Why 7 Inches Is Better Than 10!

Tdi 90 iPad Mini and Nexus 4

It was only a couple of years ago that the only way to have a decent navigation, communications and entertainment system in an overland vehicle was to either 1) buy 3 separate and non-integratable systems or 2) install a laptop (or with much more effort a ”carputer”). We’re lucky today, in the simplest fashion we can throw a phone in a cup-holder and have all three.

For the compact overland vehicle, a tablet is the best option. Not only are they cheaper and more flexible than laptops and carputers, but they offer higher security (you can grab it and take it with you), they easily integrate with the vehicles audio system, they are light and easily mountable, they are relatively inexpensive, there are hundreds of decent apps (and many more that are awful!) and the touch interface is easy to operate.

While there seem to be an endless amount of tablets on the market, and in-line with ”Sturgeon’s Law”, many of them are awful. For practical purposes I’d suggest that there are only 4 tablets worth considering, and 2 on those are of the 10” form factor and therefore I reject them as being too large (though if you have a larger vehicle, they may work for you).

  • Apple iPad (9.7” display at 2048x1536 at 264 ppi, aspect ratio 4:3, dimensions 242x186x10mm)
  • Apple iPad Mini (7.9” display at 1024x768 at 163 ppi, aspect ratio 4:3, dimensions 200x135x8mm)
  • Google Nexus 10 (10.1” display at 2560x1600 at 300 ppi, aspect ratio 16:10, dimensions 264x178x9mm)
  • Google Nexus 7 (7” display at 1280x800 at 216 ppi, aspect ratio 16:10, dimensions 199x120x11mm)

I’m using the Nexus tablets as generic Android tablets, feel free to substitute your favourite Android tablet.

The 4:3 aspect ratio is ideal for driving. While there are a few Android devices with this aspect ratio, the majority of them are no-name brands with the baggage that brings.

So, even though the iPad Mini has a lower resolution and ppi than the Nexus 7, it’s still a better tablet for in-vehicle us. It’s not the amount of pixels - it’s where they are. The 4:3 aspect ratio utilises the screen in a way that is better for the touch targets, and is better for mapping and navigation apps (as you can see more “ahead”) - which is likely to be the primary use of the device.

Of course, you are giving up some resolution - hopefully that’ll be fixed later in 2013 if the rumoured Retina iPad Mini is released.

My setup consists of the following:

Apple iPad Mini Wifi+Cellular (Verizon) 64GB
Google (LG) Nexus 4 16GB Unlocked GSM phone (on a T-Mobile $30 per month unlimited data plan)
Short Monoprice cables, for neatness
RAM Mount RAM-HOL-AP12U iPad mini cradle (the X-Grip RAM-HOL-UN8BU isn’t solid enough for off-highway use) - replaced by RAM-HOL-AP14U
Other RAM mount components for the dash
RAM Mount RAM-HOL-UN7BU X-Grip holder for phone

TL;DR, the iPad Mini is currently the best tablet on the market for an overland vehicle as 10” tablets are too large, and it has a 4:3 aspect ratio.