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 IPAD FEATURE

iPad mini vs Google Nexus 7 (2013) - which is the better tablet for gaming?

Google gets in the game
Product: iPad mini | Publisher: Apple
 
iPad mini iPad, thumbnail 1
With last year's Google Nexus 7, the internet search giant almost goaded Apple into joining the mid-sized tablet war. Apple duly obliged in no uncertain terms with its fabulously sleek and successful iPad mini.

Here was the perfect gaming tablet for many: larger than the piddly 4-inch iPhone 5 but unlikely to bust your wrists like the chunky fourth-gen iPad. Apple had also applied plenty of its renowned design polish here. You know, the stuff that tends to attract aspirational / magpie types. Mmm, shiny.

Millions of iPad mini sales later, and Apple's 7-inch slate iPad mini was overtaking the iPad with Retina display in terms of popularity and standing. As a result, Google went back to the drawing board.

The result is the second-generation Google Nexus 7. And if Apple isn't nervously flicking through its planned iPad mini 2 specs right about now, we'd be very surprised.

But how does this new Asus-made 7-inch tablet fare as a gaming device? Let's compare it to the iPad mini and see which is better for readers of this website, then, eh.

Design



Think that physical design has no bearing on a gaming device?

Think again. Especially when we're talking about devices you will be holding for hours at a time.

In terms of raw performance, the iPad mini doesn't exactly set the world alight. But the main reason it's such a great gaming tablet is that form factor.

It's half the weight of the larger-screened iPads and more than 25 percent thinner, making it far more pleasant to hold in one hand or grip in two.



The iPad mini has some serious competition on this front from the new Nexus 7, though. While it still doesn't feel quite so, well, 'premium' as Apple's mid-sized tab and isn't as pretty to look at, the new Nexus 7 is 18 grams lighter and only 1.5mm thicker than its rival.

While some have mocked the new Nexus 7's oversized top and bottom bezels, this design choice is a massive boon for gamers. These bezels offer players 'safe' areas to grip onto when playing games in landscape.

Screen



While most reviewers were impressed by the iPad mini's 7.9-inch 1024x768 non-HD display (resulting in a pixel density of 'only' 163ppi), that hasn't stopped the almost-universal clamour for a Retina display model.

We suspect that the calls are only going to grow louder once everyone gets to play with the new Nexus 7. Put simply, its 7-inch 1920x1200 display blows the iPad mini's screen out of the water.


And not necessarily on brightness or colour correctness or anything else like that.

In just pure eye-massaging sharpness, you see, it's a bit of a non-contest. At 323ppi, the new Nexus 7's display offers the sharpest picture of any tablet yet.

This has obvious benefits for gaming, with potentially crisper graphics and greater detail.

Processor



Just as the iPad mini lags way behind the new Nexus 7 when it comes to screen technology, so too it suffers when you compare the two devices' processors.

The iPad mini's dual-score A5 CPU wasn't exactly considered cutting edge back when Apple launched its 7-inch tab last October. In fact, it's the same processor used by Apple to power the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S, both of which were released in 2011. The A5 chip is backed up by just 512MB of RAM, too.

Thanks to Apple's tightly controlled vertical integration and its heavily curated App Store, the somewhat-underpowered nature of the iPad mini doesn't hamper gaming performance on it significantly.

But it can hardly be described as future -proof, either. Advanced 3D games run noticeably smoother on A6-equipped devices like the iPhone 5 and fourth-gen iPad.



By contrast, the new Nexus 7 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core CPU clocked at 1.5GHz, backed up by an Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Sure, the Snapdragon S4 Pro isn't the quickest in the Qualcomm range, but it's still considerably more powerful than the iPad mini's dated chip.

Of course, much of that power advantage is likely to be expended in pushing around the huge number of extra pixels on the new Nexus 7's screen, but still. The new Nexus 7 is unquestionably the more advanced device from a technical perspective.

Game selection



The new Nexus 7 has the iPad mini licked in each of the previous categories, but it loses out in this final category. And it's arguably the most important category from a purely mobile gaming viewpoint.

Put simply, iPad mini owners have more and better games available to them than their new Nexus 7-toting counterparts.

Forget what the reports say about the Google Play Store overtaking the App Store in terms of pure app numbers. When it comes to apps of meaningful quality, Apple's ecosystem remains the front-runner.

This is especially so when we're talking about games, which almost invariably surface on iOS first and best. Android's games offering is improving at a much faster rate, but it remains off the pace.



Android fans may claim that the difference is not that pronounced, but let's conduct a very simple experiment...

Navigate to the iPhone section of Pocket Gamer and select 'Best Games'. Now, select the top reviews from the past month. From the first page of 15 top-rated iPhone games, only four titles can also be found on Android.

The new Nexus 7 is a better tablet than the iPad mini. It's more powerful, it's got a sharper display, and it's £70 cheaper.

But as a pure games machine, we can't right now quite bring ourselves to recommend the new Nexus 7 over the iPad mini.
 

Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 5 August 2013
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Joined:
Aug 2013
Post count:
2
Almerie-Tyke Jansen | 10:35 - 9 August 2013
I got my first Tab in 2010. The very first Samsung 7. 2011 I upgraded to Tab 10.1 and this year in April Samsung 10.1 Note. Two month ago I bought a first gen Nexus 7 for my car. Two weeks ago I bought a iPad mini. It is really retarded to compare the iPad mini to the Nexus 7 in user experience. My iPad mini is totally uselless. Can't do anything with it. I think you should actually put Samsung Tab 7 (first gen) against the Mini. I want to cry, I've wasted my money on the iPad. I'm now looking for a fool to buy the iPad from me....
Joined:
Aug 2013
Post count:
2
Almerie-Tyke Jansen | 10:30 - 9 August 2013
I got my first Tab in 2010. The very first Samsung 7. 2011 I upgraded to Tab 10.1 and this year in April Samsung 10.1 Note. Two month ago I bought a first gen Nexus 7 for my car. Two weeks ago I bought a iPad mini. It is really retarded to compare the iPad mini to the Nexus 7 in user experience. My iPad mini is totally uselless. Can't do anything with it. I think you should actually put Samsung Tab 7 (first gen) against the Mini. I want to cry, I've wasted my money on the iPad. I'm now looking for a fool to buy the iPad from me....
Joined:
May 2013
Post count:
8
@glucero0 | 22:08 - 7 August 2013
One thing to consider is price! I bought my new Nexus 7 32GB from Amazon for $269 and spent an additional $54 or so for a 2-year warranty that covers accidents, etc.

If I buy the iPad mini from Apple, I would pay $329 for a 16GB model and $99 for a 2-year warranty that gives you two incidents of accidental damage but each costs you $49.00.

I assume (but aren't sure) that you could buy the iPad mini and the same $50 SquareTrade warranty from Amazon and save a little money but regardless, going Apple is very pricey. Too pricey for me.
Joined:
Aug 2012
Post count:
7
glosbiker1970 | 16:11 - 7 August 2013
Fpse, mame4droid and mupen64.... All available on play store!... Just to be able to play mario64, the original star wars arcade game and a. Host of favorite arcade, PlayStation 1 and N64 games on my android phone whilst on the move is great, but then to be able to connect them with my hdmi cable to my tv and play full screen with a Bluetooth controller is retro, but real gaming!
Joined:
Apr 2013
Post count:
21
Waii Hui | 15:27 - 6 August 2013
I also want to mention that the ipad mini aspect ratio 4:3 is far better than the narrow widescreen of the nexus 7. For gaming and for reading content, it is for better to have that ratio.

I wish the play store is as competitive for games as ios, but even after 5 years the play store is still lagging behind the App Store.

My ipad mini has become my gaming device, it is close to perfect except the screen resolution. With the App Store, the ios devices will always have a huge advantage over every other platform.
Joined:
Dec 2008
Post count:
1338
klouud | 10:57 - 6 August 2013
All I know is that the Zelda series is hands down the best series ever - it alone is worth a console purchase. And Mario 64 / Mario 64 DS is the best game of all time - IMO - so I am still chasing that dragon.

So just for Mario and Zelda alone - the Wii was worth the purchase for me. Will I get a Wii U? Probably not - Nintendo has a tendency these days to release incremental updates to its consoles (and so does everyone else now-a-days).

But yeah - after iOS gaming for the last few years, returning to console and steam gaming is like waking up from a dull dream. I love some of that stuff on my iPhone, but after playing NSMBW, Skyward Sword, and purchasing Borderlands 2 on Steam for about the same price as an iOS game - I'll probably not be gaming on my iPhone for a while.

tim
Joined:
Nov 2012
Post count:
11
Blue Lucero | 10:57 - 6 August 2013
the apple camp still wins but only because of the app store.

android is steadily catching up. it just needs a few quality exclusives and it will take over since there is no tech cap in their camp the way apple likes to limit their product range.

specs-wise android wins but in the real world, until the android app store catches up, apple remains king.
Joined:
Dec 2012
Post count:
103
Eriatarka | 23:14 - 5 August 2013
@klouud - it depends what you're looking for. iOS beats nintendo consoles when it comes to simple ideas done really really well, mainly be indie game studios. I'm talking 'low concept' games like Super Hexagon, Ziggurat, Pivvot, Crabatron, Osmos, etc. Games which are based around a simple idea and emphasise sheer creativity and (usually) an addicting high score mechanic.

While nintendo do still make some good games, most of them are just endless recycling of the same old IP with very little innovation (another mario and zelda game?!?! awesome!) and these days there isn't much emphasis on skill either. Nintendo has been on a quest to dumb down its games since the Gamecube, with the most obvious examples being the new mario kart games (no snaking) and smash brothers. Ironically. the iOS 'high score' based games tend to be more hardcore, like the old arcade games of days gone by.

But at the same time, you aren't going to get an iOS RPG thats comparable to the best things you can get on nintendo consoles. So it does depend what you're after.
Joined:
Dec 2012
Post count:
103
Eriatarka | 23:08 - 5 August 2013
I'm picturing someone sitting on a bus with their iPad and an xbox 360 game controller, and giggling
Joined:
Dec 2012
Post count:
103
Eriatarka | 23:08 - 5 August 2013
why on earth would anyone use a game controller to play games on a tablet?

I would say "can't they afford a real games console?", but then consoles aren't any more expensive than tablets

truly bizarre
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