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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

You can stream from the Note 8.0 if you have a TV, stereo, or Blu-ray player that has a compatible version of the DLNA protocol. DLNA is available in many devices, but the protocol is implemented loosely, so not all DLNA devices can communicate. Fortunately, the Note 8.0 could stream to my LG 390 Blu-ray player, which passed on the video and audio to my TV. However, it took nearly a minute for video playback to begin when I streamed — a sharp contrast to AirPlay's nearly instant streaming playback.

Although the DoubleTwist app with the AirTwist add-on supports AirPlay video streaming on Nexus 7, Note 8.0, and Venue 7, in my tests it rarely worked. The video wouldn't progress, and the Apple TV would eventually display a time-out error. DoubleTwist was unreliable a year ago and remains that way today.

The iPad Mini, Nexus 7, and Note 8.0 let you connect to TVs and projectors via HDMI cables, which are available from third parties. The iPad Mini needs an adapter for its Lightning connector, just as the Nexus 7 needs an adapter for its SlimPort connector. The Note 8.0 has a MiniHDMI port. All worked just fine, both for playing videos on an HDTV and mirroring the screen. The Kindle Fire HDX, Venue 7, and Venue 8 Pro don't support video-out via cables.

Book reading. For reading books, Apple's iBooks and Amazon's Kindle apps are the best. Their default settings are the most readable, and they both sync your books and any annotations across all your devices. I like iBooks 3.x's scroll mode for reading; turning virtual pages may remind you that you're reading a book, but scrolling is faster and a bit more natural. The interactive Multi-Touch style of e-book available only for iPads can be nothing short of amazing in presentation richness and flexibility — it's little used, though, outside of textbooks. The Kindle app works on almost every device you can think of, whereas iBooks runs only on iOS devices and Macs.

Google's Play Books app is horrible on both Android and iOS, with hard-to-read text at any size, due to awkward character spacing, poorly designed fonts, and few controls. Even if you choose an Android media tablet, I urge you not to use the standard Android Google Play e-reader app.

Magazine and newspaper reading. When it comes to magazines, the battle is between the iPad Mini and the Kindle Fire HDX, both of which have fairly large magazine and newspaper subscription libraries. Android's Play Market has a small magazine selection. iOS's Newsstand app conveniently puts all your subscriptions in one place, with the option to get alerts when new editions are available. The Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX also aggregate your subscriptions and offer new-issue notifications.


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