Best 7-inch tablets for Black Friday buyers

Best 7-inch tablets for Black Friday buyers

Summary: There's a lot of 7-inch tablets out there now, but which one is the best for you and where can you get the best prices? Here are some answers, unfortunately there aren't any great deals.

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Many people love the full-sized iPad, but some of us, like yours truly, prefer smaller, 7-inch tablets. Over the last few months, everyone, even Apple, has decided that small tablets are great. Since then, I've bought several of the latest and greatest and based on my own experiences here are my recommendations for what you should look for on Black Friday and, indeed, any other day of the year.

I prefer the smaller tablets because I find them to simply fit me better. For me, tablets are primarily for consuming data. I watch videos on them, I read books on them, I use them for Web-browsing, and I use them for e-mail. If you want to use a tablet for a work, you really want a full-sized tablet such as the iPad 4, Nexus 10, or a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. Me? I'll use a laptop. For sheer enjoyment though give me a mini-tablet any day of the week.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first. No one is really offering "deals" on any of the top 7" tablets except for the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. For all the rest, expect to pay full price. That said, you should look for bargains on such accessories as the microSD cards for more storage and cases.

AmazonKindleFireHD
If you love Amazon, you'll love the Amazon Kindle Fire. It's also the only small tablet that will be on sell relatively cheaply this holiday season.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

I wanted to love the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire, but even though I'm an Amazon Prime member I never could warm up to it. Don't get me wrong, it's a good 7" Android-powered tablet but... well it had problems.

First, with its 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP4460 ARM processor, it's under-powered. It felt sluggish.

Also, while some people, such as display expert Raymond M. Soneira prefer the Kindle Fire HD display over its rivals, but for me its display was the dullest of the lot.

I also didn't like the fact that this device, more than anything else, is a dedicated Amazon tablet. Apps, books, videos, whatever, if Amazon doesn't provide it, good luck getting it. I'm also annoyed that Amazon ships the device, ala Windows 8 PCs, with advertisements built-in. TO get rid of the ads, will cost you an additional $15. It's not much, but it still bugs me.

Again, I use Amazon a lot, but I don't want to use Just Amazon. Let's say you do love Amazon, here's the best deals I could find for the Kindle Fire HD: 

  • Best Buy: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199.99 free $30 Best Buy Gift Card included
  • Office Max: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199, bundled with $25 Office Max Gift Card
  • Staples: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199, bundled with $20 Staples Gift Card
  • Staples: 32GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $249, bundled with $20 Staples Gift Card

One last word: The first generation Amazon Kindle Fire is still available out there for about $50 less. Unless you're on a really tight budget, get the Fire HD, its a much better tablet.

iPadMini
Are you an Apple fan who wants a small tablet? Then the iPad mini is for you. Alas you'll be paying full price for it.

Apple iPad mini

If you read a lot of my stories, you know I generally prefer Android over iOS. I still do, but that said, I quite like the list price $329 iPad mini. I just don't like it $130 better.

The good news is that its dual-core A5 processor is enough to give it snappy performance. True, it doesn't have a Retina display, but I still found its interface to be attractive and bright.

As always, iOS applications tend to work well. There are, of course, unfortunate exceptions like Apple Maps. That affair made it clear that Apple can blunder just as much as any other company.

If you're already a member of the church of Apple this is a no-brainer. This is the tablet you'll want if for no other reason than it will work hand-in-glove with all your other Apple products.

The bad news for shoppers is, as always, Apple knows darn well that you're willing to pay premium prices for their goods. So as in every year, the Black Friday "deals" for iPad Minis aren't the kind of thing that will have you standing in line early Friday morning. To see what's what from the official Apple outlets click to the Apple shopping event at midnight. I have a bad feeling that there won't be any iPad minis for sale this year.

The only deal out there I see for iPad fans is that it is expected that most retailers will be offering the older, but still quite nice, iPad 2 for $41 to $61 less than usual. I also expect that at brick-and-mortar stores these will be only available in limited quantizes.

Nook HD
Want a great e-reader that also makes a passable tablet? Then the Nook HD is for you.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD

I've always liked Nooks and the latest 7" model, the $199 Nook HD is still a winner. It is alas, better as an e-book reader than as a tablet.

With its 1.3GHz TI OMAP 4470 processor, I found the Nook HD to be a good deal snapper than its Amazon rival. The screen was also sharper. I also continue to find it to be the best "in hand" of the tablets.

That's the good news. The bad news is that this Android 4.x tablet is even more locked down than the Kindle. Oh it does have some nice Android 4.2 style features.

The most significant of these is that every tablet user can have their own profiles. That's handy if you want to read Wolf Hall, your son is always playing Angry Birds, and your fifteen-year old can't wait to see what happens next in The Hunger Games.

I also wish that the base model had more than 8GBs of storage. All the other tablets come with a minimum of 16GBs of space. True, it's easy to add storage to it with a microSD card, but still it would have been nice to have the extra room from the start.

What it all comes down to is that if what you really want is an e-reader with some tablet functionality, the Nook HD is for you. If you want more, look elsewhere. Me? It's already replaced my last Nook on my bed-side table.

Unfortunately, just as with Apple, you're not going to have much luck finding Black Friday deals for their latest and greatest tablet. If all you want is a simple e-reader you will be able to buy a Nook Simple Touch for $59.

nexus-7
The best tablet, for my money, is the Android-powered Nexus 7.

Google/ASUS Nexus 7

For my money, the best over-all tablet is the $199 Nexus 7. It's a full, open Android 4.2-powered tablet at a great price.

With its quad-core Tegra 3 CPU it's faster than any of the other tablets, and I found its screen to be outstanding. The software and the Google Play Store is where it really shines. If a program can run on Android it can run on this device at a good, fast clip.

Could it be better? Sure. It would be nice to be able to add storage to it and a rear-facing camera would have been nice, but all-in-all this is my favorite tablet. I'd be lying though if I said I wouldn't consider an iPad mini... if the small Apple tablet only came at a more reasonable price. As it is if I could only have one tablet, it would be the Nexus 7.

Once more, you'll need to pay the full price. It seems only Amazon is offering deal this holiday season. That's not too surprising. For Amazon, the Kindle is a loss-leader. They can afford to lose money on every unit sold because it's real purpose is to tie you to the Amazon market.

That said, at $199 both the Nook HD and Nexus 7 are well worth the money. The iPad mini... maybe not, but if you already love Apple products anyway and you want a handy sized tablet, you'll want to go ahead and buy one even at its higher price.

One final word of warning, my e-mail box has been stuffed with iPad offers for "90% off!" and only "$99 Black Friday only!" Don't believe them. They're scams. I'd love to be able to report lots of great deals for small tablets, but for the 2012 holiday season the only real deals will be from Amazon and friends.

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Topics: Tablets, Amazon, Apple, Google, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility

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24 comments
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  • Nook e-reader deals are all over the place

    The Nook Simple Touch can be had for $49.99 (on Black Friday) at Target. Even better, beginning at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving evening, Sears will sell the Nook Simple Touch for $39.99.

    Glad to see the Nook HD getting a good review. That's the tablet I have on order for my wife.
    ckantack@...
    • I also like Nook

      I'm pulling for Barnes & Noble. They make a very good reader, and there is room for good ereaders like Nook. I hope it sells well this holiday season.
      gregv2k
    • Here's A FEW NEW HOT TABLETS released in November --

      One of the first resellers to carry these new Android models is a site called TabletSprint -- The first three models are made by Ainol Electronics, which received a "Best Tablet of the Year" award at CNET Consumer Electronics Show 2012 -- the Novo 7 Flame Android tablet is available for $189 and offers many more features than the 7 inch Nexus 7- which sells for $249... The Novo 7 Flame includes a 1280x800 High Resolution screen, a powerful Dual Core CPU/1.6 GHz, 32GB Memory, MicroSD portable storage, an HDMI connection to your TV with full 1080p (HD) that's great for movie downloads; Two Cameras - a 5 MegaPixel camera with video recording and AF & Flash and a 2 MegaPixel Webcam; Plus Bluetooth, Ethernet, WiFi and an option for 3G through a USB adapter.

      There's also a 10 inch version released this week with impressive features... the Novo 10 Hero for $225. Also just launched this week is the $99 - Novo 7 Legend - which is truly the first quality "$100 TABLET" available of any major brand... with many of the same features as the higher end Novo 7 Flame -- Tabletsprint also offers two new tablets in December with 3G Wireless built directly into the tablet -- the Pipo 763 - 3G... a 7" tablet for $199, and the Pipo M8 3G, a higher-end 9.4 inch model with a 1280x800 high resolution screen that also offers GPS & Bluetooth.

      Also in December, TabletSprint will carry the W30 HD - by Ramos Technology -- a 10 inch tablet that takes on the new Nexus 10 and iPad with equal features at nearly half the price -- including the latest Quad Core performance-powerhouse, the Samsung Exynos 4212. 1.4 GHz processor; as well as a high resolution, 1920 X 1200 Liquid Crystal screen (comparable to Apple Retina display). TabletSprint also offers a nice perk for customers -- a FREE 3G/4G 500MB monthly data plan for all tablets they carry... with full internet access/VoIP calling in the U.S. -- all are certainly worth checking out and comparing...
      rileys2wave
  • None of them

    Surface RT for tablet use.

    Kindle (eInk) for book reading.

    7" tablets are the worst of both worlds, especially the iPad Mini which is too big to be portable, screen is too small to be useful as a tablet, and it is too expensive compared to the competition. I know that eInk Kindles are the best of 1 world and unusable for others but I find that tablets like the iPad Mini are fridge toasters, they simply aren't good for anything.
    toddbottom3
    • How much is the 7" Surface again?

      ... and how is the LTE functionality?
      gregv2k
      • How much is the 20" iPad again?

        What, they don't make a 20" iPad because it would suck so much as a tablet?

        Exactly. 7" tablets suck. Apple's 7" tablet sucks even worse because you get neither the benefit of cost, nor portability. It is a fridge toaster.
        toddbottom3
        • 3 million in 3 days

          plus rave reviews that were so strong that most reviewers claim a preference for the Mini over the 10" iPad indicates that once again MS is skating to where the puck has been. Again.

          How is that Surface selling?
          gregv2k
          • Scoreboard!

            n/t
            gregv2k
        • Wow, That's not true at all!

          Most 7" Tablets fit in the back pocket of your jeans so they are portable!

          As for their Use, I get a lot of use out of my Nexus 7, I take it every where I go and it works great for pretty much everything I want to do with it.

          Oh, and the Jellybean 4.2, never chokes the SoC out and can run simple games without dropping frames. I like the surface but, it does not perform as well as the Nexus 7.
          slickjim
    • lol

      Sorry but you are so ignorant about 7" tablet.

      It is better than any smartphone (only note and note II comes close) for any "smartness" what smartphones have to offer and still having all what 8.9-13" laptops can offer for mobility.

      Have you owned a 7" tablet?
      Have you owned a 7" smartphone?

      They are totally contrary what you say as long you get a 3G model instead wifi-only.

      I bought one and then seven of my friends bought same and two even swapped their iPad to such and apple or microsoft doesn't have a such device what they wanted.

      Just open your mind and you only see surface isn't even competing in same league with features and usefulness.

      I would take next a 20" tablet and that only for drawing purposes and it would demand lots of new hardware and key function before it happens. 10" is just "useless" for anything else than table and coach usage.
      Fri13
    • Then don't buy one.

      Why are you here, since you obviously have no intention of buying any 7" tablet?
      Zogg
    • RE: None of them

      Sour grapes. Microsoft was very late to the 10-inch tablet party. And they will be even later to the 7-inch tablet party, if they even show up.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • I don't own a 7" tablet, but...

    even this article seems to indicate that it's the highest quality of the bunch. Considering that according to CNET its preferable to the Editors Choice winning iPad4, I guess I'm confused about the price comments. Every review says you get more, especially if you're an Apple user (iCloud, 750,000 apps, complete integration with the ecosystem, no separate accounts to manage) plus WiFi and LTE. Shouldn't I expect to pay a little more?
    gregv2k
    • Donation

      You can always make a donation but make sure you get a receipt for your taxes.
      calfee20
    • No they don't...

      Not every article I've read says it is the best of the bunch unless the site shows a heavy bias towards Apple.

      The Nexus 7 was better in just about every way and I used both side by side for about 2 weeks. The screen was the breaking point of the iPad Mini for me, it stinks!
      slickjim
  • Mcfly !

    32 gig blackberry playbook 118 dollars at staples....right now...It cant be beat. hdmi out at that price point. 32 gigs. Nuff said ! Tard wouldnt know a good thing if it walked up and slapped him.
    sangriel
  • Not a 7" Tablet

    According to Apple, the iPad mini is not a 7"tablet.
    Susan Antony
    • Exactly right

      It is a fridge toaster. It won't fit in the same space that a proper 7" tablet will fit in (being too big and bulky) but it also has a screen that is far too small to be practical. It is truly the worst of both worlds.
      toddbottom3
      • A penchant for stupid posts

        There is nothing magical about 7" nor 10". I guess you cannot get through your apparently very thick skull that there are many different users out there with many different needs and preferences, who incidentally could not give a rats a$$ what YOU think, so you are not only making yourself look like a complete idiot, but totally wasting your time as well.

        I have no trouble seeing the appeal if the Mini. I have great difficulty seeing any redeeming qualities in you however.
        D.T.Long
  • Better still

    Steven wrote:
    "Could it be better? Sure. It would be nice to be able to add storage to it and a rear-facing camera would have been nice"

    My 7inch Ainol Flame includes those missing features & at a better price as well.
    grump3