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iPad Mini 3 vs. Fire HD 7 vs. Galaxy Tab S vs. ThinkPad 8

Apple's iPad Air 2 may have stolen the show at the company's Oct. 16 reveal event, but company made sure not to leave iPad mini fans in the dust. The new iPad mini 3 retains its predecessor's sleek design and Retina display, while adding Apple's Touch ID fingerprint reader and a new gold color option.

Though Apple's allure as as strong as ever, the mini 3 has some serious competition in the 7- to 8-inch tablet space with rivals like the Amazon Fire HD 7, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and the Lenovo ThinkPad 8. Here's how the four slates stack up.

MORE: iOS 8.1 Brings Back Camera Roll

Apple iPad Mini 3Amazon Fire HD 7Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4Lenovo ThinkPad 8
Starting PriceStarting at $399Starting at $139Starting at $399Starting at $399
CPU/GPU64-bit Apple A7 processor/M7 motion co-processor1.5-GHz quad-core CPU1.9-GHz + 1.3-GHz Samsung Exynos 5 OctaIntel Atom Z3770 Processor
OSiOS 8Fire 4.0Android 4.4.2Windows 8.1
Screen Size7.9 inches7 inches8.4 inches8.3-inches
Resolution2048 x 1536 pixels, Retina HD1280 x 800 pixels2560 x 1600 pixels1920 x 1200 pixels
RAMN/AN/A3GB2GB
Internal Storage16GB, 64GB, 128GB8GB, 16GB8GB32GB or 64GB
Expandable Storagenonenone64GB64GB, 128GB
Front Camera1.2 MPVGA2.1 MP2 MP
Rear Camera5-MP iSight2-MP8-MP5-MP
Battery Lifeestimated 10 hours Wi-Fi web browsing8 hours 25 minutes of continuous Web surfing7 hours and 56 minutes of continuous Web surfing7 hours and 4 minutes of continuous Web surfing
Size and Weight7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches, 11.68 ounces 7.5 x 5.0 x 0.4 inches, 11.9 ounces8.37 x 4.84 x 0.26, 10.37 ounces8.8 x 5.2 x 0.35 inches, 14.4 ounces
Connectivity802.11ac802.11b/g/n802.11 a/b/g/n/ac802.1a/b/g/n
Ports/SlotsWi-Fi Calling, Digital Image Stablization, Touch ID Fingerprint scannermicroUSB, headphonemicroUSB, microSD, headphonemini-HDMI, headphone

Design

The iPad is known for being sleeker than the rest of the pack, and the iPad mini 3 is no exception. The tablet packs Apple's usual aluminum backside, and comes in silver, space gray and a brand new gold color (for those who want to feel extra fancy). The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and ThinkPad 8 aren't far behind in terms of style, with the former sporting a slick bronze chassis that makes plastic look premium, and the latter touting a minimalist aluminum body with a red camera ring on the rear panel. The Fire HD 7 is more durable than eye-poppingly stylish, with a thick, soft-touch design that brings Amazon's bigger HDX tablet line to mind. 

At 7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches, the iPad mini 3 is thinner than all three competitors. Its feathery 11.68-ounce build makes it lighter than both the Fire HD 7 and the ThinkPad 8, but not quite as light as the 10.37-ounce Galaxy Tab S. 

Display

The iPad mini 3 retains its predecessor's 7.9-inch, 2048 x 1536 Retina HD display, making it one of the sharpest screens you can find on a small tablet. The Galaxy Tab S's 8.4-inch 2560 x 1600 display is bigger and even sharper, though. Coming in third is the ThinkPad 8's 8.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 display, while the more affordable Fire HD 7 nixes full-HD for a 1280 x 800 screen. 

Features and Software

The iPad mini 3's biggest new feature is Touch ID, which lets you unlock the tablet, authorize iTunes purchases and verify online Apple Pay transactions using your fingerprint. The Galaxy Tab S and Fire HD 7 are the best of the bunch for kids; the former's Kids Mode offers a completely separate interface for little ones, while the latter's FreeTime settings allow you to set precise limits on how and how often junior uses the device. The ThinkPad 8 is best for business users, with USB 3.0 support and an optional dock that turns the slate into a Windows PC.

Each of the four slates run a different operating system. The iPad mini 3 rocks Apple's iOS 8.1, with access to more than 675,000 tablet-optimized apps on the App Store. The Galaxy Tab S packs a skinned version of Android 4.4.2 KitKat with a healthy (though less tablet-friendly) selection of apps via Google Play. The Fire HD 7 runs Fire OS 4 Sangria (also a variant of Android), which packs neat features like X-Ray for bookworms and movie addicts, while the ThinkPad 8 has the most productivity value with a full build of Windows 8.1. 

Value

The iPad mini 3 starts at $400 with 16GB of storage, meaning you're paying $100 more than the iPad mini 2 mainly for just Touch ID. The Galaxy Tab S and ThinkPad 8 have the same starting price, though the ThinkPad 8 has more storage at 64GB while the 16GB Tab S can be cheaply expanded to 64GB via microSD. The Fire HD 7 is the best tablet for those on a tight budget, with a much lower starting price of $140 for 8GB of storage. 

Bottom Line

If you don't already own an iPad mini 2 and want access to Apple's rich app marketplace, the sleek iPad mini 3 just might be worth the $400 premium. However, if you can live without iOS, the Galaxy S Tab 8.4 offers a sharper display and expandable storage, while the ThinkPad 8 has more starting storage and can double as a miniature Windows PC. And if you don't have $400 to blow on a tablet, the $140 Fire HD 7 remains a great choice, especially if you have kids. 

A devout gamer and tech enthusiast, Mike Andronico joined the Laptop team in July 2013. With a B.A. in Journalism from Purchase College and experience at GameNGuide, Examiner and 2D-X, Mike tackles everything from iPhone rumors to in-depth hardware reviews.