Apple’s release of the iPad Mini will get a lot of people thinking about buying a smaller tablet.There’s a huge number of people who want the advantages of a tablet—easy media consumption, more-capable Web browsing than a smartphone, and a wide array of apps—without the cumbersome size.
(The dirty secret of iPads: A lot of people just use them at home and don’t take them on the go.)
Yes, gadgets always get cheaper over time. But if you’ve been itching for a tablet and find the full-sized iPad too big, it seems foolish to wait.
If you’re interested in walking through the world with a new 7-inch device in tow, here are some guidelines to help you make a decision on which one to get.
There are three real choices: the iPad Mini ($329), Google’s Nexus 7 ($199), and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD ($199). You can get other Android tablets besides the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, but we don’t recommend them.
If you want to play games
With the same processing power and resolution as the iPad 2, Apple’s iPad Mini is the best gaming device in the 7-inch category.
Game developers seem to prefer iOS to Android, so iOS gamers will tend to have access to newer, better games. And the iPad Mini lets you run iPad versions of apps that you can’t play on the smaller iPod Touch.
If you’re always on the go
The iPad Mini and Google’s Nexus 7 feel like the best general-purpose tablets for people who want to always have a computer with them. You’ve got the standard assortment of social networking and productivity apps for your work and social life, and mobile notifications—standard on both platforms—make it easier to keep up.
If staying in touch is your priority, the decision’s likely to come down to the other devices you have. If you’ve got an Android smartphone, the Nexus is a better choice. You’ll be instantly at home with the Android interface and any apps you’ve already bought to use on your phone can be downloaded again for free to use on the tablet.
If you have an iPhone, stick with the iPad Mini for maximum compatibility with your iTunes music collection and apps. Yes, you’ll pay more for the hardware, but you can stick with the software and services you’re used to.
If you’re a loyal Amazon shopper
Got an Amazon Prime membership? You want the Kindle Fire HD. It integrates beautifully with Amazon’s online media, and the flat-rate cellular fees mean you can shop Amazon from anywhere you want. Watch Amazon’s Netflix-like library of streaming videos, and read a large library of books that are free exclusively to Kindle owners.
If you really want an e-book reader
You’ll actually do perfectly fine with any of these tablets. Save for the free books for Kindle owners, you can download a Kindle app for the iPad Mini or the Nexus 7 and get access to the same titles. Google and Apple have their own bookstores, too.