Not many months have passed since Apple founder and head Steve Jobs made the prediction that seven-inch tablets would die a natural death, and a 10-inch screen was the natural fit for tablets.
Since then, Jobs has passed to the Great Beyond, and Apple launched a device that is uncomfortably close to the 7” that he had so despised, ironically to sound market response.
So does that make the 7” tablet the perfect size? Or is cost a major factor behind the flooding of the market with 7” devices? Does size really matter, or is it all about the technology?
The 7” device has some advantages: it is easy to hold the device in one hand, it can easily double up as an e-reader (meaning one device less to pack in your digital toolbox), the screen resolution and viewability are right up there with the best in the business -- and, of course, the screen costs less.
The market is flooded by players ranging from giants such as Samsung, to the cheapest anonymous Chinese brands. We tested two of the most happening devices out there, the Google Nexus 7 and the new iPad Mini. Here is what we found.
Google Nexus 7
Starts at $199 (about Rs.11,000) for 16GB (US price)
The manufacturer, Asus, is doing all it can to cope with demand, as the attractive pricing saw the device getting sold out in the Christmas shopping season.
All that was available were 32GB Wi-fi only and a 32GB LTE (4G telephony) version. We decided to go test the former, as India is yet to get on familiar terms with LTE.
The Nexus7 is beautifully built, with a textured back, and the word ‘Nexus’ embossed only on the back. The sticker with the serial number is at the bottom (warning: it peeled off while we were testing the device, so warranty issues may crop up later).
The screen is sharp and bright, with a full resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, which means it can handle full HD videos, especially with its Tegra3 1GHz quad-core processor --- one of the most powerful in Android 7” devices, and that too at a budget price.
Let’s look at the hiccups first. Not putting a rear camera seems a bad decision, in these snap-and-share times. Also, there are also no hard buttons on the front.
All controls are through digital buttons that come up when you wake the tablet. The boot up button on the side felt slightly too small and difficult to locate, and placed next to the volume buttons, gets slightly confusing.
The operating system also gave us a couple of jitters: Viber, a free call-making software, is not available for the Nexus 7 though it is available on the Android Platform; while playing games such as Angry Birds Space and Let’s Golf, the tablet gave up on us several times.
Web browsing, e-mail reading and content like songs and videos made for great experiences. The built-in Twitter and Facebook applications take a little getting used to. Google does have a lot to learn from the iOS platform.
The Nexus 7’s battery gave an all-day performance. But during night, if the tablet was not plugged to the charger, all the live tiles consumed power, and we woke up to a low battery. Call it a minor niggle, but it did bother us.
The major issue is that the Google Nexus is not sold in India by Google or Asus. It is available through some of the large format retailers, but at nearly double the US price. Best to get it direct from the US through the services of a kind relative or friend.
The iPad Mini
Rs.21,990 for 16GB WiFi only
First things first. The screen is slightly larger at 7.9”, so the comparison may have a bias.
The iPad is only slightly bigger than the Nexus, and not significantly different to handle. The screen is bright and vivid, but gets limited by its 1,024x768 resolution carried over from iPad2.
This means it cannot handle HD video, but it is perfect to serve up Web pages using the inbuilt Safari browser or the Opera or Google Chrome browsers
The metal back of the iPad Mini does attract fingerprints, and though Apple has been working on innovative materials, in a straight comparison we did love the textured back of the Nexus7.
The Mini retains the control buttons of the bigger iPads: a centre button to wake up the device, top button to power up, volume controls and rotate-lock buttons on the side. All three models --- 16GB, 32GB and 64GB --- are available in both WiFi only and WiFi+Cellular variants.
For a power user, the iPad Mini delivers a more seamless experience, with no random crashes or bugs cropping up. Some applications may not be available on iOS, but apps that work on the iPhone and the the iPad also work on the Mini.
Last but not the least, the Mini does have Siri, the personal digital secretary of iOS. For people who can modulate their accents, Siri is hugely successful, but for the most part, we found that the Google voice search on the Nexus7 accepts the Indian accent slightly better than Siri.