When it comes to mobile devices, business users must strike a balance between portability and power.
Small tablets may appear to be fine-tuned for casual consumer use, but small business owners can also benefit from their compact designs and more affordable price points.
On Tuesday (Nov. 12), Apple announced that its new iPad mini with Retina display is finally available for purchase through its online store. It's up against Google's flagship tablet, the second-generation Nexus 7, which launched in July.
Both tablets boast capable hardware, freshly updated operating systems and supersharp screens that measure between 7 and 8 inches.
If you're a small business owner longing for an ultraportable business companion, read on for a head-to-head comparison of these two tablets.
The small size of these tablets could be either a bonus or a deal breaker for business users who rely on a mobile device to do real work.
iPad mini with Retina display: The 7.9-inch display on the new iPad mini puts it on the bigger side of the small-tablet continuum, but it's still the most commuter-friendly iPad yet, and a discreet device for meetings and business trips.
As its name implies, the iPad mini now features Apple's Retina display, so its screen is sharper than that on any other device in its class.
According to Apple, the new iPad mini can run for up to 10 hours between battery charges, making it one of the longest-lasting tablets on the market. The tablet also features a slick, aluminum unibody design.
Bluetooth keyboard add-ons are available for the new iPad mini, but expect a cramped typing experience due to the tablet's small size.
Nexus 7: The Nexus 7 is extremely portable: It features a 7-inch screen and a slim body that weighs just 10.6 ounces. It's small enough to slip in and out of a bag, or even a large pocket, with ease.
The tablet's plastic chassis lacks the premium feel of the new iPad mini, but it boasts a sleek, solid design; a bright, sharp display; and a grippable back for easier single-handed use.
And the Nexus 7 lasts for more than 9 hours on a charge, putting it about on a par with the new iPad mini's endurance.
A variety of similarly cramped Bluetooth keyboard accessories are also available for the Nexus 7.
Speed and performance
The second-generation Nexus 7 and iPad mini devices may be small, but they are modern tablets with speedy hardware to help you work on the go.
iPad mini with Retina display: The new iPad mini is, hands down, the speediest tablet in its class. Under the hood is Apple's A7 processor — the same chip found in the iPad Air. In fact, the iPad mini with Retina display is nearly identical to its bigger brother in every aspect except size.
It's also the first sub-9-inch tablet with a 64-bit architecture. That means you can expect snappier email and Web browsing, and faster launching of your favorite productivity apps.
Keep in mind that it could be a few years before developers really exploit the tablet's 64-bit chipset, but rest easy knowing that the second-generation iPad mini is future-proof.
Nexus 7: Google's latest flagship is no slouch when it comes to speed and performance. The second-generation Nexus 7 runs on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4Pro chipset with 2GB of RAM.
It's not the most powerful tablet out there, but the Nexus 7 is a high-performing device with more than enough horsepower to run apps smoothly, multitask and help you keep your business running wherever you are.
Both Android and iOS are fully capable of helping business users stay productive on the go.
iPad mini with Retina display: It's hard to top Apple's App Store when it comes to app support and availability. It can match almost every offering on the Android platform, and some popular business software, like the Kashoo accounting app, are exclusive to iOS.
Like other iOS devices, the second-gen iPad mini runs on iOS 7, an update that includes a visual redesign as well as enticing features for small business owners.
It also comes with a revamped version of Apple's iWork mobile office suite preinstalled. The software package includes three apps: Pages (word processor), Numbers (spreadsheet editor) and Keynote (presentation maker).
The iWork mobile apps are fully integrated with Apple's desktop iWork applications, letting users transition seamlessly among devices.
Also new on iOS 7 is AirDrop, which lets users share files with a single tap. AirDrop-enabled apps make it easier to send documents, presentations, photos, videos and other files to a person or group via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. That feature makes the new iPad mini a good tool for group collaboration.
iOS 7 also features a revamped email app with the ability to add and organize "smart" auto-sorting mailboxes and view PDF annotations. It also features a more powerful email search tool and touch gestures.
Note that iOS7 is not exclusive to the latest iPads. Business owners can also install the update on the second-, third- and fourth-generation iPads, though it may be a bit sluggish on older devices.
Nexus 7: The Nexus 7 features a thriving ecosystem of work and productivity apps in the Google Play store.
Apps like Evernote, Adobe Photoshop and Square Register now have apps that are fully optimized for Android tablets, though the platform can't quite match the breadth of Apple's mobile ecosystem.
And Android 4.4 KitKat arrives on the Nexus 7 this week after debuting on the Nexus 5 smartphone arlier this month.
KitKat introduces a smarter, more accessible version of Google Now, an intelligent personal assistant that can help business users stay on track and never miss a call or meeting.
The service works by monitoring your activity within the Google ecosystem and pushing relevant notifications to you as they're detected. In practice, the service can notify you of traffic delays, weather, upcoming appointments and much more.
The OS update also includes native support for Quickoffice, a free Android-based office suite that is now integrated into the operating system.
KitKat also introduces native printer support, making it easy to send documents to the printer straight from your mobile device, without fussing with third-party apps.
With price points well less than those of their full-size counterparts, small tablets are great for business owners on a budget.
Nexus 7: Starting at just $229, the Nexus 7 is a steal. The combination of a low price point and great hardware makes Google's tablet a bargain for business users.
iPad mini with Retina display: Apple's smaller tablet is a premium device for a premium price. It starts at $399, just $100 cheaper than the larger iPad Air.
The Nexus 7 and iPad mini with Retina display are both decent business devices that are easy to carry between home and the office.
If portability is your top concern and you don't want to break the bank, the Nexus 7 is a great buy.
The new iPad mini is worth a look for business users who want the iOS experience in a small package.
But if you're buying a tablet for business, think long and hard before investing in a smaller device. These tablets come with cramped screens and cramped keyboards that could be counterproductive for work.