How the iPad Mini stacks up to competing Android tablets

Apple, already enjoying a busy Fall after September’s launch of the iPhone 5, live-streamed a media event Tuesday that brought forth information on new multimedia tablets and personal computers.

While the updates to the iMac, Mac Mini and Macbook line were important and long overdue, they were overshadowed by Apple’s biggest announcement: the iPad Mini.

With a sea of small-scale tablets set to cut into the iPad market, Apple saw it prudent to introduce a lower-cost entry to the iPad ecosystem.  Even more, they won’t be the first in the smaller-tablet space; Google, Barnes and Noble and Amazon have made names for themselves in the 7” tablet

Here’s a look at the features and specs of the iPad Mini, as well as how they stack up to competing smaller-scale tablets:

Display

First, the iPad Mini’s most disappointing feature: it doesn’t contain a Retina display.  The iPad Mini display weighs in at 7.9” with a resolution of 1024×768 pixels (163 ppi).  Though it has the same resolution as the non-Retina iPad 2, the Mini’s display should look a little better, since it packs the same amount of pixels into a smaller area.  However, the pixel density is a noticeable drop from the Retina devices.

By comparison, both the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 slates rock 7” screens at 1280×800 (216 ppi) and the Nook HD pushes out 243 ppi with its 1440×900 7” display.  The iPad Mini’s display is outgunned at launch, a surprise considering the priority Apple has made of Retina.

Processor and storage

The iPad Mini is powered by an dual-core Apple A5 chip and comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB flavors (the amount of RAM is unknown).  The internals are said to be much like those in the iPad 2, which means that the Mini shouldn’t have any trouble running existing iPad apps.

Notable processors in the competition are the Nexus 7’s 1.2ghz quad-core processor and the Nook HD’s 1.3 ghz dual-core chip.  Storage sizes on the 7” Android devices do generally run smaller for the base configuration; Nexus 7 and Nook HD start at 8GB, while the Kindle Fire HD starts at 16GB.  The Nook HD is the only device in this article that offers expandable storage (up to 64GB), so be relatively sure on what storage configuration you’d like before purchasing.

Features and apps

What the iPad Mini lacks in display specs, it makes up for with features and applications.

The Mini offers a front-facing FaceTime HD camera for video calling, as well as a 5 megapixel rear camera, similar to the one found in the iPhone 4S.  In contrast, Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 have front-facing cameras only, at 1.3 and 1.2 megapixels, respectively, and the Nook HD has no cameras at all.

Apple’s iPad Mini is the only small tablet with access to the App Store, which is far and away the best mobile app marketplace, especially for non-movie/book/music content like games and productivity applications.  The Amazon and Barnes and Noble devices have access to their parent company’s respective online shops, as well as limited access to Google Play, which the Nexus 7 uses for apps.

As with any Apple device, the iPad Mini will be well supported with a wide range of accessories.  At launch, users can find new Lightning chargers, cable adapters and new, “Mini”-sized Smart Covers.

Price

While most of the smaller-tablet competition is focused around the $200 price point, Apple decided to launch the iPad Mini at $329.  The move has been met with some controversy, as some feel a non-Retina device with the internals of 2011’s iPad 2 shouldn’t warrant a large premium, but Apple has defended the price, telling critics that the iPad’s quality is worth the price bump.

The Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 and Nook HD are attractive products at $199, but are unable to offer the App Store or iOS experience Apple can at $329.

The iPad Mini is a good buy if you can get past the lack of a Retina display, but it’s going to be hard for some to reconcile the device’s higher relative price with the fact that they won’t be getting the best iPad Mini Apple could’ve put forth.  Even so, expect the iPad Mini to fly off shelves this holiday season.

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