Mini Tablets Small Screen Wonder Tabs (Part 2)

4/10/2014 3:58:35 PM

The HDX may live in a walled garden – but it’s a beautiful one

Android can be a scary place. But hush now, stop bawling into your settings menu. Here’s Amazon with a just-about-Android tablet that’s as friendly as iOS, bursting with digi-stuff to buy and better-specced than Google’s finest.

It’s also cheerfully cheap, with the 16GB Wi-Fi option available for a mere R3700. That’s a touch more than previous budget Kindle Fires, sure, but that’s on account of a stupidly speedy 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor that makes mincemeat of movies and games, a gorgeous 1920x1200 screen and a new, futuristic build. There’s no rear cam but up front, video calls are clear and detailed.

Description: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7in

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7in

So physically it’s a top-spec Android tab – and a very good one at that. But turn it on and it’s all Amazon. It runs the megacorp’s latest OS, Fire 3.0 ‘Mojito’, which adds a grid of apps to the eye-catching carousel; web surfing is via its own Silk browser. Then there’s the ‘Mayday’ button – a bold service that gives you HDX tech support 24/7 via one-way video calling. The App Store is also an Amazon affair, with many standard Android apps off limits. The lack of LoveFilm downloads also grates, and while Cloud Drive is coming along, it’s no Google.

Still, for books, movies and Amazon shopping in a tidy package to really rival the iPad, the HDX excels. Feeling better now?

Screen Blue note

Watching stuff – it’s what Kindle Fire tablets exist for. Good job the HDX’s screen impresses, then, with eye-popping colors, natural skintones and sharp text. Shame about the pesky blue tint around the edges and corners, though.

Design City of angles

So angular it makes the Shard look cuddly, the HDX is comfortable to hold, sturdy and clearly means business. Small volume/power buttons sit on the back of each edge – it’s where our fingers rest anyway, so it works.

Description: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7in

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7in

Performance Untapped potential

The HDX is a bit of a beast, but without access to all the latest Android games, those muscles won’t always be obvious. You can sideload games, of course, but if you’re happy doing that, probably best to just get a Nexus.

OS And Apps Spend and be happy

Amazon makes tidy work of showing what’s on the HDX, in the cloud and in its own various stores – with a particular emphasis on the latter, match. But we do wish more apps would make the leap from Google Play.

We’ve seen the future of tablets and it looks like the Retina Mini

It had to happen. The iPad Mini With Retina Display, that is. With the original’s screen looking dated the day it launched, the idea of a Retina Mini quickly became our top tech fantasy. Turns out it’s even better in reality.

For starters, it’s built around the 64-bit A7 chip found in the iPhone 5s and iPad Air. That’s a welcome surprise, as it ramps up the Mini’s performance to Air levels. The ridiculously thoughtful iOS 7 also gives it a lift, while the excellent front-facing cam brightens up Skype calls. And as for stamina, it’s neck and neck with the also excellent HDX.

Description: Apple iPad Min Retina Display

Apple iPad Min Retina Display

And then there’s that screen. It’s bright, crisp and vibrant, with great viewing angles and a whopping 2048x1536 resolution; at 326ppi, it’s exactly twice the rest of the 2012 model. The only niggle is that it isn’t always the most accurate in displaying colors –’s vivid reds for instance.

So why is the new Mini the future of tablets? Because it’s beautifully made, portable, brimming with amazing apps and bursting with power. Plus, its 7.9in/20cm, 4:3 form factor is the ideal size. OK, so it’s not as pocketable as its 7in/17.7cm rivals, but that extra screen space sure comes in handy. All it needs to do is sort out those color issues and it’ll beat even the near-perfect Air.

Screen Small-screen star

This is what the upgrade is really all about – and it’s an essential one given the sharp, tiny text of iOS 7, which isn’t at all kind to the first-gen Mini. Color reproduction is all that stands in the way of display perfection.

Description: Apple iPad Mini With Retina Display

Apple iPad Mini With Retina Display

Design Aluminium-ber 1

So good they used it twice, the Mini’s cool-to-the-touch aluminium build now comes in Space Grey and Silver varieties. It’s a touch thicker and heavier than last year’s, but you’ll never notice the difference in use.

Performance It’s got the power

It’s clocked just slower than the Air (according to benchmarks), but there’s only a hint of a difference. Dual-band Wi-Fi makes streaming a joy, and apps are beginning to take advantage of the 64-bit A7 and M7 coprocessor.

OS And Apps iOS 7th heaven

With the likes of iMovie and Pages now free and iOS 7 finally clawing back the ground lost to Android, Apple’s back on top here. And as for the App Store? Still the biggest, still the best, still the optimized-est.


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