While everyone waited on an iPad mini 2 with retina, Google and Asus went ahead and did one better. Presenting the new Nexus 7, an affordable 7-inch tablet with beefy specs and more pixels per inch than you can shake a 1080p jpeg at.
Whether you call it the Nexus 7 2 or just the Nexus 7, it hurdles right over the iPad mini in both parts and price. For just a little more money, it offers a lot more functionality than a Kindle Fire HD. It so surpasses the original Nexus 7 that Google has swept last year’s tablet under the rug; it seems to be retired from the Play Store altogether.
Internally, the new Nexus 7 packs a 1.5Ghz quad core processor, 2GB of RAM and comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage. Those models go for $229/£200 and $269/£240, and there’s also an LTE version selling for $300, but its fate in European markets seems unclear.
While microSD slots now feel like a relic of a bygone era, since neither Nexus nor Apple devices offer them, we have to bemoan storage space a bit here. The Android 4.3: Jelly Bean OS found on the Nexus 7 takes up a whopping 6GB. Our 32GB tablet came out of the box with 26GB available. Those planning to go for the 16GB model need to brace for having only 10GB to play with.
Still, no matter how you slice it, the Nexus 7 is a lot of great tablet hardware for the money, all packed in unassuming, plastic package. That pockmarked white rubber backing from the first Nexus 7 has been ditched, replaced with an all plastic black backing. It doesn’t feel as slick or look as premium as the metal backing of an iPad, but it’ll surely hold up against scratches better than Apple’s tablet.
Price separates the new Nexus 7 and the iPad mini, as do their different aspect ratios. Apple’s 7-inch tablet is 4:3, while the Nexus 7 is the more film friendly 16:9. So while the mini is wider, that extra screen space usually fills with black bars when watching movies or reading comics; not so with the new Nexus.
Not as wide as an iPad mini, the Nexus 7 is easier to hold in one hand. That, combined with its pixel dense 323 ppi display make it great for reading. Text is newspaper crisp, and so far we’ve seen it do an excellent job of regulating screen brightness, though we’re looking forward to testing it in direct sunlight.
The Nexus 7’s skinny design and cinematic aspect ratio does leave it with a ton of bezel. On a small 7-inch display, that feels like wasted space, but at 16:9, the device would need to widen in order to accommodate a taller screen, so it’s a bit of an impasse.
Although it leaked weeks ago, this new Nexus 7 is the debut device for Android 4.3, the latest iteration of Jelly Bean. It’s mostly minor tweaks, not the sort of major overhaul that comes with a new dessert name, like Key Lime Pie.
Among Android 4.3’s few notable new features you have separate user accounts. At the tablet’s lock screen, you’re able to choose from different profiles all with their own login pins. These accounts can be setup with restricted access, letting an admin user pick and choose which apps other accounts have access to. It’s a nice feature is you plan to share the tablet with a child.
In basic performance, the Nexus 7 is extremely snappy. Moving across home screens is like butter, and switching between apps is nearly instantaneous. The only hiccup we’ve seen is stuttering while scrolling in Chrome, something Android has never been able to iterate away.
The new Nexus 7 is poised to change the tablet game. It has a display and a price tag that puts the iPad mini to shame, and makes us wonder what’s in store for the redesigned Nexus 10.
This isn’t an open and shut case though. Conventional wisdom says that Apple still has the better tablet ecosystem, a claim we plan thoroughly investigate in our full review. We’re looking forward to seeing what in the Play Store has been optimized for 7-inch 1080p consumption.
And if we had to register a few complaints about the Nexus 7’s build, we have bring up all that bezel. We also think its pretty atrocious for Google to advertise a 16GB tablet that really only has 10GB available.
Affordable price tags have bought the Nexus 7 some leeway, but it’s no longer the dirt cheap option. Between Apple’s premium iPads and Amazon’s rock bottom Kindle Fire HD, is their room in the middle for a new Nexus 7?
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