iPad Mini, Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD and Nexus 7: The Pros and Cons of Each

Here's a look at what each budget tablet has to offer compared to the rest.

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Google, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple / TIME.com Illustration

With the iPad Mini, Apple has decided to enter the cheap tablet fray–sort of.

Apple’s smaller, lighter iPad costs $329 and up, quite a bit more than Google’s Nexus 7, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD, all of which start at $200. Still, it’s clearly aimed at sapping some customers from the realm of inexpensive tablets, so a comparison is in order.

Here’s a look at what each budget tablet has to offer compared to the rest:

Apple’s iPad Mini

Pros: A 7.9-inch display doesn’t sound like much over other 7-inch tablets, but because the iPad Mini’s aspect ratio is 4:3, compared to 16:9 or 16:10 on other tablets, it’s a lot wider in portrait mode and taller in landscape. Yet it’s also thinner and lighter than the other tablets available, and it has both front- and rear-facing cameras. The main advantage, though, is in the software. No other app store comes close to Apple’s selection of 275,000 tablet-optimized apps, and Apple’s iOS operating system is as smooth and stable as it gets.

Cons: The price could be a dealbreaker, especially if you want more than 16 GB of storage. Apple charges $429 for a 32 GB iPad Mini, and $529 for a 64 GB one. And 4G LTE models are available, but they’re also pricey, adding $130 to the total cost.

(See Also: Pricing Guide: iPad Mini, iPad 2 and iPad with Retina Display)

Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD

Pros: Out of all the $200 tablets, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD has the largest selection of movies, shows, music and books, and if you have an Amazon Prime subscription ($79 per year), you get a selection of streaming videos and e-book rentals at at no extra charge. Amazon is further ahead than its competitors on support for connected TV devices, so you can start watching a video on the tablet and resume it on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Roku and lots of other set-top boxes. It also includes a useful children’s mode called FreeTime, which lets parents set up time limits and a separate menu of apps and content.

Cons: The app selection is small compared to the iPad Mini and Nexus 7, and the software isn’t as smooth. The hardware is heavier than all other tablets on this list, and wider than the iPad Mini despite a smaller screen. There are also a couple hidden costs: $15 to remove advertisements from the lock screen and $10 for a charger.

(See Also: Review: Kindle Fire HD Is a Very Amazon Tablet)

Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD

Pros: The Nook HD gives you the most hardware for the money. Its 7-inch display is sharper than all other tablets on this list, with a resolution of 1440-by-900. It’s lighter than the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, and just a little heavier than the iPad Mini. And although the $200 model includes a measly 8 GB of storage, a 16 model only costs $30 more and both have a microSD card slot for up to 32 GB of additional storage. That makes it ideal for loading your own movies or music. Like Amazon, Barnes & Noble also has a user account feature, so parents can set up special profiles for their children.

Cons: The Nook HD’s app selection is the weakest of the bunch, and there are very few free apps available. (If you want Angry Birds, for instance, you’ll have to pay $3 on the Nook HD, while ad-supported free versions are available on all other platforms.) Although a video service is coming, the main focus of this tablet is reading books, magazines and newspapers.

(See Also: Barnes & Noble’s New Nooks: The Cheap Tablet Wars Continue)

Google’s Nexus 7

Pros: The Google Play Store rivals Apple’s App Store in quantity, even though many Android apps aren’t optimized for tablets. Users of Android phones can re-download all their apps on a Nexus 7 without re-purchasing them. The interface is smooth–though not quite iPad-smooth–and Google’s built-in Chrome browser is the best you’ll find on any tablet. If you want lots of apps and a fluid interface for the lowest price, the Nexus 7 is the best option.

Cons: The Nexus 7′s selection of movies and music is lacking compared to the iPad Mini and Kindle Fire HD. The storage situation is also worse than the competition, with just 8 GB on the $200 model and 16 GB on the $250 model, but this seems likely to change next week, as a 32 GB Nexus 7 is rumored.

(See Also: 30 Days with Google’s Nexus 7 Tablet)

Ultimately, the iPad Mini has the most to offer if you’re willing to pay a premium. Among the cheaper alternatives, it’s a choice between the most media content (Kindle Fire HD), the best specs (Nook HD) or the smoothest software and largest app catalog (Nexus 7).

8 comments
jackbaumel
jackbaumel

Ridiculous comparisons:  The Nook, Amazon, and Google stores are available simultaneously on all Android tablets and phones.  All that matters is how robust the build is and what depth of functionality is offered.  The Fire and the Nook fail in that regard while other manufacturers like Lenovo put out a superior product without much press.

KenanSadhu
KenanSadhu

Please mention in the article that the ipad mini has a low-res screen, because I believe it will be an important thing for many people. the ipad mini has a bigger screen, but lower resolution than the others. some even said it's as bad as looking at an iphone 3gs. thank you

shane.van.c
shane.van.c

This review is comparing apples and oranges (unavoidable pun).   You set up a comparison with a full-fledged tablet and readers. Why don't you compare the nook with an iPod, that would be as fair a comparison. You could have chosen the Samsung Galaxy or another strong competitors as well as the Nexus. There are only  2 tablets in this comparison.

MauriceLampl
MauriceLampl

I got the NOOK Tablet for it's entertainment value and the ability to be rooted into an Android via SD card without violating the NOOK warranty and have access to the Android market and it's multitude of apps and better internet surfing...

amorde
amorde

I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned above - The Nook HD is the only tablet device above that doesn't have a built in camera (front or back). So if you need to video calling (Skype). You're out of luck with this one.

luscusrex
luscusrex

I don't get this fantastic desire for being on the bleeding edge of mediocre or elitist products. I purchased a Motorola Xoom32 gig , an Acer A500 16 gigs both with a decent rear and front camera, great resolution, dual core 10" screen for less than $210 including S&H and no local tax..... Need I say more? 

Why pay Apple $320 + 7% tax for a 7" A5, when you can get on Black friday a Ipad 2 A5 10" $150????

Or a Google Nexus 7" 16 gig (no sd card,no rear camera) $200..

What am I missing here?

Do people really think that those new devices are worth 50% more when they are at best 10% newer devices?

livinintheusa
livinintheusa

@luscusrex They do, as borne out by the sales numbers.  Some people want quality and some people want the lowest common denominator.  Take your choice.  That's what is great about America.