With last year's Google Nexus 7, the internet search giant almost goaded Apple into joining the mid-sized tablet war. Apple duly obliged in no uncertain terms with its fabulously sleek and successful iPad mini.

Here was the perfect gaming tablet for many: larger than the piddly 4-inch iPhone 5 but unlikely to bust your wrists like the chunky fourth-gen iPad. Apple had also applied plenty of its renowned design polish here. You know, the stuff that tends to attract aspirational / magpie types. Mmm, shiny.

Millions of iPad mini sales later, and Apple's 7-inch slate iPad mini was overtaking the iPad with Retina display in terms of popularity and standing. As a result, Google went back to the drawing board.

The result is the second-generation Google Nexus 7. And if Apple isn't nervously flicking through its planned iPad mini 2 specs right about now, we'd be very surprised.

But how does this new Asus-made 7-inch tablet fare as a gaming device? Let's compare it to the iPad mini and see which is better for readers of this website, then, eh.


Think that physical design has no bearing on a gaming device?

Think again. Especially when we're talking about devices you will be holding for hours at a time.

In terms of raw performance, the iPad mini doesn't exactly set the world alight. But the main reason it's such a great gaming tablet is that form factor.

It's half the weight of the larger-screened iPads and more than 25 percent thinner, making it far more pleasant to hold in one hand or grip in two.

The iPad mini has some serious competition on this front from the new Nexus 7, though. While it still doesn't feel quite so, well, 'premium' as Apple's mid-sized tab and isn't as pretty to look at, the new Nexus 7 is 18 grams lighter and only 1.5mm thicker than its rival.

While some have mocked the new Nexus 7's oversized top and bottom bezels, this design choice is a massive boon for gamers. These bezels offer players 'safe' areas to grip onto when playing games in landscape.


While most reviewers were impressed by the iPad mini's 7.9-inch 1024x768 non-HD display (resulting in a pixel density of 'only' 163ppi), that hasn't stopped the almost-universal clamour for a Retina display model.

We suspect that the calls are only going to grow louder once everyone gets to play with the new Nexus 7. Put simply, its 7-inch 1920x1200 display blows the iPad mini's screen out of the water.

And not necessarily on brightness or colour correctness or anything else like that.

In just pure eye-massaging sharpness, you see, it's a bit of a non-contest. At 323ppi, the new Nexus 7's display offers the sharpest picture of any tablet yet.

This has obvious benefits for gaming, with potentially crisper graphics and greater detail.


Just as the iPad mini lags way behind the new Nexus 7 when it comes to screen technology, so too it suffers when you compare the two devices' processors.

The iPad mini's dual-score A5 CPU wasn't exactly considered cutting edge back when Apple launched its 7-inch tab last October. In fact, it's the same processor used by Apple to power the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S, both of which were released in 2011. The A5 chip is backed up by just 512MB of RAM, too.

Thanks to Apple's tightly controlled vertical integration and its heavily curated App Store, the somewhat-underpowered nature of the iPad mini doesn't hamper gaming performance on it significantly.

But it can hardly be described as future -proof, either. Advanced 3D games run noticeably smoother on A6-equipped devices like the iPhone 5 and fourth-gen iPad.

By contrast, the new Nexus 7 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core CPU clocked at 1.5GHz, backed up by an Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Sure, the Snapdragon S4 Pro isn't the quickest in the Qualcomm range, but it's still considerably more powerful than the iPad mini's dated chip.

Of course, much of that power advantage is likely to be expended in pushing around the huge number of extra pixels on the new Nexus 7's screen, but still. The new Nexus 7 is unquestionably the more advanced device from a technical perspective.

Game selection

The new Nexus 7 has the iPad mini licked in each of the previous categories, but it loses out in this final category. And it's arguably the most important category from a purely mobile gaming viewpoint.

Put simply, iPad mini owners have more and better games available to them than their new Nexus 7-toting counterparts.

Forget what the reports say about the Google Play Store overtaking the App Store in terms of pure app numbers. When it comes to apps of meaningful quality, Apple's ecosystem remains the front-runner.

This is especially so when we're talking about games, which almost invariably surface on iOS first and best. Android's games offering is improving at a much faster rate, but it remains off the pace.

Android fans may claim that the difference is not that pronounced, but let's conduct a very simple experiment...

Navigate to the iPhone section of Pocket Gamer and select 'Best Games'. Now, select the top reviews from the past month. From the first page of 15 top-rated iPhone games, only four titles can also be found on Android.

The new Nexus 7 is a better tablet than the iPad mini. It's more powerful, it's got a sharper display, and it's £70 cheaper.

But as a pure games machine, we can't right now quite bring ourselves to recommend the new Nexus 7 over the iPad mini.