Group Test: Sub-8in Tablets (Part 2) : Apple iPad Mini, Barnes & Noble Nook HD, Fuhu Nabi 2

1/2/2013 2:59:54 AM

Apple iPad Mini

Not wanting to pass up a slice of the 7in tablet pie, Apple went against its earlier misgivings over the usability of smaller-screen tablets with the release of the iPad mini. Accordingly, although it’s the same physical size as its rivals, it packs a larger 7.9in screen.

Apple iPad Mini

Apple iPad Mini

This extra space gives the iPad mini around 35 percent more screen real-estate than a 7in tablet. We like the 4:3 aspect ratio, despite it producing a letterbox effect with widescreen movie playback.

The screen has the same 1024x768 resolution as the iPad 2. It has a higher pixel density because it’s around 2in smaller, but the definition isn’t as crisp as that of Apple’s Retina displays. It’s an IPS panel, though, so colours are vibrant and viewing angles are excellent.

What strikes you when you pick up the iPad mini is how light it is, at less than half the weight of a third- or fourth-generation iPad. The build quality is spectacular and the tablet feels as solid as a rock.

The iPad mini uses the new Lightning connector, so you’ll need an adaptor to use 30-pln accessories - not all of which will work.

Both cameras are brilliant - the rear one especially so. It takes sharp photos in dim conditions and great-looking images with accurate colours in good light. It’s great for videos, too, and not too large that you’ll feel uncomfortable using it as a camera.

Another similarity with the iPad 2 is the CPU. The A5 chip is getting old, but our benchmarks can attest to it still being able to pull its weight. Importantly, the iPad mini feels snappy in use. Battery life is good at 7 hours 21 mins, and reducing the screen brightness from its unneccessary maximum ups this to more than 10 hours.

Siri’s presence is a surprise, with the A5 chip routinely blamed for the absence of Apple’s voice assistant in the iPad 2. The mini has most of the other headline iOS 6.0 features, too, including flyover maps and VIP mail, but the Camera app lacks a panorama mode.

One neat addition to iOS is that it recognises if you’re resting your thumb on the side of the screen or interacting with an app. The side bezels are just 5mm wide, so touching the screen is inevitable, especially when reading an e-book.


         Price: $404



         The iPad mini is a premium tablet with a price to match, but it offers good value in comparison to the iPad 4. It’s a shame Apple couldn’t include a Retina screen, a faster processor and GPS.

         Build: 4.5/5

         Features: 4/5

         Performance: 4/5

         Value: 4/5

         Overall: 4/5

Barnes & Noble Nook HD

The Nook HD is the first tablet to launch in the UK from US bookseller Barnes & Noble. This 7in model weighs about the same as an iPad mini and is comfortable to hold in one hand. There’s a choice of two bezel colours, white and grey, and two storage capacities: 8GB costs $252.8,16GB costs $300.5. A microSDXC slot lets you add a further 64GB.

The Nook HD is has its sights firmly set on the Kindle Fire HD, and Barnes & Noble points out that there’s a mains charger in the box (it won’t charge over USB, though), and no lock-screen adverts.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD

Barnes & Noble Nook HD

The tablet is lighter than the Fire HD, but it’s the screen that really wins the Nook this fight. The 1440x900 IPS panel has a pixel density of 243ppi, which is almost as high as that of the new iPad. Colours and contrast are excellent, as are viewing angles.

The Nook HD runs a heavily customised version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich. However, the system is so tightly locked down it makes the Kindle Fire HD look like an open platform. There’s no way to install apps from anywhere other than the Nook store, which has a limited selection of popular titles. There’s Angry Birds Star Wars, Words With Friends and Netflix, but no BBC iPlayer yet. The apps are curated, so you’ll find only those tailored to the Nook’s screen.

It’s a similar story for newspapers and magazines, for which UK content is still sparse. The video section, in which you can rent or buy movies for offline viewing or streaming, launches in December.

We like that the Nook HD supports password-protected user profiles, allowing content to be restricted based on who’s using the tablet. Backgrounds can also be personalised, and things like bookmarks and notes are user-specific, even though several family members could be reading the same content. You can even set up separate email accounts.

The interface is pared down and very easy to use, and we like the physical Home button. The content in Barnes & Noble’s store is of a very high quality. The tablet’s performance is also up to scratch, but it’s a shame there’s no camera for Skype - this is a device designed purely for content consumption.


·         Price: $239

·         Contact:


·         We can hardly find fault with the hardware, but UK-specific content is sorely lacking. Much is promised, but you’ll be taking a risk if you jump in and buy one right now.

·         Build: 4/5

·         Features: 3.5/5

·         Performance: 3/5

·         Value: 4/5

·         Overall: 3.5/5

Fuhu Nabi 2

California-based Fuhu makes some bold claims about its nabi 2 tablet for kids. A quick look at the specs reveals an nVidia Tegra 3 processor, just like the Nexus 7. It also has a non-toxic silicone bumper, so it shouldn’t be easily damaged, even if dropped on to concrete.

Fuhu Nabi 2

Fuhu Nabi 2

There’s 8GB of storage, a microSD slot for adding up to 32GB more, plus micro USB and mini HDMI ports. You also get a front 2Mp camera and a pair of speakers at the rear.

The 7in screen is the first sign of weakness. It has a 1024x600 resolution, which is a step up from the Kurio 7 (800x480), but lower than that of the Nexus 7 (1280x800). In practice, this is a problem only when browsing the web, where things feel cramped. It’s not an IPS panel, so viewing angles are narrow.

Fuhu boasts that the nabi 2 comes with $190.8 worth of software. Many apps are ‘lite’ or ‘starter’ editions, which nag you to upgrade. The Painting app includes only six pictures to colour in, for example.

As well as full versions of Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja HD you get Fuhu’s Fooz Kids, which includes educational games and a chore list. Fooz Kids also has a curated list of websites, videos and web-based crafts, which you have full control over in the Parental Dashboard.

Fooz Kids needs Anglicising, currently referring to Kindergarten, grades and math. The exercises themselves are okay for older kids, but you’ll have to supervise younger ones who are unable to read. Fuhu says a big update Is on its way to the nabi 2, with Anglicisation happening over the coming months.

The MeeGenius e-book app comes with a decent selection of kids’ books. More apps and games can be bought through the App Zone store, which has a rather limited choice. It’s relatively easy to add Amazon’s Appstore, but not Google Play.

We’d have no issues leaving a child unsupervised with the nabi 2, since the Maxthon web browser allows visits to whitelisted sites only.

Performance-wise, the nabi 2 is great. It’s fast for playing games and browsing websites. Battery life is pretty good, lasting around eight hours in our tests, but it takes three hours to recharge.


·         Price: $225

·         Contact:


·         It’s not without its faults, but the nabi 2 is the best kids’ tablet around. You’re unlikely to want to use it yourself, but it does allow you to use the full Android Interface when you need to.

·         Build: 3.5/5

·         Features: 3/5

·         Performance: 3.5/5

·         Value: 4/5

·         Overall: 3.5/5

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