Google announced a slew of new products and updates to the Android operating system including the Nexus 7, a joint collaboration between Google and Asus. In addition to the new tablet, Google also introduced the world to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which includes a number of performance and functionality enhancements intended to improve the overall user experience.
At an entry price of $199, it’s hard not to compare the Nexus 7 to other 7″ Android tablets of similar prices such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. After all, all three of these devices are intended for content consumption, and all three operate some version of the Android OS.
The Nexus 7 isn’t intended to compete with the larger players in the Android tablet market. Offerings like the Sony Tablet S, Transformer Prime, and Galaxy Tab are primarily content creation devices, enabling the user to create and consume content with some level of ease. Even with higher price tags, these devices boast an extensive range of features that extend well beyond that of the three featured in this particular comparison.
When it comes to tablets, the screen is perhaps the first feature most people look at when considering a purchase. When it comes to these three tablets, the screens are dead even in terms of size. At 7″, the tablets can fit in a single hand with ease and don’t take up so much space as if to clutter most bags or hinder the user. All three of these models feature IPS (in-pane switching) as a feature of the display.
The Nexus 7 features a 1280×800 HD display with a pixel density of 216 pixels per inch (PPI). The display itself is backlit and made out of a scratch-resistant Corning glass. Under the glass is a 1.2MP front-facing camera which enables the user to take part in Google+ Hangouts and send/receive video calls using third-party VoIP programs such as Skype.
The Kindle Fire is fitted with a 1024×600 display with a pixel density of 169 PPI. The panel is Gorilla Glass, which is fifty times harder than plastic normally associated with budget tablets. The Kindle Fire’s screen is anti-glare coated, though it isn’t particularly easy to read in bright sunlight.
Like the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet also features a 1024×600 pixel 7″ display. A special lamination process promises a screen with reduced glare that can be read outdoors and indoors.
All three of these tablets have fairly impressive displays. The Kindle and Nook are both primarily associated with reading, and as such work rather well for backlit displays. With a higher pixel density, the Nexus 7 is a tough tablet to beat. Among the three, it’s the only tablet capable of playing 720p video at full resolution.
Edge: Nexus 7
Size and Weight
In the world of tablet computers, size and weight is an important specification to focus on. If a tablet computer is too heavy, it may prove difficult to hold for an extended period of time. If it’s too large, it won’t fit in as many places. Small tablets such as the ones we’re reviewing here thrive on being small enough to fit in a cargo pants pocket and light enough to be held for an hour or more while reading.
The Nexus 7 weighs in at just 12 ounces. This makes it the lightest tablet of the three, and that’s fairly impressive given the amount of power packed into it. In addition to being over two ounces lighter than the rest of the pack, the Nexus 7 is also the thinnest of the bunch at just 7.81″ x 4.72″ x 0.41″.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire may be the heaviest of the bunch by 0.5 ounces (14.6 ounces total), but it does have a slight advantage in height. Even still, this isn’t exactly a bulky tablet. The Kindle Fire feels quite compact in hand. Its actual measurements are 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″.
The Nook Tablet is perhaps the least impressive of the bunch in size, and it falls in the middle of the three in terms of weight. At 14.1 ounces, it’s still light enough to be comfortable to read from for an hour or more. The Nook’s exact measurements are 8.1″ x 5.0″ x 0.48″.
Edge: Nexus 7
Memory and Storage
How much a tablet can store can make a big difference in what you can and can’t do with the post-PC device. If you can fit all the apps and content you enjoy throughout the day on the device itself, it practically eliminates the need to sync it with a local PC. Cloud storage is also a factor, though each of the three tablets featured in this article have some form of cloud storage available to its users.
RAM is also a big factor. Not only does it help determine how much you can run at one time, but how quickly those apps bring up frequently used information. Some advanced programs, such as video editors and games, require more RAM than others.
The Nexus 7 comes in two flavors. You can pick up one with 8 GB of storage for $199 and 16 GB for $249. In addition, the Nexus features 1 GB of RAM. This makes it the tablet with the most RAM out of the three.
Both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet feature 512 MB of RAM (half that of the Nexus 7), but the Nook is available on both 8 GB and 16 GB capacities. The Kindle Fire is stuck with just 8 GB of storage space (6 GB is available for user content). What really makes the Nook Tablet shine is an additional 32 GB of storage capacity made possible by a microSD slot.
Edge: Nexus 7 (RAM) Nook Tablet (Storage)
This is one area where the advantage is pretty cut and dried. The Nexus 7 contains a quad-core Tegra 3 processor running at 1 GHz while the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are both running dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 CPUs. Both processors pack a punch, but when you combine this with the 12-core graphics unit and the advanced computational efficiency of the Tegra 3, there really is no contest.
Edge: Nexus 7
Battery life is important, especially with a tablet that is made to be carried around with you throughout the day. The Nexus 7 features a 4325 mAh battery and boasts up to eight hours of active use (300 hours of stand-by).
The Kindle Fire advertises a similar battery life at about 7.5 hours, with extended use possible depending on which apps you run and whether or not the radio is turned off.
In this pack, the Nook Tablet has the advantage with an advertised 11.5 hours of reading and nine hours of video playback. In real-world terms, this means it could go six to nine hours between charges with constant use.
Edge: Nook Tablet
Google’s Nexus 7 is running the latest version of the Android operating system, 4.1 Jelly Bean. That makes it the first tablet to adopt the latest version of the OS which includes the resulting efficiency from Project Butter.
Both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet operate on a forked version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. The Nook, however, can be run from other versions of Android using a microSD card.
Edge: Nexus 7
In terms of wireless connectivity, all three tablets include Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n capability. The big difference between the three is the addition of Bluetooth on the Nexus 7. This allows external devices like storage drives, speakers, and headsets.
Edge: Nexus 7
All of these devices have a set of extra features that add value to the purchase. Some of the stand-out extras include the Amazon Silk Browser made for the Kindle Fire that boasts faster page loading through cloud-assisted rendering, NFC technology through Android Beam on the Nexus 7, and a microphone for children’s book narration on the Nook Tablet.
If I had to pick one with the most extensive extra feature list, it would have to be the Nexus 7. A built-in GPS, accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, and microphone make it one of the most well-rounded tablets in the budget range.
Edge: Nexus 7
It’s easy to see how the Nexus 7 poses a clear and present danger to the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet’s dominance over the budget tablet market. Without a doubt, it delivers the most bang for the consumer buck in terms of processing power and capability. It is also the only true Android experience available to users right out of the box, giving the power of Jelly Bean to the user in a way forked versions of Android can’t really do.
For the time being, I don’t see any reason why anyone should invest $200 in either of these competitors over the Nexus 7. This may change, however, as Amazon and Barnes & Noble unveil their next generation of tablets.