iPad-Mini Vs. the World: The Best Cheap Tablets
With Apple rumored to unveil a new iPad tablet, speculated to be the "iPad-Mini," sometime this fall the battle lines have been drawn. Apple is likely to release the tablet at a reduced price from its flagship tablet, meaning the company is ready to compete in the small tablet market. But which 7-inch tablet should be commanding your attention?
If you're in the market for a small tablet right now, then you're faced with almost too many choices. There are some great options on the market, persistent rumors about some impending new releases, and prices are getting more and more competitive.
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Is the iPad-Mini fact or fiction? We still don't officially know. But all those iPad-Mini rumors just won't go away. If Apple was to release an iPad-Mini then there's no doubt it would represent a real challenge for all these 7-inch Android tablets. The deciding factor could be pricing. Suggestions of superior specs and a comparable price tag simply don't add up. If Apple was to drop an iPad-Mini for around the $200 mark and accept a slim profit margin in order to strike out at its competitors then it would certainly do well. That doesn't sound like the Apple we know, though.
The wealth of iPad apps available and Apple's legion of loyal fans would make it successful even at a higher price point than the competition.
9 to 5 Mac was able to obtain some details of how the upcoming mini-tablet will look. Citing "sources that we have reason to believe hold knowledge about Apple's plans on the upcoming iPad mini," their report describes the device as a big iPod Touch with smaller bezels and separate buttons for volume control.
9 to 5 Mac also revealed that their sources place the iPad-Mini thickness at around 7.2 to 7.3 inches. There is some confusion over whether the device will have a front-facing camera, due to conflicting leaked mock-ups. The 9 to 5 Mac report speculated that the lack of a camera may be part of a lower-priced iPad Mini.
It has already been reported that the iPad-Mini will feature a 7.85-inch display, will cost between $249 and $299, and will launch sometime in late September. That price and size are certainly within striking distance of the other 7-inch tablets, especially considering Apple's reputation of releasing high-quality products. Amazon and Google both have a head start in the mini-tablet market, though. Google's Nexus 7 mini tablet was well-reviewed when it was released in July, and Amazon will soon be releasing its second generation Kindle Fire mini tablet. It will be interesting to see whether Apple can invade and dominate a market they did not create themselves.
All three of these Android tablets are priced at $200 (for the 8GB versions) and they all have 7-inch displays. You can see a full comparison table in our Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet: $200 tablet showdown.
It's cheap. It's feature-packed. And it runs the very latest version of the Android platform. With a class-leading quad-core processor and a high resolution IPS LCD screen (1280 x 800 pixels), people are clamoring for the Nexus 7, and with good reason. The lack of a microSD card slot disappointed some people, and the Nexus 7 depends on Wi-Fi (there's no mobile network option), but beyond that it's an impressive piece of kit.
Amazon's offering has been around for a while now. It's a solid device and Amazon is able to link in a great selection of content, but specs-wise it pales in comparison with the Nexus 7. If you primarily want an e-reader then go for a cheap Kindle. If you want a tablet then go for the Nexus 7. The Kindle Fire simply isn't the best at anything at the moment, though that may change this week. Amazon is rumored to announce a new Kindle Fire.
There have been various rumors about a Kindle Fire 2. It could be a larger tablet to compete with the iPad, or perhaps it will be another 7-inch tablet with upgraded internals. We'll have to wait and see, but a Kindle Fire upgrade seems imminent. Amazon enjoyed enough success with the original to make a follow up a foregone conclusion.
The Nook Tablet is almost identical to the Kindle Fire when it comes to specs, which puts it behind the Nexus 7, too. It does boast a microSD card slot and slightly longer battery life than its competitors, but is that enough?
Barnes & Noble is reportedly working on a new Nook device. The release date is uncertain, but we can expect something capable of carving out a niche in this competitive space.
Other Android tablets
You may also consider the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) which is freshly available on Verizon's 4G LTE network, but at $350 we think it has priced itself out of the market. You could pick an older entry in the Samsung Galaxy tablet range for less and there are other options out there including the Acer Iconia Tab range, but none of them measures up to the Nexus 7 when it comes to bang for your buck.
RIM's original tablet release didn't set the world on fire, but the software has been updated since then, and the price has fallen. Check out our BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 review to get a feel for what it can do. The latest PlayBook supports 4G, but it certainly isn't cheap.
What it offers over the Nexus 7: A rear-facing camera that can record HD video, but not much else. The price of the U.S. version of the latest BlackBerry PlayBook has not been announced yet, but it could be north of $500 off-contract and that's way too high to compete.
Microsoft Micro Surface
There were rumors about a 7-inch Microsoft tablet prior to the Surface being announced, but the new tablet turned out to be sporting a 10.6-inch display. The Microsoft Surface was unveiled but there was no word on pricing. Engadget recently reported that an anonymous source told them that the Surface would ship in October for just $200. That would mean Microsoft would make a loss on each one so it seems unlikely, but if it turned out to be true then the Surface would be a really strong contender.