LG G Pad 8.3 vs Apple iPad mini 2 with Retina Display
When Apple announced its iPad mini with Retina Display, quite a few jaws dropped, as it kept the crazy 2048 x 1536 pixels resolution of the larger iPad, ensuring record for an 8-incher 324ppi pixel density. With this screen, and a 64-bit A7 processor, Apple ensured quite a futureproof little slate, which, however, comes with a premium price tag.
One of the best small tablets Android can offer against Apple's iPad mini 2 is the LG G Pad 8.3, which now comes also in a Google Play Edition with stock Android KitKat interface, too. Granted, it sports lower pixel density, but the difference is not very significant, plus it has trim metallic design, too, and offers expandable memory, all for a lower price tag. Which one should you pick? Read on to find out...
Apple's traditional 4:3 iPad aspect ratio is present in the mini 2 with Retina Display, making it wider and more uncomfortable to hold than the elongated G Pad that rocks it 16:10. At 8.54 x 4.98 x 0.33 inches (216.8 x 126.5 x 8.3 mm), LG's tablet is taller, but much less wide than the 7.87 x 5.30 x 0.30 inches (200 x 134.7 x 7.5 mm) iPad mini 2, while the difference in thickness is negligibly in favor of Apple's tablet, and the weight is almost equal. Thus for holding the tablet in portrait mode and reading or browsing, the LG slate comes ahead, as you can support it with one hand easier.
The entirely aluminum iPad mini 2 chassis is also much more slippery, which adds to the lack of comfort when you try to pick it up and hold it with one hand. LG has put a metallic backplate on its G Pad 8.3, but the tapered metal back fuses with plastic sides exactly where your fingers are clutching at the tablet. This increases traction and support, whereas with the iPad you have to almost fully stretch your fingers to keep it lodged, and that's if you have big hands, so holding it in portrait gets tiresome. In landscape mode, both tablets are equally comfortable to grasp and operate, with wide side bezel to rest your thumbs on.
The metal keys around the iPad mini 2 sides feel more premium, and the power/lock one comes to the side when you hold the tablet in landscape, making it much easier to press than the one on the G Pad 8.3, which goes on top. In portrait mode the situation is reversed, hinting that the iPad mini 2 is best suited for landscape usage. The G Pad power/lock key and volume rocker are well-placed, with decent tactile feedback to them, but still the cold metal buttons of the iPad feel more expensive, and have an excellent tactile feedback, with firm yet springy click to them when pressed. Apple's iPad also sports the traditional round physical home key, which exhibits the same great clicky feel, whereas the G Pad 8.3 relies entirely on virtual on-screen navigational keys. These buttons on the G Pad don't really take away from the screen real estate per se, as LG has laid them over a fully transparent background.
The iPad mini 2 with its record pixel density for the size, evidently has the upper hand in screen definition. Its 7.9” 2048 x 1536 pixels display can truly be called Retina, as at 324ppi pixel density you can't spot any individual pixel from a normal viewing distance, even with an eagle eye vision. This makes text extremely crisp, icons very defined
The LG G Pad 8.3 has quite a great screen, too, albeit the 8.3” panel sports 1920x1200 pixels of resolution with lower 273ppi pixel density. At that size, however, it would be hard to tell the individual pixels from the distance you would normally use such a tablet, unless you are with better than the average vision.
Our screen quality measurements show that both tablets sport spot-on color temperature, not leaning excessively to the cold, nor the warm side of the spectrum, with a slight advantage for the G Pad 8.3, which brags with an almost perfect color temperature.. When it comes to color accuracy, both tablets are pretty good, but not as good as the best out there, as they just aren't sufficiently close to the standard RGB gamut. The iPad mini 2 gives way to the G Pad 8.3 here, with the average color error from a reference larger than on LG's tablet. Namely, the iPad is slightly less punctual representing most colors, while the reds appear much less saturated than they should. All in all, these color deviations will be noticed if you are a screen purist but for the typical user the tablets will look perfectly fine.
We measured 450 nits of brightness for the iPad Mini 2 against the G Pad's 345 nits, so Apple's panel is up with the best tablet screens out there in that respect, save for the Lumia 2520 that sports 600 nits of peak brightness. Apple also managed to lay a pretty good anti-reflectance coating on its small tablet, too, so visibility outdoors is better than on the G Pad 8.3.
When it comes to viewing angles, both tablets have no issues whatsoever from each and every inclination. Colors and brightness barely shift even at extreme angles, so you don't have to hold the slates head-on while watching a movie, for example, in order to experience the true image quality that these two tablets are capable of.
Interface and functionality
The iPad mini 2 with Retina Display runs the latest iOS 7 version, which introduced the biggest interface overhaul since the beginning of iDevices. It sports flat, colorful icons, a rich-content notification bar, and Control Center which flaunts connectivity toggles and other commands, and comes on when you flick up from the bottom of the display.
The G Pad 8.3 runs Android 4.2.2 with LG's own interface overlay that puts swipeable connectivity toggles and the so-called Qslide apps in the notification bar. Those apps can run in windows on top of whatever else you are doing underneath, aiding your multitasking needs, as you can open two windows at once, and resize them as your heart desires. The tablet is also available as the first Google Play Edition slate, meaning you can find it stripped of all manufacturer overlays, and running Android 4.4 KitKat, though this version runs for $350, $50 more than you can find a regular G Pad 8.3 at.
The default keyboard on the G Pad 8.3 flaunts finger-tracing functionality, similar to Swype, where you simply slide your fingertip from one letter to another until the word gets recognized. If you master this mode, it can be much faster than tapping away with your thumbs. Otherwise the tablets' size allows pretty comfortable two-thumb typing from both sides, with the ergonomics prize going to the iPad mini 2's keyboard, which sports large, well-spaced letters.
The Android tablet interface is tailored fine for a larger screen real estate, splitting the screen with navigational menus on the left and content on the right, just like on the iPad mini 2. Apple's slate, however, can take full advantage of more than 400,000 iOS apps written exclusively for tablets. Most decent Android apps scale well up to a larger screen size, plus on 8-inchers the difference is not that visible as it would be on a 10” tablet, but if the layout is drawn from the get-go for tablets, it really shows and feels in usability and comfort, not to mention the superior graphics quality of iPad-only apps.
Processor and memory
The iPad mini 2 carries the first mobile 64-bit processor, Apple's dual-core A7, coupled with 1 GB of RAM and a raging PowerVR G6430 GPU, while the LG G Pad 8.3 is powered by a 1.7 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 with Adreno 320 graphics, and has 2 GB of RAM. Both tablets feel mighty fast while scouring the interface and loading apps, but the iPad mini 2 is just in another league with that processor, hitched to a 64-bit-optimized iOS 7 software. Finger flicks and swipes feel instantaneous, apps load seamlessly, and overall performance just feels quite a bit smoother than on the G Pad, despite the higher screen resolution.
The iPad mini 2 can be had in 16 GB - 128 GB internal memory configurations, whereas the G Pad comes with 16 GB and 32 GB versions, but, unlike Apple's tablet, you have a microSD slot for adding up to 64 GB more storage, if needed.
Internet and connectivity
The same stellar performance fluidity mentioned for the iPad mini 2 interface goes to the stock Safari browser on the tablet, which renders pages crazy fast, while scrolling, panning or zooming are a joy to use. Not that the stock Android browser or mobile Chrome on the G Pad don't perform well, but, say, zooming follows your fingers with a fraction of a second delay, whereas on the iPad mini 2 it feels like the screen zooms simultaneously with the spread of your fingers, as if attached with magnets to your fingertips.
Unlike the G Pad, Apple offers its iPad mini 2 with cellular connectivity, too, and with a record 14 band support at that. The rest of the wireless radios are pretty much common for both tablets – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and A-GPS – while the G Pad adds one infrared port at the top to control your TV and other home electronics from across the room with the respective QRemote app.
As for wired connectivity, Apple's Lightning port allows the iPad mini to be hooked up to the HDMI port on your TV with the respective adapter cable, while with the LG G Pad 8.3 you can also use a Slimport converter, if you want to connect it to the largest screen in the house.
Apple iPad mini 2 sports a 5 MP camera without an LED flash on the back, and the same setup is present on the LG G Pad 8.3. Both tablets allow you to access their camera apps directly from the lock screen, but the interface similarities stop here.
LG offers the full monty of scene modes and color effects you can apply to your pictures and videos, such as HDR, Panorama, a 360 degrees Panorama, Sports, Night and Time Machine modes. In addition you can adjust the ISO or white balance settings if you want, thus its camera app appears more cluttered than Apple's. The iPad mini 2 offers the most widely used options only, like HDR and Panorama, plus a Square shooting mode. The iPad's camera module, however, is extremely fast, with barely a shot-to-shot time difference between the normal and HDR shooting modes, unlike the G Pad 8.3, which takes quite a bit of time to process HDR photography.
Both tablets shoot photos with rather natural colors, representing correctly the real hues in front of the lens, and with the level of detail expected from 5 MP camera modules. The thing is that LG G Pad 8.3 slightly underexposes the scene in most situations, making the photos appear darker and more intense than in reality, while the iPad measures the exposure time correctly, translating into a much lighter, albeit slightly noisier shot. This premise goes for HDR photos taken with both tablets, too.
Indoors Apple's iPad fares even better than the G Pad 8.3, producing more defined, well lit photos that represent the colors well, while keeping noise in check even at low light. LG's camera, on the other hand, casts yellowish veil on the softish shots, and underexposes the scene, making it look darker than it is. On top of that the G Pad 8.3 introduces more noise in the frame even at stronger light levels.
Video is recorded by both tablets with fluid 30fps in 1080p resolution. The LG tablet underexposes the footage slightly, making it darker than it appears in reality. The iPad mini 2 gives a more realistic performance, plus its exposure compensation adjustment while panning around with the tablet is almost instantaneous. What we didn't like with the iPad mini 2, though, is that its screen, when used as a viewfinder in video mode, underframes the scene significantly. When you go to the gallery to watch the captured footage you realize there is much wider field of view recorded than what was visible on the display while filming. Not cool.
The iPad mini 2 and G Pad's photo galleries offer rich categorization options by albums, locations or timestamp, as well as editing modes built right into the interface. The iPad's interface is better thought out, showing thumbnails for photos shot in portrait mode as they were captured, and with wider separators, whereas the grid on the LG tablet simply cuts across equally sized rectangles.
The iPad mini's music player offers more categorization options than the one on the G Pad 8.3, including artists, albums, playlists, genres, compilations and even composers, or you can use the iTunes Radio streaming service directly from the Music app. The stereo speaker set on the LG tablet is more powerful than the iPad mini 2 speakers, but since they are on the back of the tablet, output is about the same when the G Pad is lying down, compared to the mini 2's bottom-placed speakers. Both pairs are of about average sound quality, meaning a relatively flat sound, and some distortion towards the highest volume.
Apple limits the stock video player to QuickTime or MPEG-4 videos, whereas the LG G Pad 8.3 can run all popular video formats out of the box, including MKV/DivX/Xvid files up to 1080p resolution. Of course, you can always use a free 3rd party player like Rock 2 on iOS, and load any video format to the player's folder in iTunes.
The battery unit in the iPad mini 2 with Retina Display has been beefed up 44% compared to the original iPad mini, thus managing to keep the excellent battery life of its predecessor, despite the much higher screen resolution. You'll be able to get the typical for a member of the iPad family 9-11 hours of web browsing or video playback on a single charge out of the mini 2. The G Pad 8.3 sports a respectable for its size 4600 mAh battery, scoring in the average for an Android tablet endurance range of about 7-9 hours of web surfing or video playback.
The Apple iPad mini with Retina Display is perhaps the best small tablet money can buy at the moment, and it shows in the $399 basic price. It has an extremely high resolution display, premium design, blazing 64-bit chipset, very long battery life, and can take full advantage of more than 400,000 iOS apps written exclusively for tablets.
LG G Pad 8.3 fights back with a lower $299-$349 price tag, depending on the retailer, or whether you want the Google Play Edition version. The tablet still flaunts a great high-res display, svelte design, and adds some extra functionality with the IR blaster at the top, and the microSD slot for cheaper storage expansion. It, however, doesn't offer a version with cellular connectivity. Its Android interface overlay offers some nifty features for easier multitasking, like a Qslide set of hovering apps, and a widget system, both of which come very handy on a tablet, but the Play Store has yet to offer more apps that are written from the ground up for a larger screen real estate.
Thus, unless you deem the iPad mini 2 uncomfortable to use with one hand on account of the wider chassis, or need some of the extra G Pad 8.3 functionality, the iPad mini 2 with Retina Display is your better bet on a futureproof small tablet - if you can stomach the higher price tag, of course.