As each day passes we enter more and more into the post-PC era, and the sector of mobile consumer electronics is one tough arena. There are so many companies completing for the majority of the market share by releasing new devices every month; it’s hard to know what is the best device and if it’s the right time to buy. The latest trendy product is the smaller, budget-priced tablet device mostly used for consumption, like reading, viewing emails and video, and sharing pictures. So let’s take a look at what the market has to offer in terms of tiny tablets and which one can stand victorious as the best fit for all.
So we will be examining the recently announced iPad Mini, the Nexus 7, the Kindle Fire HD, and the Nook HD. Each of these tablets have a screen size of less than 8-inches and hold the latest technology that Apple, Google, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble have to offer. Each segment will point out the pros and cons of each device in terms of specifications, usability, and who may benefit the most from this brand of post-PC computing, as well as where you can purchase it. We will start with age before beauty and inspect the Nexus 7 first.
The Nexus 7 is Google’s most recent offering of tablet excellence to gain more interest in Android as much more than a budget smartphone operating system. The Nexus branding depicts that Google handled the design and production of this device personally, and it usually guarantees the support of the latest OS updates. The 7-inch screen maintains a 1200×800 resolution and weighs just 340 grams at 10.45mm thin. This handy tablet is great for video calls with its 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera and is powered by a quad-core Tegra 3 chipset, for console-like graphics for gaming and snappy computing, running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. One downside to choosing a completely Google tablet is the app support for its various devices consistently flooding the market; while the apps look the same as they would on an Android phone, that is not always a good thing when you have so much more screen space that could be used to make the apps more tablet friendly.
If you’re already deeply invested in the Google ecosystem (Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube, Maps, etc.) then this is the best portable, yet still quite powerful, tablet you’ll find perfect for your post-PC needs.
Amazon is still relatively new to the tablet market with their first generation Kindle Fire just over a year old, and now the totally revamped Kindle Fire HD is here to show what they can do with all their customer feedback. The originally Kindle Fire was a bit clunky for a tablet and felt like a plastic brick to use, but the brand new HD successor has a more streamline and sleek design that you will want to show off to your friends. Amazon uses their own customized version of the Android OS 4.0 to run its Fires and powers the HD models with a new chipset by Texas Instruments. It weighs just 395 grams and is 10.3mm thin, so carrying it around is no problem at all. It is the only device supporting Dolby Digital stereo speakers, which makes for great audio playback with your music or while watching a movie on the brilliant 1200×800, 7-inch screen.
While they may have tweaked the interface a little bit, the carousel of content on the home can be useful for some and off-putting to others who have used the originally Kindle Fire. The same concept of being in the maker’s ecosystem is key to deciding on whether or not the Kindle Fire HD is for you. You will get access to Amazon Prime, the Kindle Lending Library, Instant Video, and other neat little perks that are convenient for those familiar with them; so if that’s you then this is the tablet for you. Although, Amazon now insists on including ads in its base price devices so it will cost a bit extra upon purchase to enjoy ad-free content consumption.
Online vs brick-and-mortar bookstores has been one of the biggest commercial competitions since the introduction of Amazon and the physical stores like Barnes & Noble or Borders have been forced to adapt or fail. Luckily, B&N followed the first path and started competing with Amazon’s Kindle with their line of Nooks, and although the Nook Color came out first, the Kindle Fire kind of threw Barnes & Noble a bit off guard as they responded with a slightly upgraded Nook Color labeled as the Nook Tablet. But now B&N is back to redeem themselves and compete with Amazon’s newest Kindle tablet with their very own Nook HD.
The Nook HD has a gorgeous 7-inch screen with a 1440×900 resolution screen that trounces the Kindle Fire HD by a good bit, and it even weighs less at 315 grams. However, it is slightly thicker at 11mm. It is also running Barnes & Noble’s custom strain of the Android OS on a dual-core processor, and some of their added features are pretty nifty. For example, this is a great family tablet as you can create up to 6 profiles for the device allowing customized layouts for each person and keeps their purchases private if needed as well.
Last, and certainly not least, we have the soon to be legendary iPad Mini as the newest device on the market. This beautifully crafted tiny tablet is now the little sibling to the 4th generation iPad at 7.9-inches diagonally and keeps the same resolution as the iPad 2 at 1024×768. It is powered by a dual core chip as well, the A5, and is running Apple’s latest iOS 6, which included Siri for the iPad and iPad Mini. It is the lightest of the bunch at 308 grams and certainly the thinnest at 7.2mm, making it incredibly easy to pick up and go.
You can shoot 1080p video with the 5-megapixel back camera and have fantastic Facetime chats using the 720p HD front-facing camera. It is packed with tech to makes sure it stays in top shape for as long as you use it, however the lack of a Retina display can be a turn-off for some buyers right away. With Apple just releasing 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro to match its 15-inch brethren, as well as the iPhone 5, current iPod Touch, and 4th generation iPad, it is a wonder why it wasn’t included in this new tablet. It could have been to keep costs down and make it the affordable iOS tablet that some many have wished for, but it still looks super sharp in its current state.
The Apple ecosystem is something magnificent, with the iCloud syncing so much of the information we keep on our Macs, iPads, iPod Touches, and iPhones it is hard to resist getting a tiny tablet with a contrasting OS to make life difficult.
Bonus: The only thing missing from the tiny tablet arena at the moment is something for the dedicated Windows users. With Windows RT coming out very soon, it could be possible to see a device of this specification this time next year. But there is a lot of doubt that it will be a budget option with the strict internal requirements and most likely inclusion of a clip-on keyboard, like most of the newly released Windows tablets. A lot can change in a year, so who knows what the future can bring until we see it for ourselves.