If you’re after a commuting-friendly, affordable 7-inch tablet the range of choice has never been better. With models like the Apple iPad mini, Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD there is something for everyone. But which is the best 7-inch tablet you can buy for less than £300?
Best 7-inch tablets – the contenders
If you’re thinking of splashing out on a tablet but want to keep the cost down then a 7-inch tablet could be the thing for you. These devices are easy to slip into a bag or large pocket and are lighter than the 10-inch equivalents – making them good for commuters. The 7-inch tablet market is becoming increasingly crowded, so we thought it would be useful to pick out some of the best.
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Best all-rounder – Apple iPad Mini
The Apple iPad Mini launched in October last year and is Apple’s first small tablet. It has a 7.9-inch screen and a super thin bezel making it look sleek and elegant. It’s easy to hold in one hand and Apple claim it’s as light as a pad of paper, weighing just 308g. The screen surface area is an impressive 29.6 inches. Despite the super thin design it still claims to have a 10 hour battery life – something we have put to the test in our labs.
It doesn’t have the retina display of the third and fourth generation iPads but instead has the same 1024 x 768 pixel resolution of the iPad 2. This is not as impressive as the Google Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Fire HD or Barnes and Noble Nook. Although this means it does mean you have access to the full range of apps created for the iPad.
Where it does outperform the competition is the memory options. The iPad Mini is available in 16GB, 32Gb or 64GB versions. However, there isn’t any means of adding additional storage such as an microSD card slot.
It also has superior cameras to the main competition. On the front there’s a FaceTime HD camera and a 5MP camera on the rear.
The price tag for the iPad mini is heftier than other tablets in the 7-inch category. You’ll pay around £269 for the 16GB model, £349 for the 32GB version and £429 for the 64GB version.
iPad Mini on test - read our full iPad Mini review
Best for apps – Google Nexus 7
Winner of the ‘best apps’ category is the Google Nexus 7. As you would expect it runs the latest version of the Android operating system – Jelly Bean – and Google wouldn’t release a tablet without giving it full and easy access to the Google Play store. The Nexus 7 has access to more than 600,000 apps while rivals such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD are restricted to their own app stores. Plus, with the Nexus 7 you get a £15 voucher to use in the Google Play store. Apps and games run smoothly on this tablet thanks to the Tegra 3 – quad-core processor and 12-core graphics processor.
This tablet features a 1280×800 high resolution screen making viewing web content, text and images a pleasure and also includes a front facing camera which is handy for video calling.
The main downside to this tablet is the fact you can’t expand the 8GB or 16GB of storage capacity using a memory card slot. So if you’re looking to store lots of films, music and images this might not be the device for you. It also lacks a rear camera and 3G connectivity – although we doubt these will be much of a loss for most users.
The Nexus 7 costs £159 for the 8GB model and £199 for the 16GB version and is available to buy now.
Google Nexus 7 on test – read our full Nexus 7 review
Best for Content – Amazon Kindle Fire HD
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD has been designed for those who want to consume books and films on the go. With access to the Amazon store it’s easy to download books and films to the device. Amazon claim there are over 22 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, and magazines to choose from meaning you shouldn’t be left bored. As a sweetener they also give you a one-month free trial of LOVEFiLM Instant video streaming for unlimited access to movies and TV series.
Like the Nexus 7 it lacks a microSD slot so you’ll be limited to 16GB or 32GB of storage space. On the plus side Amazon do provide unlimited cloud storage for Amazon downloads.
One final drawback worth mentioning is that the Kindle runs a tweaked version of the Android operating system meaning that it doesn’t have full access to the Google Play store – although a lot of popular apps can be found in Amazon’s Appstore.
The Kindle Fire HD costs £139 for the 16GB version and £159 for the 32GB model.
Amazon Kindle Fire HD on test – read our full Fire HD review
Best for screen quality – Barnes and Noble Nook HD
The Barnes and Noble Nook HD has the highest resolution screen of any 7-inch tablet. The Nook HD screen should be sharper than that of the Nexus 7 or the Amazon Kindle Fire HD thanks to it’s 1,440×900 pixel screen. This means videos, pictures and web pages (as well as the text on ebooks) should appear really clear and detailed. Barnes and Noble also claim that this is the lightest device offering an HD experience.
It features a microSD card slot, enabling you to expand its 8GB or 16GB memory – something you can’t do on the Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire HD. The Nook has a 1.3GHz processor which isn’t quite as impressive as the quad-core chip of the Nexus 7 – but, in day-to-day use you are unlikely to spot the difference.
Where it might fall down for some people is the operating system. Like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD it runs an altered version of Android and therefore has restricted access to apps.
Normally priced at £129 for the 8GB version and £159 for the 16GB, both tablets can currently be found with a £30 discount meaning the 8GB version costs less than £100.
Barnes and Noble Nook HD on test – read our full Nook HD review
Best newcomer – Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
Okay, it’s not a seven-inch tablet but the narrow bezel means it’s actually a smaller device than some rival seven-inch models. The eight-inch screen has a resolution of 1280×800 pixels and should be impressive if its larger brother, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is anything to go by.
The Note 8.0 comes bundled with the Samsung ‘S pen’. It might looks like a standard stylus but it’s a bit more advanced. For example, it can sense how much pressure you are using, so drawing apps become more realistic and you can use it to make notes and annotate books in Reading Mode too.
Samsung has positioned this tablet above the iPad Mini when it comes to price – the 16GB version is an eye-watering£340. Though, unlike its closest competitor, you can expand its memory using a microSD card.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 on test – read our full Note 8.0 review
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