REVIEW: Google Nexus 7, better than iPad Mini or Kindle Fire HD?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

This year the Nexus 7 tablet went on a diet, got a new screen and a few new features but also got a slight bump in price.  At $229 it’s not the amazing deal that it used to be especially more low priced 7” tablets on the market.  Can it still hold the crown as the best 7” tablet?

Hardware

The Nexus 7, made by ASUS, is taller but not as wide and a bit slimmer than the first generation.  It also weighs less.  The 7” screen is 16:9 and there is dead space on the top and bottom (when holding vertical) so it feels very long.  It all makes sense when you start watching a video on it.  It’s designed to be held on the sides so you can watch a video horizontally.  The glass front is solid and so is the plastic back.  It feels like a well built piece of hardware.

The new screen is amazing.  It’s clear, crisp and bright.  Google calls it the sharpest 7”tablet screen ever and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true.  With an astonishing resolution of 1920×1200, it has 323 pixels per inch.  That’s geek speak for super uber clear.

Inside, Google beefed up the power with a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor.  One of the complaints of the previous Nexus 7 is that after a few upgrades it started to seem a big sluggish.  Inf act, I’ve heard more than one person complain about it.  That will NOT be a problem with this Nexus 7.  It screams with the new processor.  It also has a dedicated Adreno graphics processor that makes high-end 3D games super smooth.

The cameras on the front and back work well and look good but are nothing to write home about.  5 megapixels on the back and 1.2 megapixels on the front for video chatting.  They do their job but won’t replace the 10 megapixel shooter on most smartphones.

One of my favorite features in the Nexus 7 is the hardest to pronounce, Qi.  Wipe that crooked look off your face.  It’s pronounced, Chee.  It’s a wireless charging standard that is built into the back of the Nexus 7.  You can buy a Qi charging mat and simply place your Nexus 7 on it to start charging the tablet.  No cables, no tiny little plugs and no fumbling in the dark.  Google is starting to use this standard in a lot of its products and I’m thrilled to see it in the Nexus 7.  Wireless charging is the technology we should have all been using 5 years ago.  It’s been slow to gain traction but the time is finally coming.

Software

This is a Google Nexus device which means it runs pure Google Android.  You won’t find any special apps or interface enhancements on here, it’s Google Android exactly as the programmers at Google intended it to be.  It took a few years but Android has become a great tablet operating system.  If you use an Android smartphone, you’ll feel right at home.  The newest version included on the Nexus 7 has the ability to utilize multiple logins for sharing the tablet among family members.  You can even control access to certain apps and content so little Johnny only has access to the apps you want him to have access to.  Google Android is solid and the Nexus 7 is a device that helps Android shine.

Nexus 7 v iPad mini

An iPad will always be an iPad.  For that reason alone, people will gravitate to it for the same reason some people buy an iPhone simply because it’s an iPhone.  If you want an iPad, buy an iPad.  You won’t be happy with anything else.  If you’re open to other options, the Nexus 7 is an amazing small form factor tablet for a lot less money.

The screen on the iPad mini is bigger but it’s also 4:3 instead of 16:9.  That means when you’re watching widescreen TV or movies on your iPad you’ll have black bars on the top and bottom of the screen.  On the Nexus 7 it’ll fill the entire screen.  The Nexus 7 also feels a bit better in one hand because it’s skinnier than the iPad mini.

Feature for feature, the Nexus 7 and iPad mini are very comparable.  The Nexus 7 does have wireless charging that you won’t find on the iPad mini.

Bottom line is price and the Nexus 7 will save you a bunch of cash.  The 16GB iPad mini sells for $329 while the 16GB Nexus 7 is $100 less.  The iPad mini is awesome but I’m not sure I could ever justify spending an extra $100 even though the display is a big bigger.  For Apple fans, stick with the iPad but everyone else may want to save their money and consider the Nexus 7.

Nexus 7 v Kindle FireHD

Screen to screen, the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD have an almost identical sized screen but the Nexus 7 screen is much better.  It has a higher pixel density.  When I compared web pages on the screens, the newer Nexus 7 screen just looked so much better.  The Fire HD hardware is getting long in the tooth.  The Nexus 7 blows it away in most hardware specifications.  The Nexus 7 is $30 more than the Fire HD but it’s money well spent.

The Kindle Fire HD hardware is nearly a year old so it’s almost an unfair comparison.  Most technology insiders expect Amazon to update the Kindle Fire HD hardware before the end of the year.  As this review was being published Amazon announced a new line of Kindle Fire HDX tablets that will go on sale in October 2013.  The new Amazon Kindle HDX 7″ model is priced the same as the Nexus 7 and looks to have comparable hardware.  I hope to check it out once it is available.

Conclusion

Simply put, the Nexus 7 is my pick for the best 7” tablet on the market.  I wish they kept the price at $199 but the extra $30 won’t break the bank.  It has the speed, the build quality, the maturity of Android and an amazing screen to blow other 7” tablets out of the water.  If you’re an Apple fan you’ll probably still prefer the iPad mini but at $100 less it’s hard to say the Nexus 7 isn’t a better deal.  If you’re looking for a 7” tablet under $250, this is the only tablet you should consider right now.

The Nexus 7 tablet is available right now for $229 (16GB) and up.