Apple iPad mini full review
New Nexus 7 vs iPad mini review: UK price
The second-generation Nexus 7 is more expensive than the original, at £199 inc VAT for the 16GB model. That brings it closer to the 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad mini at £269 inc VAT. When you consider that the Nexus device is subsidised by Google in order to drive Android use and gather advertiser data, that's a pretty close-run thing. (It makes the iPad mini seem very cheap next to the equivalent Android tablets outside the Nexus fold.)
The gap increases as you go up the scale in terms of specs, however. At 32GB Wi-Fi only the iPad mini will cost you £349 and the equivalent Nexus 7 2 only £239. Add in 4G to that model and the prices are £449 vs £299 in Google's favour.
Whichever way you slice it the Nexus 7 2 is cheaper than the iPad mini. But there are more options with the iPad. You can't get 64GB Wi-Fi only, 16GB Wi-Fi + 4G or 64GB Wi-Fi + 4G Nexus 7 tablets, but you can get those models of iPad mini. (See our iPad mini with Retina Display review.)
New Nexus 7 vs iPad mini review: Display
The highlight of the Nexus 7 is its amazing screen. The 7in IPS display's resolution has been cranked up from 1280x800 pixels to 1920x1200, giving it a mammoth pixel density of 323ppi. It results in a display which is simply stunning to look at and without a doubt the best of any 7in tablet around at the moment. Apple's Retina iPad mini 2 has more pixels, but they're spread over a larger area, so the pixel density is basically the same. So how does the original iPad mini compare?
Although it's a similar physical size as its seven-inch rivals such as the Nexus 7, the iPad mini packs a bigger 7.9in screen. You wouldn't think it, but this extra not-quite-an-inch gives the iPad mini around 35 percent more screen real-estate than a 7in tablet, and the difference is noticeable.
We like the 4:3 form factor, which is only really a disadvantage when it comes to watching videos, since 16:9 content has to be shown with black bars at the top and bottom, or the sides cropped so it fills the screen.
To keep things simple, and likely to keep costs down, the screen has the same 1024 x 768 resolution as the iPad 2. This means it can run the existing - and extensive - catalogue of iPad-specific apps. On the Nexus 7, and with other Android tablets, you still have to contend with the phone versions of some apps. But it does mean a relatively poor pixel density of 162ppi.
The iPad mini's display has a higher pixel density than the original iPad and iPad 2 because it's around 2in smaller, but it's obvious that it's not as crisp as the new Nexus 7's display. Fortunately, it's still an IPS panel, so colours are vibrant and viewing angles excellent.
If the iPad mini is criticised for anything, it's its display. I use one and can honestly say the resolution has never bothered me, but the Nexus 7's is definitely noticeably sharper - if smaller. Reader, I prefer it. (See also iPad Air review.)
New Nexus 7 vs iPad mini review: Design and Build
The new Nexus 7 looks like the original version, althout it is slimmer and lighter, measuring just 8.7mm thin and weighing 290g. Indeed Google's tablet is a little lighter than its fruit flavoured rival but the iPad mini is thinner, 7.2mm and 308g. The full specs are as follows: iPad mini 135 x 200 x 7.2mm and 308g, and Nexus 7 2 114 x 200 x 8.65mm and 290g.
The new Nexus 7 is tall and slim, like an over-sized smartphone. Indeed, the Nexus 7 isn't that much bigger than a phablet such as the Nokia Lumia 1520 or Sony Xperia Z Ultra making it easy to hold in one hand.
The mini used to be noticeably thinner and lighter than most of its 7in rivals, including the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. That's no longer the case, as outlined above, but what still strikes you as you pick up the iPad mini is how light it is. It's less than half the weight of a third- or fourth-generation iPad, and 23 percent thinner. Despite this, build quality is spectacular and the mini feels as solid as a rock. There's little to choose between these devices here.
Excellent build quality has been maintained with no signs of unwanted gaps in the casing or wobbly buttons in either case.
Both thin and light, both beautifully built. We'll call this a draw. (See also: iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review.)
New Nexus 7 vs iPad mini review: Hardware and Performance
Looking only at the specs you would lean toward the new Nexus 7. The iPad mini runs at 1GHz a dual-core paired with 512MB of RAM. The 2013 Nexus 7 2 has a quad-core chip running at 1.5GHz with 2GB RAM. But there is always more to it that that.
The iPad mini's A5 chip may be getting a bit old, but our benchmark results show it can still rub shoulders with the current crop of 7in tablets. Importantly - and this is something benchmarks often fail to reflect - the iPad mini feels snappy in use, whether loading apps, scrolling around maps or browsing the web.
The 2013 Nexus 7 is equipped with a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core Krait processor and the memory has been doubled to 2 GB. This takes it to a truly impressive GeekBench 2 score of 2671, in our tests. We saw 41fps in the GLBenchmark test, and the SunSpider test result of 1150ms is similarly impressive.
If you put much store by synthetic benchmarks you'd have to hand the prize here to the new Nexus 7. So I will! (But don't let that fool you into thinking the iPad mini is somehow slow. It isn't.) (See also: iPad mini 2 with Retina display vs iPad Air comparison review.)
New Nexus 7 vs iPad mini review: Storage, Cameras, Connectivity
Ignoring price points, the iPad mini still has an advantage when it comes to storage. This is down to the fact that Apple offers a 64GB model while Google has stuck with a maximum of 32GB. Neither tablet has a microSD for memory expansion so you'll need to pick your capacity wisely.
Things are a dead heat when it comes to photography equipment. Both tablets have a 5Mp rear camera and a 1.2Mp front camera. You should look elsewhere for key differentiators.
Connectivity is largely the same between the iPad mini and Nexus 7 2 with each having dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and support for 4G LTE. They have different physical connectors but this is no big deal. What the Nexus 7 2 has up its sleeve is NFC and wireless charging. (Compare the two mini iPads: iPad mini 2 with Retina display vs iPad mini 1 comparison review.)
New Nexus 7 vs iPad mini review: Software
The classic Android vs iOS battle, with the best of both. If you're a Macworld reader whose only ever used iOS, you may be pleasently surprised by this version of Android. It is stable, easy to use and good looking. The Nexus 7 shipped with Android version 4.3 Jelly Bean and then received an update to 4.4 KitKat a few months later.
KitKat brought with it some fairly minor updates. Most of the updates are concerned with making Android easier to use. For instance, you can now access Location settings from the quick-launch area when you swipe down from the top-right corner. Another addition is Tap & Pay, which uses the built-in NFC for making purchases. However, there are still very few places where you can use this feature in the UK.
Many of KitKat's features rely on developers adding them to their apps, so the new ‘immersive' full-screen mode works only in apps which have been updated to take advantage of the feature. For example, Google's Play Books app uses the full screen, but Amazon's Kindle app doesn't.
Introduced with Android 4.3 were 'restricted profiles'. This is an extension of merely having multiple user accounts on one device. With restricted profiles you can essentially manage the apps and content which is accessible via a certain user account. This is great if you want your children to use the Nexus 7 without accidentally spending your money or accessing unsuitable content.
As you'd expect, you get all of Google's apps pre-loaded including the Play store.
See also: iPad mini 3 release date rumours
Then there is the iPad mini, now running iOS 7.1. With the seventh version, iOS looks fresh and modern, with features that help keep it on a par with (if not ahead of) Android, Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone.
However, iOS 7 still lacks customisation, so anyone hoping for Android-style widgets, or merely the ability to change the default keyboard, will be disappointed.
Apple's walled-garden approach hasn't changed, and that's largely a good thing. You can't install apps except through the App Store, which means tight security and less piracy.
It's interesting that Microsoft ditched transparency in Windows 8, since this is a major part of iOS 7. Apple says it helps to orient you, and we can't help but agree.
The Android vs iOS argument goes a little like this: Apple is curated, locked down and totally secure. It has the best app support. With iOS you get a great experience, but it is the experience Apple wants you to have. Android lacks the tiniest bit of polish and performance when compared to Apple's iOS, although in the case of the Nexus 7 it is a close run thing. In return you get the option to buy from multiple music and media stores, and more customisation options.
It's very much a personal choice.
New Nexus 7 vs iPad mini review: Battery Life
The Nexus 7 2 has a 3950mAh cell, the iPad mini a bigger 4400mAh battery. In terms of battery life, we found the iPad mini didn't quite live up to Apple's 10-hour claim. Running our usual video-looping test, we recorded just 7 hours and 21 minutes with Wi-Fi turned on. That was at maximum screen brightness, however, so at a lower brightness, you might just reach 10 hours.
In our battery test, the Nexus 7 lasted 8 hours, 47 minutes on a single charge while looping a locally stored HD video. That's a good result which is better than many 7in tablets but a little behind the 10 hours, 12 minutes which we measured with last year's Nexus 7.
Like just about all tablets, it takes a good while to charge back up if you're using it at the same time. With it powered off, we measured just over 3.5 hours to charge from completely empty to 100 percent.
However, one thing we didn't like much was the Nexus 7's power drain when left in standby for a few days. More often than not it would be dead or close to it, even when it had only been receiving emails and other notifications via Wi-Fi. We've never experienced that with an iPad or Kindle Fire tablet: they seem much more efficient at sipping power in standby with Wi-Fi enabled.
It's a close-run thing but we'd favour the iPad here. (See also; iPad mini vs Kindle Fire HD 8.9 tablet comparison review.)