The iPad mini has a 4:3 aspect ratio, while the Nexus 7 has a 16:9.
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For me, Google’s Nexus 7 was love at first sight. Attached to my hip since its launch earlier this year, the Nexus 7 has been by tablet companion for the past few months -- until this weekend when I headed out of town with a new iPad mini.
My love affair with the Nexus 7 started primarily because it was filling a specific void in my life. A long-time iPad owner, there were times -– such as commuting on the train and waiting in the dentist’s office –- where I wanted to read a book or play a game on a larger screen, that weren’t exactly the ideal environment to pull out a 10-inch tablet.
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The Nexus 7 is light, making it perfect for carrying around in a bag all day and pulling out when you need it. Unlike some competitors, the tablet also offers full access to the Google Play store. I use the tablet as my “travel tablet,” while I continue to use my iPad 3 at home.
Despite my love for the Nexus 7 I was drawn to the iPad mini and received my order for the pint-sized tablet on Friday afternoon, right before heading out of town for the weekend.
Anxious to see if the iPad mini was a suitable –- or better -– replacement for the Nexus 7, I left my Android co-pilot at home for the weekend and used the iPad mini exclusively for three days.
You’ve Got to Hold This
One of my favorite features of the Nexus 7 is the feel of the rear of the device. The day of the Nexus 7 launch, Google’s Matias Duarte told me the tablet's backside was designed to feel like a driving glove, and it does. The back of the device feels great, and it rests perfectly in a single hand. I found myself passing the tablet to strangers the first few weeks after the Nexus 7’s release, saying “You’ve go to hold this!”
Flash forward to my first weekend with the iPad mini, which I'm passing around for a whole different reason. The mini doesn’t have a sexy back like the Nexus 7, but it earns its own “Wow!” factor in how thin and light Apple was able to make the device. So thin and light in fact that you’re going to want to pass the tablet around to all your friends –- and maybe a few strangers -– to show off how amazing it is, and it is amazing.
How Thin Is Too Thin?
While the thinness of the iPad mini made me want to show it off, that same design makes it more difficult to hold than the Nexus 7. The Nexus 7’s 16:9 screen and rectangular shape makes it the perfect size for cradling in one hand for reading. But the iPad mini has a 4:3 screen, resulting in a wider device overall that’s a little larger -– if not impossible -– to cradle in one hand for any period of time.
While reading, I found myself holding the mini in such a way that my fingers were often were resting on the screen, something that never happens with the Nexus 7. While the sides of my Nexus 7 seem to disappear while I’m holding it, the iPad mini's sides are thinner and ultimately sharper to hold -- a less pleasant experience.
Gaming, however, was a bit better on the iPad mini than the Nexus 7. The iPad mini is lighter, making it nicer to hold in landscape mode for a prolonged period of time. I also found myself occasionally watching Netflix on the iPad mini, something I never do –- although it’s certainly possible -- on my Nexus 7 because the screen feels too small.
The iPad mini has the same screen resolution as the iPad 2 (1,024 x 768), which was great two years ago but is sub-par now. If you’ve been using a full-size Pad 3 for a while, a retina iPhone such as the iPhone 4, 4S or 5, or most of newer Android phones and tablets out there, then you’re going to notice a difference in screen quality -- and it’s going to bother you.
That said, it’s not a bad screen. Colors looked great, and after a few days of use I was able to get over the lower resolution. The screen resolution on the Nexus 7 is comparable (1,200 x 800), but because those pixels are packed in tighter on the smaller screen, it's a bit sharper.
When it comes to apps, comparing the iPad mini and Nexus 7 is in a way comparing apples and oranges. Both have access to the full range of apps that their respective stores offer, which at this point is for the most part a lot of the same stuff – although apps often head to iOS before Android.
If you’re already a smartphone owner then there’s an argument both for and against sticking with the same operating system.
Apps you’ve purchased for your smartphone can often be run on your tablet for no additional cost, so if you’ve invested a lot of cash into a particular ecosystem, then there’s definitely something to be said for sticking with it. Nobody wants to re-buy their favorite games on iOS when they already own them on Android or vice versa.
However, if you don’t purchase a ton of stuff, it can be nice to have the ability to dabble in both Android and iOS, and have access to two different app stores rather than one. I’ve definitely found some gems in Google Play that have never made their way to iOS as well as a few faves on iOS that have never come to Android. It’s nice to have both options.
Just an iPad
At the end of the day, the iPad mini is just what it sounds like: a miniature iPad. Specifically, a miniature iPad 2. I’m still amazed at how thin and light the tablet is, a feature that’s going to earn the device a spot in purse quite often.
That said, unless you’re in a committed relationship with iOS, then I think you’re still better served buying a $199 Nexus 7 over a $329 iPad mini. The Nexus 7 is easier to hold and is going to give you much of the same functionality of the iPad mini -- with the exception of a rear-facing camera –- for a fraction of the cost.
If Apple had brought the price point for the device a little closer to $199, or had included a retina screen on the tablet, then I'd likely be singing a different tune.
Did you purchase an iPad mini? Tell us about your experiences with it in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.