iPad Mini vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Comparison Smackdown
Many of you have written us requesting a smackdown between Apple's and Samsung's 8 inch tablets. Beyond size and the fact they're running a mobile OS with a touch screen, they manage to be quite different. Sure they have mobile CPUs and 5MP rear cameras in common, but they run different operating systems, use different casing materials and only one works with a pen.
Apple's tablets are often the more expensive, but in this case the base 16 gig WiFi-only iPad mini is $329 while the 16 gig WiFi Galaxy Note 8.0 is $399. The 16 gig iPad mini with 3G/4G is $459 (available on Verizon, AT&T and Sprint) and the Samsung Note 8.0 with 4G LTE is $499 on AT&T (both without contract). The Samsung does have features that explain the higher price like the IR remote, digital pen with Wacom digitizer and higher resolution display.
Winner: Apple (assuming lower pricing is better and ignoring feature disparity)
Display and Pen
The iPad mini isn't meant to compete with Apple's own Retina displays on the iPad 3 and iPad 4. At 7.9" and 1024 x 768, it has a pixel density of 163 ppi, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 has an 8", 1280 x 800 display with a pixel density of 189 ppi. As you'd expect, the Samsung display is a bit sharper, and text does look smoother, though neither can compete with the super high res Nexus 10 or iPad with Retina Display. The iPad mini has an IPS display and the Samsung has a PLS display that's functionally very similar to IPS. Samsung provides different color settings to control saturation and contrast and has a reading mode that helps sharpen text a bit. The iPad mini lacks these controls. Both are very responsive to touch.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 brings a rare feature: a Wacom digitizer with pen that's marketed as the S Pen. Those of you who think the pen is mightier than the finger will adore this feature since it offers pressure sensitivity and palm rejection for much finer and easier drawing and note taking. The digital pen tip is quite small compared to capacitive styli that third parties sell for tablets, and that also increases precision and adds to a pen on paper experience.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
Apple's the winner here: the iPad mini has excellent battery life of 9 to 10 hours. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0's quad core CPU and added RAM are power hungry and the tablet lasts us an average of 6.5 hours of actual use time with the screen on.
Winner: iPad Mini
Performance and Horsepower
This is always a difficult section when comparing devices running two different operating systems. iOS is streamlined for the CPUs and graphics chips Apple uses, while Android must run on all sorts of hardware. The iPad mini runs on Apple's 1.2GHz A5 dual core CPU clocked down to 1GHz and it has a PowerVR SGX 543MP2 GPU. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 runs on a quad core 1.6GHz Exynos 4412 CPU with MALI 400 graphics. The iPad mini has 512 megs of RAM and the Note 8.0 has 2 gigs of RAM.
Both are available with 16 gigs of internal storage, and Samsung promises a 32 gig version though we've yet to see it. Apple also offers 32 and 64 gig models, each increment adding $100 to the price. Samsung might not offer the storage options that Apple does, but it has two features that mitigate this and make the tablet more versatile: an SDXC microSD card slot and USB Host so you can use USB flash drives (along with game controllers, keyboards and mice).
From a pure hardware standpoint, looking at the amount of RAM, clock speed and cores, the Samsung wins. However, both feel equally fluid and fast, and if you watch our video you'll see that both handle the fairly demanding Real Racing 3 equally well. Still, the mini is at the low end of Apple's current spec for tablets and even phones, and I have a feeling that the most demanding games will tax it a year or two from now. The Galaxy Note 8.0 is one of the more powerful Android tablets currently on the market despite its diminutive size, and it will probably hold up better. For those of you who don't play top 3D games, this matters less.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
Design and Materials
This is the usual Samsung vs. Apple mobile product situation: the iPad mini has an aluminum casing with a striking design that looks stunning and feels durable. The Galaxy Note 8.0 is made of gloss polycarbonate plastic, just like all of Samsung's smartphones and Android tablets. It's nice looking but it doesn't have the high quality look and feel of the iPad mini.
Winner: iPad mini
There are several more important comparison points, so hunker down and watch our Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 vs. iPad mini comparison video: