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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

In the Kindle Fire HDX, Nexus 7, and Venue 8 Pro, you can restrict access to any downloaded app, not just predefined Apple titles as in the case of the iPad, and you can turn off location detection globally (not per service, as in iOS). But there aren't the age-related restrictions for content as in iOS and Windows 8; for example, you can't restrict Google Play videos in Android to G and PG-13 movies.

The iPad Mini's Guided Access lets you restrict the tablet to a specific app and even block some of an app's capabilities (such as Buy buttons) by drawing blocking ovals around their controls. But this feature has to be enabled each time you want to use it and can be applied to just one app at a time. It's fine when you want to hand your iPad to your kid for a specific purpose, but it's nowhere near as useful as the ability to set up separate environments, as the Kindle Fire HDX, Nexus 7, and Venue 8 Pro can.

The iPad has a comprehensive set of parental controls that let you configure what your kids can access. Tech-savvy (read: supergeek) parents can even use Apple's free Apple Configurator tool for OS X to create and deploy profiles with such configurations to their kids' devices, as well as update them remotely. Safari's private browsing mode lets parents access Web pages they don't want their kids to easily see, as this mode ensures no history is kept of the visited pages.

But iOS doesn't let you have multiple accounts, so if you want to set parental controls for your kid, you either need to have a separate iPad for each child (clearly Apple's preference) or enable the controls when you allow your child to use your iPad, then disable them when you want to use that iPad. You can't even save settings groups, so such enabling and disabling is a manual process for each setting — not good.

The Kindle Fire HDX too has a solid set of password-based parental controls, should you decide not to use FreeTime. These controls can also protect you should your device be lost or stolen, similar to controls offered by both iOS and Android.

The bottom line is that the iPad Mini's iOS assumes that just one person uses an iPad (or iTunes), so it can be problematic to share freely. But it has the most sophisticated parental control options and the best corporate security capabilities. The Kindle Fire HDX, Nexus 7, and Venue 8 Pro are designed for multiperson use, and all three offer good parental controls and adequate corporate security. The Note 8.0 and Venue 7 lack the multiuser capabilities that make the Kindle Fire HDX and Nexus 7 so appealing for family use.


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