Consumer Tech Radar

About this Blog: Bill Snyder analyzes the consumer technologies--gadgets, software, electronics, and everything else--that matter to everyday techies and businesspeople, and explains why these technologies and products should be on your radar -- or not.

Consumer Tech Radar

Dirty Secrets of 7-inch Tablets

Sluggish multitasking performance, scratch-prone backs and too little storage. The iPad Mini, Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 have their good points, but here are the complaints voiced by users.

to Consumer Technology |

Smaller is better ... sometimes. Apple, the first major company to sell what we used to call a media tablet, went small when it introduced the 7.9-inch iPad Mini in October. There’s a lot to be said for a smaller, lighter, cheaper tablet, but all is not perfect in tabletland.

Although the iPad Mini is selling well, it has issues, such as an aspect ratio that makes it a poor choice for watching movies or TV show. The hot-selling Kindle Fire HD from Amazon garners complaints as well from users who say performance can be sluggish and that the advertisements on the lock screen are annoying.

Those and other comments come from visitors to a Q&A service called FixYa, which gleans reports on consumer devices from comments left by the 30 million visitors to the site every month. As always, when I present a FixYa report, I note that it is not a scientific survey and that complainers are more likely to post than happy campers. Still, if you’re in the market for a small tablet, take a few minutes to read these comments before you buy. Shoppers can never have too much information.

Apple iPad Mini

The most common complaint (25 percent of the negative comments posted) was the 4:3 aspect ratio, the screen’s width to height. Some tablets, including the Nexus 7, have a ratio of 16:9. Consumers say the smaller aspect ratio isn’t great for watching movies or TV shows on a small screen. Another 20 percent were unhappy with the quality of the screen, not surprising if they were comparing it to the Retina screen found on the newer models of the full-sized iPad.

A similar number of complaints maintained that the back panel scratches too easily, an issue that doesn’t affect performance, but does mar the appearance. Some consumers also said the device was scratched when they got it, and another 20 percent complained about too little data storage.

Having said that, FixYa’s report notes that few of the users said that the problems they experienced were severe enough to make them sorry they bought iPad Mini.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

With a diagonal screen size of 7 inches, the Kindle Fire HD is a bit smaller than the iPad Mini, but it’s a lot cheaper: $199 versus $320 for the 16 GB versions. There is, of course, a catch that may bother you. The most common complaint (30 percent) about the device is that the lock screen is loaded with ads from Amazon’s partners.

Next on the problem list (at 25 percent) is the Kindle’s poor multi-tasking ability. Users said the tablet slows down way too much when they have multiple pages open in a browser and try to do something else at the same time.

Typing (said 15 percent) can be awkward, and some people complained that apps are not updated as frequently as those for iOS- or Android-based tablets.

Google Nexus 7

FixYa summarizes what they found out about the Nexus 7, this way: "After winning T3 Magazine’s Gadget of the Year, the Nexus 7 took some major steps backwards after the cumbersome Android 4.2 update was released, causing laggy response and load times, multitasking issues, random reboots, and a inferior typing experience."

Screen and system update issues topped out at 30 percent each of the complaints registered for the Nexus 7. The update issues included slow response time when opening apps, worse multitasking and typing performance – not to mention random reboots.

Unlike some of the issues plaguing users of other tablets, there are some things you can do to ease the pain. FixYa recommends a number of procedures that will help.

(You can see a head-to-head review of the iPad Mini and Nexus 7 here.)


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