Overnight, Google officially announced the its-not-quite-a-secret revision to the Nexus 7, offering plenty of power within a surprisingly affordable frame. But is it enough to make it the best tablet money can buy?
Today, you’re going to see lots and lots of comparison tables, comparing the 2013 iteration of the Nexus 7 — still called the Nexus 7 — with lots and lots of competing tablets. Look — here’s one now:
,Nexus 7 (2013),iPad Mini,Galaxy Tab 3 7
Screen Size,7 Inch,7.9 Inch,7 Inch
Processor,Qualcomm S4 Pro 1.5Ghz,Apple A5,1.2GHz Dual Core
Operating System,Android 4.3,iOS 6,Android 4.2
Storage,16/32GB,16/32/64GB,8GB + microSD
Pricing, From $US229, From $369 ,$249
On the surface, then, the Nexus 7 might seem like the obvious choice; it’s cheaper and more powerful in a number of areas than the iPad Mini, and while it’s only price competitive with the Galaxy Tab 3 product lines, it doesn’t have that whole silly locked-down-dock-only-for-Australians nonsense to contend with, along with the fact that being a Nexus product, it’ll see Google Android updates a fair sight quicker than most other Android products. In fact, if I were buying today (which I’ll get to shortly), I’d pretty much strike the Tab 3 out of contention. Sorry, Samsung, but you’ve been outmanoeuvred by Google on this one.
That leaves the Mini, and the choice is obvious, right?
Not neccessarily so. Firstly, there’s the issue of if I was buying today, which I cannot. Google’s launched the Nexus 7 in the US, but not here in Australia; that lead image is one from the Australian site, where you can sign up to let Google know you’re interested. After all, clearly, it wouldn’t know that you’d just searched for “Nexus 7” or visited its web page for the product or anything….
Ahem. Anyway, all you can do is offer an expression of interest. There’s no announced timeframe, so you can’t buy one just yet, unless you’re interested in going through a US reseller. That might not work out so badly on a costs basis, actually. The Australian dollar has dropped in recent months, leaving the smart money suggesting that the Nexus 7 will probably cost around $299 when it launches here. I’d love to be pleasantly surprised there, but I suspect it’s true, and at that kind of price point if you can get decent shipping terms a US unit might make sense.
But then there’s the actual experience. Processor figures (and even benchmarks) can give you nifty scores, but they can’t tell you what using an actual device is going to be like. This is somewhere that Google could have some level of control — it’s employing ASUS to make the 2013 Nexus 7, the same as the first generation model — but not the same level as Apple, where the control is end to end. Android’s come along nicely in terms of tablet apps, but it’s still fragmented. I’m probably going to catch flak for this, but I do think it’s true — and for what it’s worth, I’ve got both a Mini and first generation Nexus 7 in front of me as I type this — Android still lags badly behind iOS when it comes to tablet experiences. The software edges are rougher, the app crashes more frequent, and there’s more variety still to be found in iOS for tablets. That’s shifting over time, but it’s true.
I’m not writing the 2013 Nexus 7 off; indeed I’m keen to get my hands on one, to see where Google’s taking the Android tablet experience next. Equally, the pressure is on Apple to produce a compelling update to the iPad Mini that brings it more in line, especially with regards to screen resolution. But still, every time you see a comparison that’s just a chart of specifications, bear in mind that it’s not just specifications that matter. It’s how you use it — and how you can use it.