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Media tablet showdown: Retina iPad Mini faces newly beefed-up challengers

Galen Gruman | Dec. 5, 2013
The Retina iPad Mini, Kindle Fire HDX, Nexus 7, Dell Venue 7 and Venue 8 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 go toe to toe in InfoWorld Test Center's review

Security is probably not top of mind when choosing a media tablet, but it should be one of your purchase criteria.

Corporate security. The iPad Mini has the same strong, enterprise-class capabilities as any iOS device, including a highly compatible VPN client. The Nexus 7, Note 8.0, and Venue 7 have the decent security capabilities of most recent Android tablets. All three tablets provide Android's standard VPN support, which unfortunately does not include Cisco IPSec VPNs (you'll need to download Cisco's AnyConnect client as well as buy a client access license for it). The Kindle Fire HDX provides the basics of Exchange device security, including encryption, and there are even a few VPN vendors' clients for it in the Amazon Appstore — including one for Cisco VPNs. Of course a Windows tablet like the Venue 8 Pro supports the full set of Microsoft security and management tools and protocols, like any PC.

Note that the Kindle Fire HDX, Nexus 7, Note 8.0, and Venue 7 come unencrypted. The encryption process requires a full charge, so you can't do it as soon as you open the box; it takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Note that you can't enable encryption on the Kindle Fire HDX in its Settings app; only when you try to connect to an Exchange server that requires encryption are you given the ability to turn on encryption. If you're on the road without a full battery charge the first time you try to connect to Exchange on the Kindle Fire HDX, you'll be out of luck. Like all iOS devices, the iPad Mini is always encrypted, and encryption can't be disabled.

All the media tablets reviewed here support passwords, so you can prevent unauthorized people from using them.

Family security. There's another kind of security to consider for a media tablet, because it's likely to be shared by several family members. In this regard, the Kindle Fire HDX, Nexus 7, and Venue 8 Pro are the most secure.

The Kindle Fire HDX includes the FreeTime app that lets you set up separate content libraries for each person, essentially giving them a separate login to just their library. Parents can use that capability to restrict what their kids can access, as well as limit the number of hours of usage each day.

Both the Nexus 7 and the Venue 8 Pro let you set separate user accounts on the tablet, so each person has his or her own apps and content. Furthermore, you can set up restricted profiles for users, so parents can control which apps and services their kids can access. (Neither the Note 8.0 nor the Venue 7 offers this feature, because they run Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and this feature requires Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or later.) The setup is easier in Android than in Windows, which requires you to have a live Internet connection to change settings.


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