Best 7″ tablets
7″ tablets – the top 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. However, with the 7-inch tablet market becoming increasingly crowded, we thought it would be useful to pick out some of the best.
Best newcomer – Apple iPad Mini
The Apple iPad Mini launched in October 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 – we’ll be putting that 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 iPad mini will be available in time for Christmas as it goes on sale on the 2nd November. 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. The slogan for iPad Mini is “every inch an iPad” – we’ll be putting this to the test in our rigourous lab tests.
To find out more about the competition watch our video below or read our iPad Mini review.
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If you’re looking to buy a new tablet don’t forget to check out tablet buyers’ guide.
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.
When can I buy it?
The Nexus 7 costs £159 for the 8GB model and £199 for the 16GB version. It is available to buy now. Read what we thought of the tablet in our Google Nexus 7 from Asus 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.
When can I buy it?
The Kindle Fire HD costs £159 for the 16GB version and £199 for the 32GB model. It goes on sale in the UK on October 25. See how the Amazon tablets compare in our Amazon Kindle Fire vs Kindle Fire HD post.
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 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 sharp 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 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 – 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.
When can I buy it?
Priced at £159 for the 8GB version and £189 for the 16GB, the Nook HD goes on sale in the UK towards the end of November. For more information read our post on the Barnes and Noble Nook HD and Nook HD+.
Best ebook reader/tablet hybrid – The Kobo Arc
The Kobo Arc is Kobo’s first step into the tablet market. Kobo describe the Arc as an colour ebook reader – but because it runs the full Android operating system and has access to the entire Google Playstore – we think of this as more of a tablet.
It wins best ebook reader/ tablet hybrid because it’s the first tablet from an ebook company which allows full access to the Google Playstore. The Amazon Fire tablets have limited access – meaning that you can only use the Kindle app. By comparison, the Kobo allows you to download whatever reading app you want and doesn’t tie you into the Kobo ecosystem.
As with many small tablets, the sound isn’t great and it lacks a rear-facing camera. It can also be a bit slow when scrolling through screens. We like it on the whole and think it’s a real contender in the seven-inch tablet category.
For more information read the full Kobo Arc review.
When can I buy it?
The Kobo Arc costs £160 for the 16GB version and is available now from WH Smiths both instore and online.
In our full reviews
These are just our first impressions of the tablets based on their specifications. Once the Nook HD and Kindle Fire HD go on sale we’ll be putting them through our tough lab tests to see how they compare with the other tablets on the market. Click on the panel to see how well the Nexus 7 did in our tests or find out what it takes to become a Best Buy tablet.
- Tablet buyers’ guide - get advice on buying the right tablet
- How we test tablets - see what it takes to become a Which? Best Buy
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