The iPad Mini is here, and though the price tag of $329 may not seem like the silver bullet everyone had hoped for, it is still an affordable computing device from Apple. While the company has not announced the pricing and availability details for India, it is expected the iPad Mini should be available on online e-commerce stores within days of its US release on November 2. So, should you line up for a 'smaller' iPad or ask that 'friend in the US' to get you the first-generation Kindle Fire or the recently-launched Google Nexus 7 that retain their positions as the most affordable 7-inch tablet PCs.
Here’s what we think:
iPad Mini, we now know, will have a 7.9-inch display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, dual-core Apple A5 processor (that powered the iPhone 4S and iPad 2), a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. The iPad Mini promises around 10 hours of battery life, dual-band WiFi, LTE, and dimensions of 7.8-inches x 5.3-inches x 0.28-inches.
Now, here’s where that all-important price difference comes in. The iPad Mini WiFi version is priced at $329 for 16GB and goes up to $529 for 64GB. For the WiFi and cellular version, Apple has priced the Mini starting at $459. The company retains its premium tag when compared with other 7-inch tablets in the market.
The iPad Mini will come with iOS 6, which has its own issues (mainly Apple Maps) but that also means being able to use Apple's voice assistant, Siri, FaceTime over 3G, tab syncing on Safari and tight Facebook integration among many others. Not to forget access to hundreds of thousands of apps and games, too.
While we haven’t reviewed the iPad Mini yet, it's features do seem to be a cut above the opposition in many respects. The build quality, portability, camera and connectivity seem to outstrip other existing models.
Our view: The iPad Mini, like all Apple products, sports an enviable aluminium finish and build quality. It is a product to invest this holiday season, if you don't already own a 10-inch iPad or similar tablet PC.
GOOGLE NEXUS 7
Nexus 7 is Google’s first tablet that comes with a powerful NVIDIA 1.5GHz Quad-Core processor and is equipped with the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. With a micro USB port and a front camera for chat (it has no back camera), it weighs just about 340 gm and has an expandable memory slot add to its features. You’re able to watch HD videos on its 1280×800 resolution display and for $200, it is reasonably priced for a powerful tablet.
The Nexus 7's biggest advantage is the stock version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is both speedy and polished, the closest Android has come to replicating the slickness of Apple's iOS yet.
Other points to consider are that the Nexus 7 doesn’t have a rear camera while the iPad Mini does—this may help a few choose their preferred tablet easily. On the other hand, the much-famed Apple Retina display has not made it to the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7 therefore has the higher resolution.
Our view: The Asus-built, rubber-backed Nexus 7 is a classy product to hold, too, coming quite close to Apple quality in terms of build and design. Not yet officially available in India, the device can be ordered online and is a fantastic portable tablet PC.
KINDLE FIRE HD
The Kindle Fire HD offers a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and tops Apple Mini with a screen resolution of 1280x800 pixels. Amazon claims by adding a polarising filter and anti-glare technology, Fire HD offers better viewing angles. The Kindle Fire HD is Android-based, but Amazon has slathered its own user interface with little customisation options. But when Google has upped its game with Nexus 7 running the latest version of Android, 4.1 Jelly Bean, Amazon falls short with the Kindle Fire HD running the Ice Cream Sandwich version. Similar to the Nexus 7, it only has a front camera, and doesn’t have a sim tray or an expandable memory slot.
Kindle Fire HD boasts of 16GB or 32GB, plus free unlimited cloud storage for your entire Amazon content, which is a big plus for those who cannot part with their data and apps. Amazon's tablet is packed with Dolby Digital Plus stereo speakers, and the difference can be heard (literally). Put the iPad side by side Kindle Fire and you will know what we are talking about. The iPad needs an external speaker to deliver quality volume output, while Fire HD, on the other hand, cranks out a decent decibels all on its own. The base model of Kindle Fire HD starts at $199.
Our view: Fire HD is great for reading, watching videos and playing games but sadly, most of Amazon store's multimedia content is not available in India. It, however, does have a fantastic ebookstore, which may be a compelling reason for many to invest in this tablet device.