The debut of the Google Nexus 7 to the 7" tablet market last month caused quite a stir, as the spiffy slate was positioned to aggressively compete with the ever-popular Amazon Kindle Fire. Now that the dust has settled from that announcement, here's how the Nexus 7 stacks up.
Google Enters the Growing 7" Tablet Market
While Apple has essentially secured a monopoly on the "full" tablet market (10" tablets that hover around $500), there are a number of non-Apple devices burning up the "mini" tablet market (roughly 7" tablets with about a $200 price tag).
Both the Kindle Fire and NOOK Color have proven to be popular media devices, but they've also inspired a secondary market of easy workaround hacks that transform them into full-functioning Android tablets. These workarounds highlight pent-up consumer demand for cheap, full-capacity bite-sized tablets. Samsung's 7" Galaxy Plus attempted to fill the void earlier this year, but was largely met with a wave of meh. Meanwhile, the fevered Apple rumor mill is alive with buzz about how the kids from Cupertino will be releasing an "iPad Mini" before the end of the year. This alleged tablet will boast 7" to 8" screen and a "significantly" smaller price making it a yet another formidable competitor in the tablet market.
But leapfrogging over all the hype associated with an iPad Mini is Google's Nexus 7 tablet, a device that unlike so many other Google gadgets has earned genuine critical accolades.
An Improved OS and a Still-Flawed Touch-typing ExperienceBuilt in partnership with ASUS, the 7" Nexus tablet is the first of any size to be Jelly Bean-powered (aka Android 4.1 OS). Most reviewers have commented that the new OS is an improvement over previous versions, and offers a greatly improved overall feel and experience with "faster app switching (multitasking), frame rates, and animations." TechCrunch's Peter Ha goes on to say that the touch responsiveness has also seen an overhaul from past iterations of Android, and notes that it tracks more accurately.
To this end, Google has lauded Jelly Bean's improved typing ability via the Nexus 7 — a sour point for touchscreen UI's on the whole, and on Android devices in particular. One CNET reviewer states that typing on the Nexus 7 tablet "is an improvement over [other] Android tablets." Still, even in landscape view a 7" tablet doesn't offer a laptop (or even iPad) typing experience, as Ars Technica opined. "It's too bad Google can't appropriate the iPad's ability to split the keyboard to make it closer to the user's two thumbs in landscape. As it is, landscape typing on a 7" screen still creates a lot of strain (10-finger typing is, of course, right out)."
The Nexus 7 Provides a Lot for $200When it comes to hardware, many consumers will be disappointed in the Nexus 7's lack of a back-facing camera, upgradeable storage, and HDMI connectivity, as well as the fact that the device is WiFi-only (though it does come with Bluetooth and NFC capabilities). But this lack of features is how a $200 tablet still manages to stuff in a beefy quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM, and a quality 1280x800p display, which CNET notes provides visuals that were sharper than on most other 7" tablets.
While individual reviewers can mourn the specific lack of this and how that can be improved, most were quite generous in their overall review of the Nexus 7. TechCrunch's Apple-centric columnist MG Siegler gushed: "Normally when I get to review a non-Apple product, I have to force myself to use it to get a sense of how I might use it in the real world. But with the Nexus 7, I actually find myself wanting to use it. That point can't be overstated. I actually want to use an Android device. It's a brave new world." Meanwhile, TC's Peter Ha said that the Nexus 7 is "arguably the first real Android tablet to date" — that emphasis is his. And the title of Gizmodo's review of the Nexus 7? "The New Best Way to Spend 200 Bucks."
Overall, the Nexus is striking reviewers as not only one of the best buys in the mini tablets category, but one of the best tablets on the whole.
Front page photo credit: Forbes