GB of internal storage in the base model. So, now that Apple has sharpened up its iPad mini, which one of these compact tablets should you get?
This is a tougher comparison than it might seem at first glance. Right out of the gate, the Nexus 7 is £120 less expensive than the iPad mini with Retina Display – in fact, it's not far off half of what Apple's tablet costs. The iPad mini's 7.9in display features a 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution, which is exactly the same as the iPad Air's, except in a smaller display size. In comparison, the Nexus 7 has an almost-as-sharp 1,920 x 1,200-pixel 7in screen. The slight variations in numbers add up to almost identical pixel densities of 323 ppi (for the Nexus 7) and 326 ppi (iPad mini), a difference that's impossible to see in real life. Suffice it to say that both tablets display ultra-crisp text and graphics.
The Nexus 7 is also a bit smaller and lighter than the iPad mini Retina, and by some measures it’s more comfortable to hold. As is almost always the case with Android-powered tablets, the Nexus 7 display has a cinema-style aspect ratio of 16:9, while the iPad mini continues with its more traditional 4:3 display. That makes browsing web pages and reading books easier when holding the iPad mini in portrait mode, because you have more screen width to work with. But Apple’s slate is also a bit less pocketable – although we're talking overcoat pockets here, not trouser pockets – and while the iPad mini has an admirably thin bezel, it's also a little tougher to hold as mentioned above, since there's barely any place for your thumb to rest without accidentally touching the display.
Both tablets come with 16GB of storage at £199 for the Nexus, and £319 for the iPad mini, and have 32GB versions available for £40 more (Nexus 7) and £89 more (iPad mini). With the iPad mini, you can even buy 64GB and 128GB versions, although at £479 and £559 for the Wi-Fi variant, they're mighty expensive – and even dearer if you want cellular connectivity (see the table below for the full lowdown on pricing).
Both tablets also feature 5-megapixel rear cameras and 1.2-megapixel front-facers, so spec-wise, there isn’t anything in it here.
The final, and perhaps largest difference, comes in the form of Google and Apple’s app ecosystems. Apple has over 475,000 iPad-optimised apps in the App Store. Google has a tiny fraction of that available for Android tablets, although it counters this fact by saying that all regular Android phone apps still look good when expanded to fit the Nexus 7 display – a claim we agree with in some situations, and disagree with in others, depending on the app.
But the real question is – how important is access to Apple’s large app catalogue to you? That could well be the deciding factor here, as it has to be worth paying £120 more for the iPad mini Retina.
So which tablet do you prefer: The iPad mini with Retina Display or the Google Nexus 7? Let us know in the comments below. And for more on these tablets, have a gander at our review of the Nexus 7, and hands-on with the iPad mini Retina. You might also want to see our spec comparison of the iPad mini Retina and Kindle Fire HDX 7, and our iPad Air versus iPad mini Retina spec showdown.
Apple iPad mini Retina
Google Nexus 7 (2013)
2,048 x 1,536 pixels
1,920 x 1,200 pixels
Processor and battery
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
Claimed 10 hrs
Claimed 10 hrs
Storage and memory
16 / 32 / 64 / 128GB
16 / 32GB
200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm
200 x 114 x 8.65mm
331g (Cellular model: 341g)
290g (Cellular model: 299g)
Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
Wi-Fi: £319 (16GB); £399(32GB); £479 (64GB); £559 (128GB)
Wi-Fi + Cellular: £419 (16GB); £499 (32GB); £579 (64GB); £659 (128GB)
Wi-Fi: £199 (16GB); £239 (32GB)
Wi-Fi + Cellular: £299 (32GB)