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More Stupid Tech Gadget Comparisons

Some people are stuck in a rut, others are stuck with specs. So when doing comparisons among products in roughly the same category, they will put some numbers up on the screen, pronounce the ones with apparently higher numbers superior, and somehow believe something positive has been accomplished.

You can find offenders of this lazy approach even among supposedly respected media outlets, such as Consumer Reports. That publication has repeatedly pronounced tech products better more because of having more features than on actual performance. Take a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, with loads of space-clogging junkware. Even when many of the features barely work, or are mostly useless, somehow that counts for a positive in CR’s narrow point of view of the tech universe.

So it seems that a certain international business publication, which will go unnamed because their tech writer is so clueless, wrote an article that purports to demonstrate the three ways Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 somehow beats the iPad mini. It’s all about being lame and desperate.

So they start with the statement that the specs somehow overwhelm the mini, although that is subject to debate. It’s not that the writer actually explains how at least two of the perceived spec advantages manifest themselves in real world use. That would require work.

First and foremost, there’s the alleged CPU advantage. The iPad mini has a 1GHz dual-core A5 with 512MB of RAM, which the author compares to a 1.5GHz dual-core CPU and 1.5GB of RAM on the Galaxy Tab. However, he conveniently eliminates any real-world performance tests between the two products. A lot of that would be an iOS versus Android efficiency comparison, and it’s well known that the only workable way to deal with the laggard performance of Google’s mobile OS is to beat it down with more powerful hardware.

In order to make the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 appear to offer usable storage than the iPad mini, the author cites the fact that the former has a microSD expansion slot. OK, that’s a nice feature, but Apple does have iCloud to help reduce the need for onboard storage. The author doesn’t seem to know iCloud exists, or maybe that fact is conveniently ignored.

Factor number three is pixel density. Neither tablet has a Retina or HD display. The 7.9-inch iPad mini’s pixel density is “only” 162 ppi, whereas the Tab 3 8.0 has 189 ppi. Not mentioned is whether that makes any visible difference at all in the real world. Does the blogger have golden eyes that perceive even tiny pixel density changes? As a practical matter, I have compared the significantly higher advertised density of the Samsung Galaxy S4 with an iPhone 5, and there’s no comparison. Text on the iPhone looks sharper, and you cannot see the individual pixels. That’s not the case with the Galaxy S4. Worse, the Galaxy S4 does not strike me as noticeably sharper than the Galaxy S3, which has a pixel density very close to the iPhone’s.

What’s the good of advertising a spec if regular people can’t see the results, or can see it only if they strain real hard?

You’ll notice that screen real estate between the Tab 3 8.0 and the iPad mini is not mentioned. The mini has standard definition, whereas the Samsung is widescreen. What this means is that there are more square inches on the iPad, which comes into its own when you are using it in the landscape mode and want to visit a Web site as opposed to just streaming a widescreen movie.

And what about the overall user experience? How fast does the iPad feel in regular use compared to the Tab 3 8.0? How well do each handle apps? What about the App Store collection of tablet-optimized software compared to what’s available at Google Play? Here’s where the rubber meets the road, because App Store developers have, by and large, actually given thought to making their apps take good advantage of a larger display. Android apps are usually just scaled up to make them tablet compatible. That “cheap out” approach clearly offers a subpar user experience.

Now a real comparison might include an Android tablet with an HD display, such as the newest Nexus 7. Unfortunately, the Nexus 7 has been afflicted with a number of serious bugs, including touch display issues that, according to CR, causes it to go “crazy,” and a defective GPS. CR, which usually adores an Android tablet, is warning people not to buy one until Google fixes the most serious problems.

Indeed, Google has already pushed an update to the Nexus 7, but time will tell whether the software fixer-upper does the trick or whether more work needs to be done. In passing, the original Nexus 7, released in 2012, is notorious for early failures of one sort or another. You can bet that if Apple dared release an iPad or an iPhone in that condition, they’d never hear the end of it.

Aside from a handful of stories, Google seems to have gotten a pass, and this will all soon be forgotten. Pretty much the same thing happened a few years back when Microsoft sold millions of Xbox gaming consoles susceptible to early and serious hardware failures. Yes, they fixed them all, but consider the inconvenience to the customers.