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iPad mini: How it compares to its three main rivals

Friday, 26 October 2012 | By Oliver Milman

features-ipad-mini-thumbUntil now, entrepreneurs had two broad category choices when it came to mobile devices – smartphones and tablets.


With the launch of the iPad mini, it’s clear that a new product market is hotting up – the seven-inch tablet market. The iPad mini is 23% thinner and 53% lighter than a regular iPad, with the screen shrinking down from 9.7 inches to 7.9 inches.


The idea of a smaller tablet could well appeal to busy start-ups – while they have larger screen sizes than smartphones, useful for analysing spreadsheets or presentations, there’s the convenience of actually being able to hold one in a single hand.


Apple has shone a light on a segment that already has notable players, including Google and Amazon. Unusually, Apple is following a market trend rather than blazing its own trail.


"Small tablets have been around in various forms for quite some time, so I think for the first time it means Apple is entering a market where it is not the leader and the market is already populated," David Kennedy, research director at Ovum, told SmartCompany this week.


"I think that there seems to be less excitement around this launch precisely because we have seen this before. We have seen the operating system and small form tablet before so, in that way, it is not posing a challenge the way the iPhone and the iPad did."


"Apple's brand is so strong in the device market, so it will be a serious competitor. But whether it will dominate in the same way the iPad has remains to be seen.”


Ovum predicts sales of tablet devices of all shapes and sizes are set to hit 130 million units globally in 2012, increasing to 349 million units in 2017.


So which devices will be leading the way? And which option should SME owners opt for? We measure up four of the players jostling for pole position so you can judge for yourself.



1. iPad mini




The iPad mini is launching in Australia on November 2 and will carry a premium price. As ever, devotion to the iOS platform would mean a seamless transition to the new device, although there have been quibbles about its low-resolution screen.

  • Australian starting price: $369
  • Operating system: iOS 6
  • Capacity: 16/32/64GB
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Screen size: 7.9-inch
  • Display resolution: 1024x768
  • GPS: No
  • Dimensions: 200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm
  • Weight: 308g

What the reviewers are saying


“The smaller touch targets take some getting used to on the iPad mini, although they're not any smaller than on an iPhone. However, the iPad mini runs native apps, has a whopping 10 hours of battery life, and is extremely light and portable” – Susie Ochs, TechRadar.


"If you think the iPad mini is just a small iPad, well, you’d be right. But it really needs to be seen to be understood. It’s tiny, light, and has great fit and finish. Its screen is good, but most definitely not of Retina quality. When you see one, and hold one, you’ll know if you want one. We’d direct you to your nearest Apple Store to check one out for yourself...but until November 2, you won’t be able to" – Dan Moren and Jason Snell, Macworld.


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2. Google Nexus 7




“Others have tried to make tablets smaller than the iPad, and they’ve failed miserably,” Apple’s vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said at the iPad mini launch. “These are not great experiences.”


Schiller’s rather pointed remarks haven’t been borne out when it comes to Google and Asus’ Nexus 7 – in sales terms, at least. The tablet has already shifted three million units worldwide since its launch in July.

  • Australian starting price: $269
  • Operating system: Android
  • Capacity: 8/16GB
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Screen size: 7-inch
  • Display resolution: 1280x800
  • GPS: Yes
  • Dimensions: 198.5 x 120 x 10.5mm
  • Weight: 340g

What the reviewers are saying


“We've fondled our fair share of tablets since the iPad redefined the category back in 2010. The Google Nexus 7 by Asus doesn't quite stack up in terms of specs to Apple's media darling – and nor should it, considering the iPad sells for at least twice the price. It's most certainly the best tablet for the budget-conscious, and thanks to that it's a match for the Apple offering” – JR Bookwalter, TechRadar.


“The Nexus 7 isn’t a budget tablet in anything but price. It’s fast, has a perfectly good screen, and it’s built to a quality that we’ve rarely seen with such an inexpensive device.”


“It’s the perfect size to hold in one hand, and Google Play’s books and movies make it great for flights and hotel rooms. Despite a few minor flaws, the Nexus 7 redefines what we should expect from a budget tablet” – David Bayon, PC Authority.


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3. Kindle Fire HD




Until Apple’s arrival, the main battle in the mini tablet market has been between Amazon’s Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7.


Launched last September as a mini tablet companion to the well-known eBook reader of the same name, the cost-effective Kindle Fire has proved a hit, shifting seven million devices so far – second only to the iPad. Amazon recently unveiled an updated HD version.

  • Australian starting price: $194
  • Operating system: Android
  • Capacity: 16/32GB
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Screen size: 7-inch
  • Display resolution: 1280x800
  • GPS: No
  • Dimensions: 193 x 137.2 x 10.2mm
  • Weight: 567g

What the reviewers are saying


“The Kindle Fire can handle about 80% of what I want to do on an iPad, for 40% of the price. And much of what's missing won't be missing for long” – Wilson Rothman , NBC News.


“The Kindle Fire is notable for what it doesn't include: No cameras, no Bluetooth, no video out for playing stuff on an HDTV, no NFC, no GPS, no cellular radio. While those were all considered reasonable losses to hit a cheap price point last year, competitors such as the Nexus 7 have shown that you don't have to make all of those compromises” – Sascha Segan, ITProPortal.


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4. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7




The Samsung Galaxy Tab series contains a range of sizes, from 10.1 inches to the 7.7 inch model, the latter which is the challenger in the mini tablet market.


The display and functionality of the smallest member of the family has been praised, but could you stomach the price for just 8GB in storage?

  • Australian price: $268
  • Operating system: Android
  • Capacity: 8/16/32GB
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Screen size: 7.7-inch
  • Display resolution: 1280x800
  • GPS: Yes
  • Dimensions: 196.7 x 133 x 7.9mm
  • Weight: 340g

What the reviewers are saying


“It is perfectly suited for anyone who commutes daily since its size and weight make it comfortable to use while standing up or seated. The screen is perfect for watching movies or playing games and Exynos means it will be powerful enough for a long time to come” – Matt Booth, Ausdroid.


“It isn't as unwieldy as a 10-inch tablet, but the trade-off is the screen loses real estate previously devoted to input.”


“As a result, it doesn't feel like a serious business device (unless you pair it with a keyboard) that you would want by your side through a busy day of meetings and projects. What you're left with is a very pretty, functional, and expensive media device” – Kevin Kelly, TechRadar.