Over the holidays, I had the chance to use an iPad mini belonging to one of my relatives, along with my Nexus 7, and I realized something about my personal tablet use that I hadn’t before: I actually found the iPad mini’s display, despite the lower resolution, was a better fit for most of what I want to do on a tablet. Now, this is certainly not enough to make me switch to iOS, but it does make me wish that Android manufacturers would change one thing about some small Android tablets; namely, the aspect ratio.
Yes, the iPad mini’s display is physically larger than the Nexus 7′s at 7.9 inches to an even 7, but the big difference comes in aspect ratio. The Nexus 7 has a 16:10 aspect ratio, while the iPad has a 4:3 aspect ratio, or 16:12 for comparison to the Nexus. Essentially, what this boils down to is a slightly wider tablet in portrait mode, which is superior for a number of uses.
When the original iPad came out, it was criticized for its aspect ratio and the fact that it wasn’t ideal for movies, which is completely true. However, I’ve found that the 4:3 aspect ratio is better for most of what I use my tablet for, particularly in portrait mode, so much so that I would trade my Nexus 7 for a 4:3 Nexus 7 equivalent in a heartbeat.
First, there is web browsing. Yes, it works fine on the 16:10 display, but it just feels a little bit cramped on many sites because of the narrow display, often requiring zooming to read comfortably. In contrast, the added width on the 4:3 display means that most websites don’t require that slight zoom, and look a bit more natural on the display.
Then there are magazines and PDFs, which I use my tablet for quite a lot as a student. The standard iPad may be closest to an actual piece of paper, but the size and weight of the mini make it superior in many situations for PDFs and other mediums that imitate paper. Of course, what really makes the difference once again is the aspect ratio, as Andreas found while using his iPad as a textbook. On the Nexus 7, most PDFs are just a bit too small to be read without zooming, which makes the experience at least a little bit annoying. Magazines are sometimes worse and waste space at the top and bottom of the Nexus 7 display due to the aspect ratio.
I also found that while most two-pane apps look fine on the Nexus 7, they look just a little bit better on the iPad mini. Perhaps it is simply because each of the panes can be a little bit bigger, but regardless of the reason, apps with two-pane interfaces seemed just a little bit better suited to the iPad, once again mostly in portrait mode.
Finally, the 4:3 aspect ratio also works just fine for most other content like books and games, leading me to think that the 16:10 ratio’s only advantage is in videos and media. While I still love the Nexus 7 and recommend it to those looking for a 7-inch Android tablet, I just wish Samsung (or anyone) would make an updated Galaxy Tab 7.7 with the slightly wider 4:3 aspect ratio. I’d never buy an iPad mini simply because I couldn’t live with iOS, but I’ve been convinced that for many potential uses of a tablet, the 4:3 aspect ratio is superior.