Is a big tablet a big mistake?

iPad mini
For many tablet purchasers, small is beautiful

The iPad mini, we think, is the best iPad yet - and I reckon the Nexus 7 is a better buy than the Nexus 10. If you're considering a Kindle Fire HD, I reckon the seven-inch is the one to go for there too.

According to the spec sheets, I'm an idiot: the Nexus 10 is a much more impressive bit of kit than a Nexus 7, and an iPad 4 has a more powerful processor and a much better screen than the iPad mini. But in the real world, the bigger tablets aren't necessarily the better ones.

For most people, when it comes to tablets seven is the magic number.

Seven-ish, the magic number

You may be thinking that I'm having a Damascene conversion: when Apple didn't make seven-inch tablets I said small tablets were rubbish, and now Apple does make a seven-ish-inch tablet I'm saying that small tablets are ace. But I've changed my mind because tablets have changed.

We're three years into tablets now, and what's possible today wasn't possible then. Processors are better, batteries are better, ecosystems are better, OSes are better... look at the huge strides Android has made in three years. Compare an early Android crapper with a Nexus 7 and you'll see what I mean.

The biggest obstacle to seven-inch tablet adoption was that seven-inch tablets were terrible. Now that they aren't, for most people they're the best choice. They're more portable than their bigger brothers. They're lighter to hold, easier to fit into a large pocket or handbag, easier for kids to handle - and they're much, much cheaper too.

Today, £160 gets you a really nice tablet and £250ish gets you a nice Apple one; three years ago that wouldn't even have got you a bit of cardboard with a tablet drawn on it in crayon. That's important in terms of affordability, and it's important in terms of replaceability.

Dropping a top-end iPad 4 on concrete is always going to be a traumatic experience; dropping a much cheaper one is a bit less horrible and considerably less expensive.

Small tablets won't suit everyone, of course, but power users are a small minority. For example, a Retina Display (or equivalent) really matters to me, but it doesn't matter to most: when the new iPad, aka the iPad 3, came out, I was in an Apple Store as a staffer explained the new features to some prospective customers. It turns out that the most important thing wasn't the pixel density, but the price.

They left with an iPad 2 - and had the iPad mini existed then, they'd have bought one of those.

If the iPad mini doesn't account for the lion's share of iPad sales this quarter, I'll buy one and eat it.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.