The budget tablet market has thrived, first with the Amazon Kindle Fire and then with the excellent Nexus 7. After Android 7-inch tablets managed to make a dent in iPad sales, Apple had to win some of its lost market share back, and it (tried) to do so with the iPad mini. Apple's response to budget tablets is an extremely well built device and a pretty good display, but unfortunately it isn't really a budget tablet, as Android competitors offer as much, if not more, for much less money.
|iPad mini||Google Nexus 7||Amazon Kindle Fire HD|
|Body||200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm , 308g||198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm, 340g||193 x 137 x 10.3mm, 395g|
|Display||7.9" 1024 x 768 (163ppi) LED-Backlit IPS w/ oleophobic coating||7" 1280 x 800 (216ppi) LED-backlit IPS||7" 1280 x 800 (216ppi) LED-backlit IPS|
|Storage||16/32/64 GB + 512 MB RAM||16/32 GB + 1 GB RAM||16/32 GB + 1 GB RAM|
|Camera (rear)||5 MP iSight camera w/ autofocus, F/2.4 aperture, face detection, 1080p video||None||None|
|Camera (front)||1.2 MP and 720p video w/ face detection||1.2 MP, 720p video||1.3 MP, no video|
|OS||iOS 7||Android 4.2 Jelly Bean||Custom Android 4.0|
|Chipset||Apple A5 (32nm HKMG): Dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 @ 1GHz + PowerVR SGX 543MP2 GPU + Dual-channel LPDDR2-800 memory||NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L (40nm): Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 @ 1.3GHz + 12-core GeForce @ 420MHz + Single-channel DDR3L-1333 memory||TI OMAP 4460 (45nm): Dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 @ 1.2GHz + PowerVR SGX540 GPU + Dual-channel LPDDR2 memory|
Quite uncharacteristic of Apple, but they made the iPad mini's display nothing special. That's not to mean that the iPad mini's display is a bad one, but it's not any better than its competition. One big win for the iPad mini's display is that it's larger than the competition (7.9" vs 7"). The difference isn't huge, but it does make the iPad mini noticeably better to use. I personally think that, for general use, the 4:3 aspect ratio is much better to use than the Androids' 16:10 screens, especially in the case of small tablets, as they're primarily used in portrait mode, and 16:10 is known for being too long and too narrow in portrait. The iPad mini's display, much like the Nexus 7's and the Kindle Fire HD's, is an IPS LED-Backlit display, which means that colors should be vivid, and viewing angles should be great. All good so far, but here's the achilles' heel of the iPad mini's display: resolution. The resolution of 1024 x 768 makes for a lackluster pixel density of 163ppi; very bad when compared to the Nexus 7's and the Kindle Fire HD's 1280 x 800 resolution and pixel density of 216ppi. As a result, text isn't very sharp and images/videos, not very clear in the iPad mini. But resolution aside, the iPad mini's display is ok.
Surprisingly, Apple also disregarded the performance factor in the iPad mini, as they used a 32nm die shrink of the Apple A5 (remember? the one that debuted in the iPad 2 in 2011). As expected, the iPad mini's very old SoC won't win any benchmarks, however it should be enough to deliver good performance (especially due to how streamlined iOS is). Even so, the performace that similar competitors boast is far superior. For a refresh, this Apple A5 is an SoC built on Samsung's 32nm HKMG process, consisting of two Cortex A9 cores @ 1.0GHz, and an old but still good PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics processor. The Nexus 7, whose performance is admired, considering its $199 price tag, uses the once-premium NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L) SoC, which makes use of four Cortex A9 cores @ 1.3GHz and NVIDIA's own 12-core ULP GeForce GPU, which is on par with the Apple A5's GPU. Another similar competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, uses the Exynos 4412 chipset, which consists of four Cortex A9s @ 1.6GHz and a powerful Mali-400MP4 GPU. So, to break it down, the iPad mini has less than half the CPU performance compared to its competitors, but its GPU is on par with them. But, as this runs the ever so simple and optimized iOS, you would only ever have performance issues with the iPad mini if you try to play the most modern mobile games on it (e.g. NOVA 3 or Batman: The Dark Night Rises).
Now, this is the most important factor in this sector of the tablet market. The iPad mini, while supposed to be competitive with budget tablets like the Nexus 7, is way off in terms off price. While most noteworthy Android 7-inchers have a price tag of $199 (and sometimes even a bit less) for the 16 GB version, the iPad mini starts at a hefty $329 for 16 GB. And apart from being more than double the price, the iPad mini suffers from a generally worse display (albeit a slightly larger one) and worse performance than its main competitors. Considering that, I imagine the only reason someone would buy the iPad mini would be because of either the much better build quality, or the fact that it's available in an LTE version (many 7-inchers are Wi-Fi only, but the Nexus 7 is available with 3G connectivity), or if the buyer just really dislikes Android. Generally, though, there are overall better alternatives for a much lower price.