The 8-inch form factor makes the three devices excellent for reading; there is ample real screen estate for reading and the devices are generally light enough to hold in the hand for long periods of time.
We've explored the readability and availability of reading content in our previous 10-inch tablet shootout, where our nod goes to the Apple camp (which doesn't really change when considering the smaller tablets), we've chosen to add another aspect in this article: readability of magazines. Since Zinio is supported on both Android and iOS platforms, we will use our HWM magazine as an example:
Since most magazines including ours are laid out in 4:3 aspect ratio format, reading them will be more natural and optimal on the Apple iPad Mini. In addition, the font size is also larger, making it easier to read without zooming in on a particular section. The on-screen navigation buttons on the LG G Tablet 8.3 also take up some screen real estate, making it harder to read.
There are consumers who use tablets, especially the 7 to 8-inch form factors, for listening to music as they are more portable than the 10-inch counterparts. In this section, we look at the availability of music content and the features of the default music player on each platform.
Arguably the world's most popular and biggest online music store, Apple iTunes boasts over 37 million songs and 800 million accounts. In addition, Apple is reported to be seeking more exclusive music deals for iTunes after the highly successful distribution deal with Beyonce in December 2013 where more than 800,000 copies of her album were sold in three days. If you are a music aficionado and believe in paying for music tracks, iTunes will not disappoint you.
Apple's default Music Player sports a clean and simple interface, where your music catalog is categorized into playlists, artists, songs, albums, genres, compilations and composers. Aside from basic playback controls like repeat and shuffle, you will not find audio effects or equalizers.
When you are listening to the music on the iPad Mini, you can have access to the music controls (play, stop, next, previous and volume rocker) on the lock screen. Alternatively, you can control the music playback via the Control Centre with a swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4's Music Player
The default music player on the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has the tabs located on the top with the music controls at the bottom. Unlike Apple, Samsung has baked in several audio effects (SoundAlive) that you can enable when listening to music. There are two options: basic and advanced.
The basic view offers a balance between Treble, Bass, Vocals and Instrument. You also can toggle with the different audio enhancements such as Tube amp effect, virtual 7.1 channel and studio. The Advanced view provides a seven-band equalizer for you to tune manually and has additional effects like 3D, Bass and Clarity.
When playing music, the controller is shown on the notification panel when you slide down from the top and on the lock screen as a small widget at the bottom left corner of the screen. This makes it easier for you to control the music playback without having to search for the Music app.
LG G Tablet 8.3's Music Player
The music player in the G Tablet 8.3 has the tabs located on the left side (in landscape mode), which makes more sense as you can easily use your left finger to switch between the tabs. The music controls are also situated towards the left at the bottom.
LG preloads five audio effects - pure surround, bass reducer, bass booster, treble booster and vocal booster - in the music player of the G Tablet 8.3. It also includes an option for you to customize the audio effect to your preferences.
Similar to Samsung, LG has the music player widget placed at the upper half of the lock screen and on the notification panel. You have the option to disable the latter by going to Music Player > Menu > Settings > Uncheck the Show Notification option.
While this section doesn't matter if you're going to use headphones/earphones, for those of who plan to use the tablet aloud in your room or elsewhere, you'll probably be interested to know how the built-in speakers fare.
We pushed the volume level to 100% on all three tablets to see the audio output quality. Of the three tablets, we found the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 to be the loudest and clearest. Both stereo speakers are located at the upper portion of either side of the tablet, which is a good placement especially when watching videos in landscape mode. They are unlikely to get muffled by the hands as it is unnatural to hold the tablet on the higher side. The placement could be better if Samsung reverts to the design of the Galaxy Note 10.1 where the speakers are front-facing though.
The G Tablet 8.3 lacked both loudness and clarity in its audio output. Its rear-facing speakers are housed along the sides of the tablet, hence it is unlikely you will cover them with your hands. The iPad Mini fared poorly in this comparison as its speakers got muffled by our hands while viewing videos in landscape mode although you can opt to hold the tablet on one side.
When it comes to gaming, the iPad Mini takes the upper hand at the moment as it has a larger database of apps, more exclusive partnerships with game developers, and a more comfortable user experience.
The outcome is reversed for movie-watching; both the G Tablet 8.3 and Galaxy Tab S 8.4 have screen aspect ratios of 16:10, which means that you won't be facing the letterboxing issue (two black bars at the top and bottom of the now common widescreen video) that plagues the Apple iPads.
However, between the LG and Samsung tablets, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 easily gets our nod for its vibrant AMOLED display, which also happens to sip so little power that it can last far longer than any other tablets of its class, thus allowing you to enjoy your movies undisturbed for a lot longer. If the colors are too vibrant, Samsung has a simple control to toggle a suitable preset to appeal to your preferences.