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Seven worthy iPad mini alternatives for under $250

by Doug Drinkwater

October 31 2012

Apple’s much-anticipated 7.9-inch iPad mini has finally been unveiled and goes on sale Friday. But the iPad mini is far from the first smaller tablet and for several reasons, including the $329 starting price, it may not be right choice for everyone. Here are seven excellent iPad mini alternatives.

Nexus 7

There is no doubting that the Nexus 7 has – along with the Kindle Fire – set the price bar for Android tablets.

Starting at a very reasonable $199, the Nexus 7 runs the slick new iteration of Android (Android 4.1 Jelly Bean), which in itself promises neat features like face unlock, the Project Butter UI, resizable widgets and the Google Now app.

On the spec front, the tablet is relatively well equipped, boasting a 7-inch 1280 x 800 resolution display, Nvidia's Tegra 3 quad-core processor and near-field communication (NFC) functionality through Android Beam. At nine hours when watching HD video, the battery life is also excellent while the design of the device is arguably superior to most other budget Android tablets.

Kindle Fire HD

Amazon has upped its game with the second Kindle Fire, with this latest version available at a lower price (now $159 to $199 for the Kindle Fire HD), a sharper screen, double the RAM and a punchier dual-core 1.2GHz OMAP 4 processor (which is 40% faster).

As well as all that, you’ll be able to tap into all that great content from the Amazon Appstore, making this a very attractive purchase if you’re primarily interested in using a tablet to read magazines, books and consume other media such as movies and TV shows.

Kobo Arc

A few hours prior to Amazon’s unveiling of the Kindle Fire HD, eBook rival Kobo took the wraps off the Arc, a new tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0).

And while the slate can’t quite match the price of the new Fire, it does offer an array of impressive specs.

The HD IPS display has a resolution of 1280 x 800, there’s a dual-core 1.5GHz processor and front-facing camera. The 8GB model set to debut in November costs $200. The 16GB version will sell for $250.

Nook HD

With Amazon, Kobo and now Barnes & Noble all in the 7-inch game, it becomes clear that the best iPad mini rivals are primarily designed for content consumption.

Nonetheless, Barnes & Noble’s recently announced Nook HD is also a fair contender, promising a very sharp 1400 x 900 resolution screen, a very light chassis (at 315g compared to 308g for the iPad Mini) and a useful microSD card for adding to the 8GB of storage.

Unlike the Kindle Fire, you’re not accosted by ads although both companies offer access to their range of books and movies. The Nook HD starts at $199 for the 8GB model, with the 16GB version checking in at $229.

Both tablets, along with the 9-inch Nook HD+, will be available at retail stores in early November.

Iconia Tab A110

Acer hasn’t had a great deal of success in the tablet market to date, but the Taiwanese vendor is at least keeps trying, releasing both a slew of Windows 8 tablets and its very own Nexus 7 rival.

The latter is the Iconia Tab A110, a 7-inch Android tablet running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and 8GB of storage, 1GB of RAM, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor as well as connections for HDMI, micro USB and micro SD.

The successor to Acer’s Iconia Tab A100, the A110 launches on October 30 for $229.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2

Having generally focused on rolling out high-end Android tablets, Samsung surprised many in the industry when it launched the $249.99 Galaxy Tab 2 back in April.

However, while the price is in closer proximity to the Kindle Fire, the features of the tablet peg the Galaxy Tab 2 as a definite iPad Mini rival. 

Running Google’s unified Ice Cream Sandwich OS, the slate offers a 7-inch 1024 x 600 resolution display, a dual-core 1GHz processor, 8GB of storage and dual-facing cameras. A microSD card slot is available for up to 32GB of additional storage.

While these specs are not dissimilar to many other tablets on this list, the metal gray styling and general usability sets in apart from many other low cost tablets.

MatrixOne 7

If a $329 iPad Mini is too expensive for your tastes, and even a $159 Kindle Fire stretches your budget, how about the $59 Matrix One 7?

In days gone by, a sub $100 tablet wouldn’t have been much to get excited about, but the discounted Matrix One 7 actually looks pretty useful.

The WiFi-only model offers a 7-inch 800 x 480 resolution capacitive display, runs Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0 OS) and is powered by an ARM Cortex A8 processor clocked at 1.5GHz.

The slate also offers 8GB of memory, 512MB of RAM and connections for microSD expansion and micro USB.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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