Which mini tablet should I get?
October 29, 2013 7:43 PM   Subscribe

I will soon be gifted a tablet of my choosing for my birthday, and I have no idea which one I want.

I am in the market for a tablet. The ones I have touched: iPad and iPad mini. I am partial to the iPad mini, simply because the regular iPad is too large and heavy for me.

However, I have a Samsung Galaxy S3, so I always thought I'd stay with Android for app consistency. However, I have since thought about it, and there are really no apps I need on both devices at the same time. My most important phone app is my Jorte calendar app I use to organize my life, but I can just keep that on my phone.

What I would like to do with the tablet is to check/write emails, watch certain flash videos, and play games on a bigger screen. I actually can't think of what else I'd use a tablet for, which makes me feel silly for even entertaining the idea of getting one now...

Another consideration is that my mom wants to upgrade my S3 to a Galaxy Note so she can have my S3. I haven't held the Note or seen it in person, but I know it's bigger than the S3, which means it's somewhat smaller than the mini tablet. So I'm not sure if I should just get the Note and scrap the idea of a tablet altogether, or keep my S3, let my mom have the Note, and get a tablet. I need to also go see the Note in person, but I'm thinking it's too big for a phone.

So, I'd love to hear your experiences with the special screens in your lives...
posted by madonna of the unloved to Technology (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm typing this on my Galaxy Note 2. I don't have any desire for a larger tablet and don't know what I'd do with one if it fell in my lap. Sell it, I guess. Seriously, the screen is a great size for web browsing and book reading and video watching, and it's nice to have just one device that's always with me. I highly recommend it.

(Previously I had an iPhone and a 7" Kindle Fire and I definitely do not miss that setup.)
posted by payoto at 7:47 PM on October 29, 2013

Which galaxy note would it be? the 3 is so big that i honestly think any of the 7in mini tablets from apple or google/samsung are pointless next to it. It's also not even really lower resolution than any of them.

I'm probably not the right person to ask as i think the iphone 5 is too big and liked having a small phone. I'd rather have the smallest decently functional current-specced phone and a mini-tablet than a combo unit, but if you're getting a note 3 anyways then well... what i said above.

If you're going to get a mini tablet in general though, i'd get an ipad mini. Preferably the new retina version as it's vastly higher specced. The battery life and games are superior, and the entire interface is just smoother.

What i'd like to question though is watching certain flash videos. I've never seen a non-windows tablet do that smoothly and question the existence therein. Most tablets now just grab the html5 version when you click on where the flash version would be. What specifically are you trying to watch?
posted by emptythought at 8:25 PM on October 29, 2013

We have a Galaxy Tab 2 and a Galaxy Tab 3. They are both very nice. The biggest advantage of the 3 as far as I can tell is that they have dramatically reduced the bevel, so that it is noticeably smaller than the 2, despite having identical screen real estate. Also, they are nigh on indestructible. I don't really have anything bad to say about them.
posted by 256 at 8:26 PM on October 29, 2013

> simply because the regular iPad is too large and heavy for me.

Can't speak to android vs iOS, but you might want to wait until Friday to try the iPad Air. The reviews coming in are consistently mentioning the weight reduction.
posted by bluecore at 8:33 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The videos are just practice videos I watch sometimes for my job. It's a private membership site (so I can't link you) and is basically a guy talking. It's not very graphic heavy (sorry, I don't know the techy language). I'm not sure how else to explain it...
posted by madonna of the unloved at 8:36 PM on October 29, 2013

Yeah, you're not going to be running flash on anything that's not windows, basically, and the best windows tablet (the surface 2) is half a pound heavier than the full-size ipad.
posted by Oktober at 8:47 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've got a Galaxy Note 2 8.0, aka Galaxy Note 8, aka the Samsung N5100. It's got the power of the Note line and is nuclear overkill for the kindle replacement I honestly got it for, but it's a great little gadget for movies, books, music, and screwing around. It's Wi-Fi only as yet, so far as I know, and 8GB inboard but Micro-SD expandable (up to 64Gb). It has an S-pen that I rarely use but that is excellent when I use it.

I had a first-gen iPad before it, and this thing is a feature by comparison; I shipped the iPad off to my nieces who need something without so many dang grownup apps on it.

What format are the videos? Android Moboplayer covers the spread very well on video formats and codecs. The Windows asks me if I want to convert to WMV when transferring files, but it's a rare file I've had that actually needs the conversion so Mobo can play it.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:50 PM on October 29, 2013

I have preferred the iPad Mini. I had a Galaxy and a full size iPad- they both lost out to the Mini.

The Mini fits in my car well where I put it on the dash board using a cheap holder from Amazon to use the driving program Waze. I use it daily to read at breakfast, lunch and find recipes for dinner.

The battery life has not failed me and this helps out with how much I tax the battery on my phone cause I find the mini small enough to take with me everywhere yet large enough to use with out feeling burdened by its smaller size when I watch a vid. I also use it to take notes at work meeting and email through out the day instead of my laptop. Siri works pretty good so I use it to dictate notes or a grocery list.

It fits in the pocket of my hoodie I typically wear this time of year and have not dropped it, so I deem this as "fitting" into my life well.

It has all the apps I want and haven't noticed any degradation to the battery over the last three months I have had it.

The only down side might be needing to press the play button three times to get YouTube vids to play- I am not sure why this is the case.

Other than that, me and my Mini are great friends.
posted by bkeene12 at 9:01 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think, if you can handle the price, an iPad mini retina would be your best choice. I have a nexus 7 2013, and its fantastic, but I am considering taking it back and getting a new mini, mostly for the better games and music apps.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:15 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, if they haven't gotten with the times and provided an HTML5 version for mobile, there's really not much way around that. The Galaxy Note is kind of big for a phone so it really depends on how you tend to carry your phone around--and how big your pockets are, I guess. If I could get the Note 3, I would probably have one of those instead of a phone and a tablet. (I have an iPhone 4 and a Nexus 7 right now and have never liked iOS nearly as well as Android, but it really depends on what kind of user you are.) But go find one and actually handle it before you consider that, there are some people who are phablet people and there are some people who really aren't.
posted by Sequence at 11:26 PM on October 29, 2013

I love my Nexus 7. It's dirt cheap, fast for absolutely anything I throw at it, has a great formfactor (it's extremely comfortable, even for one-handed basic operation), can fit in your front jean pocket if you're male and not very small, and just feels great.

It also has a higher-than-retina display that is absolutely gorgeous, and for $229, is honestly great. It's also pure Android, which is really nice for consistency in any apps you're used to.
posted by disillusioned at 12:38 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just a little note... "higher than Retina" is specsmanship. Unless you have the eyes of an eagle, it's beyond human appreciation to exceed what an eye can resolve. Retina is enough. What may be different is other aspects of the display, like backlight color temperature or phosphor mix or graphics speed, so perceptions of quality are relevant, but highly personal.

I am generally an Apple recommending kind of guy, mostly for ergonomic and ecosystem reasons. Resale is also an issue if you plan to upgrade. Most non-Apple devices have zero resale value. Cost of ownership is affected by this number, so pay attention.

There are a half million apps for iPads, and over a million for IOS. The reviews on the iPad Air and Mini are generally extremely positive.

Many Android tablets can meet your needs too, and there is definitely a wider selection of low cost alternatives. None of this matters much. It's OK to choose whatever floats your boat. You are neither fool nor genius when it comes to your preferences... you are just you. Enjoy having choices.
posted by FauxScot at 2:39 AM on October 30, 2013

I have an iPad and iPhone but recently acquired a good condition customer return 32Gb Nexus 7 from John Lewis at a decent price.

I wanted it primarily as an ebook reader but thought the Kindle was too much of a one-trick pony. Android is shockingly crude after iOS and the touch sensitivity seems to require the delicacy of a rhino. Bizarrely, plugging it in via USB doesn't work on many versions of Linux (you need to get MTP software, even then it doesn't work reliably), I have to use wifi. But it does the job as a lightweight and portable web browser, ebook reader and I hope movie viewer.

Be aware the Nexus 7 comes with 6Gb occupied by system software so if you get a 16Gb model you only have 10Gb available for your own use.

I'm keeping mine but if this is the best the Android world has to offer then Apple has no worries.
posted by epo at 2:48 AM on October 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here is a sample review from ZD Net on the Air. NYTimes, Time, Wired, Fortune... there are a pile of hands on reviews.
posted by FauxScot at 6:13 AM on October 30, 2013

I would wait until proper reviews trickle in*, but the Dell Venue 8 Pro is very interesting to me. 8 inch form factor (the sweet spot, imo), $300, and it runs full Windows 8.1.

FULL Windows (not the RT disasater) means, to me at least, actual, honest-to-goodness AAA games. Civilization V, XCom: Enemy Unknown, the original Fallouts, Frozen Synapse...I have a long backlog of games I've been dreaming of playing on a mobile touchscreen.

If the last couple sentences were gibberish to you than maybe it won't matter, but this is basically my holy grail of technology. If the Surface Pro were $600 cheaper and a little smaller I'd be all over that, but this looks to be the device I have been wishing into existence for some time now.

It's Windows, so flash won't be a problem at all. Comes with Microsoft Office, which is a big plus to lots of people. Has an active digitizer and optional stylus, so it should (or at least could) be a top-tier choice for anyone doing graphics work.

* - I mean, that's not technically true. I didn't wait. I ordered one. Very excited.
posted by gettingpaidforthis at 7:34 AM on October 30, 2013

If budget is not an issue, I would definitely go for the new iPad Mini retina over any of the Android or MS alternatives. As others have noted, you won't be able to play flash movies on it.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:56 AM on October 30, 2013

I'm loving my nexus 7. I use it for reading, editing photos, car navigation, and Netflix. Cheap and powerful.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:23 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Definitely leaning toward iPad mini retina now, but I will check out the Note and Nexus 7 too. It must be providence that the iPad mini is coming out weeks before my birthday, right?!

Also just looked at the Apple store... is 16 GB enough for most people?
posted by madonna of the unloved at 11:39 AM on October 30, 2013

I replaced my Note II with a 2013 Nexus 7 LTE about a month ago, and love it. I also have a 10 inch TF101 which I had still used fairly consistently until I got my N7 LTE. I feel that the convenience of having one device outweighs multiple devices which might have slightly different settings/tweaks vs. the benefits of ideal screen size / ideal mobility "for that exact moment". Yeah, it is a bit bulky for a "phone". Yeah, the screen is *way* smaller than a 10 inch diagnal. But having to only have one device that I always have is more than good enough.

The 10 inch tablet is still there, but I just never feel like going to pick it up when I already have the N7 in hand (fortunately, Ms. nobeagle hasn't left me for wearing it). When I had my Note II, I still used my tf101 for comics/videos and some games. I'll soon be selling my note ii (I had to make sure I'd like it as much as I hoped) and looking to repurpose my tf101 because they feel useless to me.

I'll mention that about 8 months ago I sold my 2012 N7 (non-cellular, no rear-camera) because the N7 wasn't getting picked up. Either the Note was good enough because I had it right there, or I'd go whole-hog and go get the tf101; even if it was older, not as crisp, and suffered from Sleep of Death.

Another point for cellular tablets: tablet data plans are cheap compared to phone plans (at least in Canada). A cheap bluetooth headset in my pocket and free sip app gets me the same functionality as a phone for a fraction of the price, and I don't need to hold my tablet up to my head.
posted by nobeagle at 11:42 AM on October 30, 2013

re: flash videos and android - one can find previous apks of flash at Adobe and other archives (xda forums). I have Flash installed on my Note II and was able to watch flash videos in browserwithout issue. I think that might not be possible in Chrome (default browser for N7), but it looks like firefox and dolphin can do it - having only had my n7 a month, I haven't bothered trying flash yet (but I have the apk installed). I also remember doing this on a original Galaxy S without stuttering, but that was an 800x480 screen.
posted by nobeagle at 11:57 AM on October 30, 2013

If you're leaning towards an iPad Mini but are not yet sure, do read this review of the iPad Air and the comparison to the Mini. Either one is (right now) way ahead of any other competition in this space, but it's a lot tougher decision to choose between them than it used to be when the iPad was retina fast heavy and the Mini was non-retina slower ultra-light.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:58 PM on October 30, 2013

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