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iPad mini, Nexus 7 and Fire HD displays pitted against each other. Who will win? Hint: not the iPad

With the iPad mini finally out and about, it’s time to see how Apple’s first ever “affordable” (but non-compromised) tablet behaves in reality and how it shapes up against the competition.
November 6, 2012

With the iPad mini finally out and about, it’s time to see how Apple’s first ever “affordable” (but non-compromised) tablet behaves in reality and how it shapes up against the competition.

Is Apple’s 7.9-incher better than Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD? Is it even competing in the same league as the two? Frankly and objectively, we don’t know yet. And we aren’t that keen in finding answers either, because whatever those might be, we will always be accused of having an angle or let our personal opinions cloud our verdicts.

So, what we are going to do today instead is rely on DisplayMate’s science to tell us which of the three tablets’ displays is more competitive. Dr. Raymond M.Soneira has taken each of the three tabs through extensive lab testing and evaluations, and here are the strong and weak points found for each panel.

iPad mini display

Though we weren’t really expecting Apple to introduce a smaller iPad with both a low price point and a capable screen, it seems that Cupertino has missed both marks with one hit. The pricing is definitely not as competitive as with the Nexus 7 and the Fire HD, while the 7.9-inch IPS LCD non-Retina display with 1024 x 768 pix res looks mediocre at a first glance.

But does the panel look as mediocre when put under DisplayMate’s microscope? In short, it does, being basically unable to come out with a single clear win in the tens of battles of this extensive comparison.

The pixel density is low, the small text readability is “somewhat fuzzy”, the average screen reflections make the panel harder to read in high ambient light levels, the maximum brightness and contrast are significantly lower than on the Fire HD, while the running time on battery at maximum brightness is decent, but far off Nexus 7’s record.

Those are only a few of the weak points noticed by DisplayMate, while the strong points are far less numerous. The display calibration is probably one of the major iPad mini strengths, while other areas where the panel manages to (barely) be on top are the viewing angles, color temperature and color depth.

Nexus 7

Google’s panel has a major ace up its sleeve compared with the iPad mini in the resolution and pixel density departments. However, it doesn’t undercut the Fire HD there, and, while you’d think the two panels would go hand in hand across the comparison, it’s actually Amazon’s display that regularly comes out on top.

That’s not to say the Nexus 7 doesn’t have its strong points, including small text readability, viewing angles, a larger color gamut, reflections of light, contrast ratio and especially power consumption. That last area is where Google blows away its competition, managing to get over 9 hours of “juice” at maximum brightness, which will definitely make a difference for the regular user.

Unfortunately, some of Nexus 7’s display weaknesses are even more serious as on the iPad mini, overshadowing in most part the strong points. The color depth, calibration, maximum brightness and intensity scale provide only a few of the issues that will plague the user experience on Nexus 7’s panel.

Kindle Fire HD

What’s there to say about a display that manages to score an overall A- grade in a DisplayMate test? Almost perfect? That’s probably it. Fire HD’s panel has almost no major weaknesses, being always number one or, at the worst, number two.

Very good ppi, accurate color and contrast, very good calibration, large color gamut, very good reflections, excellent dynamic contrast, very smooth intensity scale and so on and so forth. We don’t have enough time to list all of the great things about Amazon’s screen, but trust us – there are a lot!


While the Fire HD comes pretty clearly on top, the battle for number two is very tight and will probably stir some controversy. The iPad mini has numerous flaws and faults, but scores an average B, which puts it right in front of the Nexus 7’s B-.

In pure statistical terms, those scores don’t really check out, although Dr. Raymond Soneira’s opinion seems to be that Nexus 7’s fewer flaws are more serious than those of Apple’s tab. Darn, and we really thought this comparison would not allow personal opinions and subjectivity to mess with the results.

Anyhoo, try not to be too influenced by this test in your decision to go for one of the three tablets, because after all science has little to do with real life use of technology devices. Also, the displays are not the only details that can make or break a gadget. That said, don’t buy the iPad mini! Just don’t! It’s overpriced, underpowered and all-around evil. Just kidding with that last part. Or am I?

Jokes aside, be sure to check out the full DisplayMate shoot-out between the three screens here and come back to us with your own conclusions. Is Fire HD’s display that much ahead of the competition? How about iPad Mini’s panel, is it better or worse than Nexus 7’s?