iPad mini vs Google Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire HD

Battle of the mid-sized tablets

iPad mini vs Google Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire HD

We now have three major players on the mid-sized (7 to 8-inch) tablet scene, each with its own design philosophy and distinctive approach to user interface.

In no particular order, they are, of course, Apple, Google and Amazon.

Unusually for Apple, it's playing catch-up with its newly announced iPad mini. To many observers, The Big A has entered this mid-sized tab market as a direct result of the great success the Google Nexus 7 and (in the US, at least) the Amazon Kindle Fire have enjoyed of late.

For its part, Amazon has just brought its own brand of 7-inch tablet to the UK and beyond with its new and improved Kindle Fire HD.

So, what do these cut-price mid-sized tablets have to offer? What are their relative strengths and weaknesses? We take a closer look.


You won't be surprised to read that Apple wins the design round hands-down. The iPad mini is astonishingly thin (7.2mm) and light (308g), and it looks the business - more like a larger iPod touch than a smaller iPad. The other two don't even come close.

No such svelte design for the Google Nexus 7. It's far from ugly, but its utilitarian body is just what we've come to expect from the majority of Android devices. It's square, solid, and plasticky.

The Nexus 7 weighs 340g and is 10.56mm thin. That makes it a tiny bit tubbier than the Kindle Fire HD, but also a bit lighter.

Yep, the Kindle Fire HD is pretty similar to the Nexus 7 from a design standpoint. It's got that same slightly soulless black slab design so beloved of tablet designers outside of Apple's, Sony's, and now Microsoft's HQ. But, that doesn't mean the Kindle Fire HD is ugly or unpleasant to look at.

Amazon's 7-inch slate is the heaviest of the three at 395g, but it's thinner (10.3mm) than the Nexus 7.


Apple would have you believe that the iPad mini isn't even competing in the same league as the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD. A large part of that is down to its display: at 7.9 inches, it's almost a whole inch bigger than the other tablets' displays, and the screen's aspect ratio is 4:3 (like the iPad) rather than 16:9.

Of course, the iPad mini's display is also less sharp than the other two's (163ppi versus 216ppi).

So, which of the other two comes out on top? While both the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7 sport 7-inch 1280x800 IPS LCD displays, the former's would appear to have the edge.

Reports suggest that the Kindle Fire HD's display has a bolder, brighter, clearer picture thanks to Amazon's polarising filter and anti-glare technology.


The iPad mini's dual-core A5 CPU is a bit of a blast from the past - it's the same unit as the one in the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2, though it's unclear how fast it's been clocked at. The point remains that this A5 processor, while still a very capable chip (especially when it comes to graphics), is decidedly last gen.

Of course, Apple's last-gen CPU is a fair bit better than competing last-gen dual-core CPUs - including the Amazon Kindle Fire HD's TI OMAP 4460, which is clocked at 1.2GHz. It's fine for general usage, but when compared to the other two, it comes up a little short.

Under its bonnet, the Nexus 7 has a Tegra 3 CPU, which powers a good number of high-end Android smartphones and tablets. It's the only quad-core CPU here, and it's clocked at a respectable 1.2GHz, which means it's likely quicker than the iPad mini's processor. However, the Tegra 3's GPU performance isn't as good.


This hardware talk is all well and good, but the software a device runs is just as important in this day and age. The iPad mini's OS is a strength as well as a weakness.

It runs iOS 6 - just the same as the iPhone and iPad - which means that those familiar with and fond of Apple's mobile operating system will be right at home.

Of course, others find it to be an overly restrictive, conservative, and even dated mobile OS, so it depends upon your past experience with the platform and what precisely you look for in a modern OS.

The Nexus 7 is arguably the strongest of the three when it comes to the OS. It runs on Android Jelly Bean, which takes the massive leaps forward Google made with Ice Cream Sandwich - a distinctive UI, flexible widgets, polished native Google apps - and adds an extra dollop of buttery smoothness. It's arguably the finest mobile OS around today.

Finally, we have the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, which is built on what those in the industry call a 'forked' version of Android. No, we're not being rude. This means that while Android forms the base code for the Kindle Fire experience, the OS has been heavily modified and separated from the Android ecosystem.

It was obviously designed with the not-insubstantial Amazon ecosystem (ebooks, downloadable MP3s, videos, and now games) in mind. Amazon's UI is heavily cloud based and pushes the content front and centre, but it's not everyone's cup of tea when it comes to general browsing.


You could argue that apps form part of the OS experience, but we think they are an essential component in their own right. Especially when we're talking about gaming apps. On that front, the iPad mini wins by a mile.

The App Store has a far greater range of games and depth of gaming content than the other two tablet pretenders.

While the number of overall apps appears to be close - iOS's 700,000 apps versus Android's 675,000 apps, by one estimate - Apple devices are still the first ports of call for mobile game developers.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is barely even in this fight with somewhere around 50,000 apps available on the Amazon Appstore. Sure, the Kindle Fire HD can boast a few timed exclusives on the game front, but its overall range is much more limited than its Android cousin.

Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.