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Portable Gaming Tablet Showdown

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Now that Apple has entered the 7-inch tablet market, it's time for the ultimate gaming tablet showdown. Which of the three major "mini" tablets makes the best gaming device?

With Christmas coming up, tablets are certain to be a hotly wished-for gift. Smaller, more portable tablets are expected to command a huge amount of that commerce. The top three mid-range tablets are Google‘s Nexus 7, Amazon‘s Kindle Fire HD, and Apple‘s just-announced iPad Mini. Which one is the best choice for gamers? Let’s break it down.

Screen Size

No contest, the iPad Mini ekes out more real estate from its available space, allowing you to see more of your game on the screen. Apple’s tablet boasts a screen that measures 7.9″ diagonally, which easily bests the 7″ measurements of the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD.
Winner: iPad Mini.

Screen Resolution

Despite having the biggest screen, Apple’s device has the lowest resolution, at just 1024×768 and 163 pixels per inch. Both of the other two boast 1280×800 resolutions with 216ppi.
Winner: it’s a tie between Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.

Device Size

The winner here really depends on what you consider to be most desirable: the biggest device, or the smallest. Apple’s tablet has the biggest dimensions, with a total footprint of 41.4 square inches. (The Kindle Fire HD is a close second at 41.4 sq. in.) The smallest is the Nexus 7, coming in at just 36.86 square inches.
Winner: depending on your definition of winning, either Apple or Google. Since the differences are likely to have little bearing on users, I’m going with the iPad Mini for its engineering feat of cramming so much into so little. But go by your own priorities.

Thinness

Only Apple is really obsessed with making their devices razor-thin, so it’s no surprise that the iPad Mini dominates this race. For many a user, though, this won’t be all that important beyond aesthetics. Having a thinner device doesn’t serve a wildly practical purpose.
Winner: iPad Mini.

Horsepower

Now here’s one that’s mighty important to gamers. And it may surprise many a gamer to learn that a company that prides itself on putting powerful processors in its devices is in last place in this race: Apple. The iPad Mini’s processor clocks in at 1Ghz, which is nothing to sneeze at on its own. But next to its competitors, it’s the clear loser. Both the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD use processors that max out at 1.2Ghz.
Winner: tie between Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.

Storage

All three devices start at a base minimum of 16GB, but gamers need as much storage as we can get. Amazon and Google were only able to get a max 32GB of SSD storage into their devices. Apple not only bested that, they doubled it, squeezing an incredible 64GB into the iPad Mini.
Winner: iPad Mini.

Battery Life

There’s no marathon gaming sessions on the go if you don’t got the juice. Based on each company’s own estimates, Amazon comes out on top with 11 hours of battery time for the Kindle Fire HD. The Nexus 7 draws the short stick with just 8 hours, while the iPad Mini lands in between at 10 hours.
Winner: Kindle Fire HD.

Weight

If you’re not a big mobile gamer, you may be wondering why weight matters. Anyone who plays mobile games knows the reason: the heavier the device, the harder it is to use for long periods of time. Weight is a key factor in portability, and with that in mind, Apple comes out on top. The iPad Mini weighs just .69 pounds. Nexus 7 comes in second at .75 pounds. That leaves the Kindle Fire HD, which seems positively heavy in comparison, at .89 pounds.
Winner: iPad Mini.

Games

Tech specs are important, this may be the most important measure of all. What good is a gaming device without a big selection of quality games? While there are no official counts provided by any of the three companies, the consensus among users seems to be that Apple’s digital download store offers the most games specifically made for tablets. I’d bet that Amazon comes in second, though, with its extensive library. (If there’s one thing Amazon is known for, it’s offering every product known to man.) Android users have been bemoaning their devices’ lack of games for ages, and since the vast majority of Android devices are still phones, the apps being made for it are optimized for phone-sized screens, too. No-brainer there.
Winner: based on popular opinion, iPad Mini appears to come out ahead.

Price

If it’s true that price trumps everything, then Google wins this round — just barely. The Nexus 7 is priced the lowest, starting at $199. Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD is priced the same, with one caveat: you have to be willing to receive ads from Amazon on your tablet. (Amazon claims they’re unobtrusive, but that’s relative, isn’t it?) You can pay an extra $15 for a Kindle Fire HD that doesn’t have the ads, bringing your price up to $214. Apple’s tablet starts more than a hundred dollars higher than the rest, at $329. (Apple fans would argue that you get what you pay for.)
Winner: Nexus 7.

Okay, here’s the final tally. Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD scored 3 points each, while iPad Mini topped my (highly unscientific) quality chart with 5 points. There you have it: the best tablet to own in this smaller class is Apple’s iPad Mini.

But everyone is different, every gamer is different, and everybody’s needs and priorities are unique to them. You might prefer the Amazon ecosystem, for example, or money might be the deciding factor. Hopefully this gives you a better idea of which tablet is right for you.

Shop responsibly.

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