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Tablet deathmatch: iPad Mini vs. Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire HD

Galen Gruman | Nov. 6, 2012
A new generation of small tablets has reinvented entertainment on the go, but which is best? Find out now and gear up for holiday gift-buying

If you've been to Disneyland recently, you've seen the big change in how Americans while away their time in line. Many are absorbed by their smartphones, most often iPhones and Galaxy Notes. But these days you're also starting to see small 7-inch tablets, especially among kids, who play games and goof off electronically in line instead of whining or teasing their siblings (or, rather, the teasing happens in text). Their parents are also using smaller tablets for messaging, social networking, games, catching up on news and sports, and even picture taking.

Although 7-inch tablets predate the iPad by six months, most were mediocre or worse -- enlarged smartphones running a few primitive apps. Even the best of that class, the original Galaxy Tab 7, was a flop. The original iPad swept away that whole class within a year. Amazon.com's Kindle Fire tried to bring back the small tablet as a media device in late 2011, but after a strong initial sales surge, it petered out as its subpar hardware's compromises became clear to buyers.

But this past spring, Google debuted the Google Nexus 7, which showed what a well-designed small media tablet could be. Now we have the souped-up Kindle Fire HD, and -- as of this past Friday -- Apple's own iPad Mini, an 8-inch tablet that seeks to dominate the media tablet market by being, well, an iPad. (This coming Friday, too late for this review, Barnes & Noble will ship its updated Nook HD 7-inch tablet.) Which should you buy? And can they serve any business use, even if incidental to their entertainment core?

Let's find out.

A good media tablet is all about quality entertainment: music, videos, books, magazines, games, edutainment apps, information services, social networking, Web browsing, and messaging (chat and email). Of course, it needs to be lightweight and easily carried in your hands, purse, or jacket -- and so much the better if it can be used to check on business in a pinch, such as when you're standing in line for the Jungle Cruise ride and your boss has a mini-crisis about one of your accounts.

Deathmatch: Media supportThe primary reason most people want a media tablet is, well, to access media over the Internet. But each media tablet also has its own method of transferring, storing, and organizing media files.

Getting media files onto your tablet. iTunes is Apple's not-so-secret weapon when it comes to media delivery on PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches. It's a media organizer for movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and books. It lets you buy music, videos, books, and all sorts of apps. It lets you import your own music, videos, and books as well. It syncs your media content to all your devices and keeps purchases consistent. It lets you create playlists; iTunes is the flexible central hub that simply has no rival on any competing device.

 

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