Head-To-Head: Google Nexus 7 Vs. Apple iPad Mini4:00 PM EST Tue. Jul. 30, 2013
Apple has a new rival to contend with in the market for small tablets, a market that seems to be getting busier by the day. The latest 7-incher to hit the scene is the Google Nexus 7, an update to the already well-endowed Nexus 7 revealed last June. Google's timing for a fresh Nexus 7 might be fortuitous in light of rumors this week that a new iPad Mini might be pushed until after the new year. Google meanwhile is well-armed for battle, even if Apple comes at it with Retina. As companies gear up for the holiday buying season, here's a look at how Google's latest Nexus 7 stacks up against Apple's current iPad Mini.
The iPad Mini is built around Apple's A5 custom SoC, the same processor found in the iPad 2. It has two ARM Cortex-A9 cores running at 1GHz plus a NEON SIMD instruction accelerator to boost application performance. The new Nexus 7 sports a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro application processor running at 1.5GHz. For graphics, Apple's SoC has a pair of PowerVR GPU cores, while the Nexus' Qualcomm includes a 400MHz Adreno 320. According to its maker, this new GPU is optimized for HTML5 and 3-D software and quadruples performance of its predecessor Adreno 225.
As for memory, the iPad Mini contains 512 MB of system RAM for running applications and is available with 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB for application and data storage. Nexus 7 comes with 2 GB of system RAM and is available with 16- or 32-GB storage. Neither the iPad Mini nor the Nexus 7 is expandable.
Like all iPads and iPhones, the iPad Mini cannot save data directly to a USB stick or other removable storage medium. For all I/O, Apple provides Lightning Port, Apple's all-digital, multipurpose connector for hooking up monitors, docks and other peripherals. Sturdier than the 30-pin analog/digital connector of Apple's prior generation, the Lightning connector is reversible, a convenience that also helps eliminate damage from cable orientation errors. Nexus 7 employs a microUSB port with support for SlimPort, a license-free spec developed by Analogix. In addition to file I/O, this port can connect to external DisplayPort or HDMI monitors, docking stations and other peripherals using the appropriate adapter. Both devices come with a 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone and buttons for power and volume. Nexus 7 uses Android's soft Home key.
The iPad Mini's 1,024-x-768 resolution (163 ppi) display is an LED-backlit multitouch LCD that measures 7.9 inches diagonally. Its IPS panel offers an enormous range of colors and a super-wide viewing angle. The glass is coated with an oleophobic substance that resists fingerprints. The iPad Mini offers quite a nice looking display, but it's nowhere close to HD. Nexus 7 on the other hand is not only close to HD, it exceeds it. Google's 7-inch LCD impressively pumps out 1,920-x-1,200 pixels, which calculates to 323 ppi. It too employs IPS technology with its impressive array of colors and viewing angles. And, it's protected with Gorilla Glass. But, according to a piece on Android Origin, the Gorilla Glass is not the latest version 3 -- it's Corning's original Gorilla Glass 1.
Apple's aluminum unibody construction idea gives iPad Mini a solid, sturdy feel and simplifies servicing. Nexus 7's (pictured) case is plastic, but according to reports, it feels quite solid compared with last year's model and other inexpensive tablets. Putting them side by side, one might describe Google's as long and thin, while Apple's is short and fat. In reality, the two are almost precisely the same length: 7.9 inches. The iPad Mini is 5.3 inches wide against Nexus 7's 4.5 inches. Apple has Google on device thickness. The iPad Mini opens the micrometer to 0.28 inches, whereas Nexus 7 stretches to 0.34 inches. Due mainly to its larger glass panel, Apple's device weighs 0.68 pounds compared with Google's 0.64 pounds.
The camera competition is a wash. Both tablets include 1.2MP fixed-focus front cameras and 5MP auto-focus rear cameras. Google hasn't put out details much beyond that, but we do know that Android 4.3 supports use of both cameras at once for effects such as picture-in-picture. We also know that the rear camera on Apple's small tablet contains a 2.4f aperture and five-element autofocus lens, and it can capture 1080p video with image stabilization and backside illumination. Apple's 1.2MP front camera (pictured) captures 720p video and offers photo and video geotagging. Both tablets include two speakers and stereo sound.
The devices are on fairly even ground in terms of radios. Both have dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. Nexus 7 adds NFC with support for Android Bump, which can wirelessly transmit data between devices. Apple has resisted NFC reportedly because of unsteady standards. Both devices build in sensors for GPS, gyro, accelerometer, compass and ambient light. Both offer an LTE option; Apple also provides GSM/EDGE and CDMA networks for iPad Minis.
Google rates the battery life of its 3950 mAh cell at nine hours, but fails to indicate what the device is doing during that time. Apple claims nine hours on its 4490 mAh battery while surfing the Web using a cellular radio and 10 hours using Wi-Fi, listening to music or watching videos. The Nexus 7's battery supports Qi compatible wireless charging. Android has improved its power efficiency substantially over the years, and Nexus 7 runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, Google's latest OS. But in the Test Center's experience, Android still has miles to go before it's on par with iOS's legendary battery life. iPad Mini runs iOS 6.0.
The 16-GB, Wi-Fi-only iPad Mini sells for $329. The same unit at AT&T, Sprint or Verizon costs $459. For any model, add $100 to Apple's list price for each 16-GB increment. The iPad Mini has been selling since November 2012. Google's price for a Wi-Fi-only Nexus 7 is $229 with 16GB and $269 with 32GB; both began shipping this week. Coming later this year are cellular models for AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon at $349 with 32 GB only.