Best small tablets: Google Nexus 7 (2013) vs iPad Mini vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

They’re tablets, they’re compact and they’re all vying for your hard-earned cash – so toe-to-toe, how do they shape up?

Google has just revealed the second generation of the Nexus 7 tablet, and it has the iPad Mini and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 firmly in its crosshairs. So how do the three 7(ish)-inchers square up when it comes to specs, design and software?

Build quality

The iPad Mini is a gloriously well-made product, its aluminium and glass body exuding solidity when you hold it in your mitt. It’s thin and lightweight (a mere 308g), and the bezel surrounding the screen is tiny; we reckon it's the best-looking iPad yet.

The plastic-dominated Google Nexus 7 doesn’t give the impression of being quite so solid or “premium” a product, but it does feel better in your hand than the Mini – it's lighter (290g) and can be held one-handed for the duration of a movie with no wrist-spraining issues. It's definitely closer in build quality to the iPad Mini than the original Nexus 7. It’s lighter, thinner and narrower than the previous Nexus 7, but retains a similarly soft-touch, slightly rubbery back.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 (340g) is more plasticky still, shiny white and accented by faux metal touches. While we wouldn't call it ugly, it's certainly the least attractive and well-built of the three models, with a bit of a "my first tablet" feel to it.

Winner: iPad Mini

More after the break...

Screen

The original Nexus 7, with a 7in screen and 1280 x 800 resolution, already had the beating of the iPad Mini with its 1024 x 768 7.9in display – at least when it comes to pixel density and sharpness – and Google has upped its game with the second-gen Nexus 7. The new model has a 7in 1920 x 1200 display, giving it a pixel density of 323ppi to the iPad Mini’s 162ppi. The performance has been boosted too: it’s now able to display 30 percent more colours. In our review we note that it "can show films in true 1080p HD, and they look superb - far better than any other tablet of this size".

The iPad Mini, however, does have a far larger screen, with around 30 percent extra space. And its colour reproduction and contrast are excellent. The extra screen real estate does, in our opinion, make for a better tablet app experience – while the Nexus 7's size (barely bigger than a phablet) makes it better for media consumption (videos, ebooks etc.). However, as we say in our review, "you'll feel a little let down by its 1024x768 pixel count".

The Galaxy Note 8.0 has a bigger screen than even the iPad Mini, and its 8in display marks it out as something that can be used for work rather than just play. There is, of course, a excellent S-Pen stylus for sketching, note-scribbling and more. Our review notes its "good contrast and vibrant colours" (the iPad's colour reproduction comes across as somewhat more natural, however), but in comparison to the Nexus 7 the 1280 x 800 resolution gives icons and text "a little fuzziness on close inspection".

Winner: Nexus 7

Processing power

The new Nexus 7 has a 1.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 at its heart, accompanied by 2GB of RAM. The iPad Mini has an Apple-made dual-core A5 chip with 512MB of RAM, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 rocks a 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos chip and 2GB of RAM.

The Nexus 7, as we note in our review, "feels incredibly fast and responsive no matter how much you multi-task or game". It’ll be interesting to see how the next iPad Mini (possibly being unveiled in September) holds up against the new Nexus 7. The current model has fewer pixels to push and thus feels nippy for most tasks, only stuttering occasionally – when viewing 3D maps for example.

The Note 8.0 is possibly the nippiest performer of the three, and excels at multi-tasking. As our review says, it's "speedy and smooth – whether you’re careering around Asphalt 7 or watching an HD movie on one half of the screen while planning your escape via Google Maps on the other".

Winner: Galaxy Note 8.0

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