As 7-inch tablets become more popular, there are still three players that stick out from the pack: the iPad Mini 2, Kindle Fire HDX and Google Nexus 7. Each of the three tablets have their strong points, and each have their negatives. The newest round of tablet wars brought faster processors, higher resolution graphics and a price hike, with the Nexus 7 rising from $199 to $229, the Kindle Fire HDX rising from $199 to $229 with ads or $244 without ads and the newest iPad Mini rising from $329 to $399. But between the iPad Mini 2, Kindle Fire HDX and Google Nexus 7, which is the best tablet?
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
Amazon ignited the 7-inch tablet war with the original Kindle Fire, and the Kindle Fire HDX certainly takes it up a notch. Amazon's newest tablet is powered by a 2.2 Ghz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM for apps, which gives it plenty of power to run any Android app and enough elbow room to comfortably multitask. The new 1920x1200 resolution display measure 323 PPI, giving it virtually the same screen quality as both the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini 2.
One advantage the Kindle Fire has always had is the Amazon Appstore. The Google Play marketplace has no testing and very little controls for the type of apps that appear in the store, which means you have to be more careful when downloading apps. Amazon's Appstore solves this by taking on the Apple App Store model of testing apps before allowing them to be released.
And Amazon has gone one further with the Kindle Fire HDX, introducing the "Mayday" button, which provides live tech support on your device for free. This makes the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX an attractive target for those new to tablets and who aren't quite as at ease with technology.
The Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Google's 2013 version of the Nexus 7 is a technological match for the Kindle Fire HDX. The newest Nexus 7 is powered by a 1.51 Ghz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro with 2 GB of RAM. And like the Kindle Fire HDX, it has a 1900x1200 resolution display. But don't let the numbers fool you, while the Kindle Fire HDX has a 2.2 Ghz quad-core processor compared to the Nexus 7's 1.51 Ghz, both tablets are very competitive in terms of processing power, with the Kindle Fire HDX getting the slight nod.
The biggest selling point of the Nexus 7 is that it is a true Android device. The Amazon's Kindle Fire line of tablets run a modified version of Android that locks the user into Amazon's services. The Google Nexus 7 gives users the best of both worlds, with the ability to freely use Google Play as their preferred marketplace, or the ability to install Amazon's Appstore and other services.
Android's big advantage over Apple's iOS devices is the open nature of the devices, which allow a lot more freedom for the user. And this is also the biggest advantage over the Kindle Fire HDX, which limits users via the Kindle OS.
The iPad Mini 2
The iPad Mini 2 is a substantial upgrade over the original iPad Mini. Apple's new tablet is powered by a 64-bit A7 dual-core chip that rivals the processing power of the best mobile quad-core CPUs on the market. The iPad Mini 2 also gains a 2048x1536 resolution display, which combined with the larger 7.9-inch display, gives the new Mini roughly the same pixels-per-inch as the Kindle Fire HDX and Google Nexus 7. The iPad Mini 2 only has 1 GB of RAM for applications, but given iOS's limitations on multitasking, this is easily enough for the tablet to run smoothly.
The iPad Mini 2's higher price tag ($399 vs $229) may make it a tougher sale for budget-conscious shoppers, but the advantages of the iOS ecosystem more than make up for the higher price tag. Simply put, the iPad Mini 2 is the most supported tablet of the three, with a very wide range of apps and accessories built specifically for the iPad.
The iPad Mini has always had the advantage of being slightly larger, with the 7.9-inch display amounting to over 30% more real estate on the screen than its 7-inch counterparts. Adding to this is both the Retina Display resolution and over a year-and-a-half of apps that have been designed for that Retina Display.
Apple's announcement that iWork and iLife will be given free to new owners means the iPad Mini 2 will be fully-featured right out of the box. Not only will it have standard apps like FaceTime for video conferencing and Siri as a voice recognition personal assistant, it will include a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, photo editor, video editor and a virtual music studio.
And the winner is...
Ultimately, the choice in tablets is always a personal one with no one-size-fits-all winner. Still, it is hard not to put the iPad Mini 2 at the top of the list. While the price is a disadvantage for some, the newest Mini has all the power of the full-sized iPad, which means it delivers the same experience. The iPad has always been easy-to-use, so it is good for both new users and experienced users, and with so much support from the ecosystem, it delivers the top tablet experience.
Of course, one shoe doesn't fit all. While the iPad has its advantages, it also has its disadvantages, and many people flock to the freedom of an open ecosystem provided by the Android platform. The Google Nexus 7 is a great choice for these people, providing the same basic power of the Kindle Fire HDX at the same price without the ads and without being tied to a restricted version of the Android operating system.
But for those who are graduating from Kindle readers or who want a tablet but would feel better with the 24-hour on-call technical support, the Kindle Fire HDX could be a good choice.