In the New Year I’ve decided I’m going to treat myself to a 7″ tablet. I need something mainly for “sofa surfing”, but I often don’t want to fire up my work laptop. My trusty iPhone is great for when I’m on the move, but viewing a complete webpage is hard (and often website insist on giving me the “mobile” version of a site even if I don’t want it), and is hard on the eyes when using it for a long time. Also, I want my phone battery to be available for taking phone calls, and as an iPhone user I see it become drained quickly.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1″ and full-size iPad are superb devices, but they’re great to rest on something rather than hold onto. So, a 7″ device it is.
The Kindle Fire HD looks surprisingly similar to the Nexus 7, but I’d rather have a ‘vanilla’ Android experience, so I’ve dismissed it. However, if you wanted to live in the Amazon/Kindle ecosystem, it’s certainly a great proposition.
I’ve looked at several different aspects:
Nexus 7 runs Android, without any manufacturer modifications. As the flagship product, it also tends to get OS updates first. My wife has a Samsung Galaxy S2 and I’ve been impressed with Android as a whole.
iPad Mini runs iOS, which is incredibly familiar to me as an iPhone user. All my existing content is already in iTunes. However, as an owner of a second-generation iPod touch, I’m very aware that Apple will only release a certain number of updates before abandoning it. The vast majority of my content within iTunes is music – and I’m unlikely to use a tablet as a music device, so I’m not too worried about having to migrate content from elsewhere.
Both have equally impressive hardware. Side by side, the iPad mini has a slightly bigger screen with a smaller bevel, but the Nexus 7 has a higher resolution (1280×800 vs 1024×768). The iPad mini is slightly lighter (312g vs 340g). However borrowing each of these devices from colleagues, I found the iPad mini marginally too wide to hold in one hand comfortably. The Nexus 7 at 120mm wide is 14mm smaller, and in my hand feels much more secure. The Nexus also has a soft rubber back which also means that it is easier to keep hold of.
3G or not?
A few years ago when I jumped from an iPod touch to an iPhone, I really appreciated suddenly having mobile data everywhere. Wifi is in many of the places I spend my time, and is ubiquitous out and about in the UK. However getting data on a train, an unfriendly airport or in bits of the world where free wifi is harder to find made me think carefully about paying a premium for the 3G/mobile data versions. You don’t have to have an active SIM, so I wouldn’t be tied to a fixed contract. In fact several websites point to various Pay-As-You go deals that give you either a chunk of data for not much (3 Mobile sell 3GB preloaded SIMs for around £11 on Amazon), or current operator offers (such as T-Mobile’s 500MB of data per month for 6 months simply by enabling various special offers on a standard PAYG SIM).
Data roaming for some of my more recent destinations in the US and Middle East are also incredibly expensive (£15 for 5MB in the UAE from Vodafone UK) – A local carrier pay as you go SIM for mobile data makes sense.
When you’ve chosen the 3G versions of the hardware, suddenly the decision as which to choose also becomes easier looking at pricing. 3G is only available in the 32GB Nexus 7, and comes in at £239. A 32GB iPad Mini is £449. Admittedly, the 16GB iPad Mini 3G is a slightly more reasonable £369, but as both devices lack SD card expansion, I’d commit to a 32GB model.
Now all I need to do is save some pennies, and wait for the Nexus 7 3G to come back in stock.