Tired of watching in frustration as its popular Android mobile operating system failed to make much of a dent in the tablet market, Google GOOG -2.26% is stepping in next week with an Android tablet it helped design. It’s the Nexus 7, a $199 model with a 7-inch screen. And in my view, it’s a winner.
After testing the Nexus 7 for a couple of weeks, I consider it the best Android tablet I’ve used. It’s a serious alternative to both Apple‘s AAPL -1.26% larger $499 iPad and to a more direct rival: Amazon’s $199, Android-based, 7-inch Kindle Fire. I prefer the Nexus 7 to 7-inch models from Google partners like Samsung,005930.SE -0.80% whose comparable product costs $250.
The size and price advantages of the Nexus 7 are similar to those of the Kindle Fire, but the quality of the hardware and software in the new Google slate blows away those of the Fire. The latter is a chunky device that lacks a camera and microphone, and has a heavily modified version of Android, which can be sluggish. The Nexus 7 is a sleek, handsome tablet with a smooth, quick, new version of Android. In my test, the battery life of the Nexus 7 exceeded the Fire’s by a huge margin: nearly five hours.
The Google Nexus 7′s My Library home screen
Update July 2012:
I decided to return the device before my return period expired at Best Buy. As a Silver Premium member of Best Buy, we had 60 days rather than the standard 30 days to return it. I returned it for several reasons:
1. Too heavy to use for long periods of time. The bright screen was wonderful, but not worth the extra weight.
2. I still do most of my Kindle reading on my iPhone. It’s convenient, and I rarely have hours at a time to sit and read.
3. The browser and other features weren’t good enough to justify this as an iPad replacement.
4. The upcoming smaller iPad may be what I really need!
Update June 2012:
Still find myself reading Kindle books for short bursts on my iPhone because of the ease of carrying it around. When I have real time to read, then I use my Kindle Fire.
Don’t like the fact that when editing typos, I can’t move to a particular letter as I can with my iPhone, but have to delete the entire misspelled word.
Almost left it behind at the Delta Club in Atlanta. I’m not sure I’m going to take with with me when I travel anymore!
Update May 2012:
I received a Fire for my 50th birthday from my family.
Video and book downloads are very very fast on Wifi.
Audio could be louder, and while watching video changing volume requires being right on top of the audio slider control or the control vanishes.
No SiriusXM app; only Pandora.
Not sure the Kindle Fire doesn’t provide page numbers; rather, only location numbers when reading books.
Just received the Marware Lightweight Microshell Folio Cover ordered from Amazon. It fits like a glove and does just what it’s advertised to do: protect and provide a stand for viewing in landscape mode.
Here’s Walter Mossberg’s review of the Kindle Fire in the Wall Street Journal. I think I may now wait until the next generation of the Kindle comes out:
To be clear, the Kindle Fire is much less capable and versatile than the entry-level $499 iPad 2. It has a fraction of the apps, a smaller screen, much weaker battery life, a slower Web browser, half the internal storage and no cameras or microphone. It also has a rigid and somewhat frustrating user interface far less fluid than Apple’s.
But the Fire has some big things going for it. First, the $199 price, though the Fire’s seven-inch screen is less than half the surface area of the iPad’s display. Second, the Amazon and Kindle brands, already known and loved for e-readers and more. Third, Amazon is the only major tablet maker other than Apple with a large, famous, easy-to-use content ecosystem that sells music, video, books and periodicals. The Fire can be thought of as a hardware front end to all that cloud content.
When compared to the iPad 2, I suspect the Fire will appeal to people on a budget and to those who envision using the iPad mainly to consume content, as opposed to those who see the larger tablet as a partial laptop replacement. For instance, while the Fire has a decent Web browser and a rudimentary email program, it lacks basic built-in apps, such as a calendar, notepad or maps. However, for people primarily interested in reading books and periodicals, the Fire may seem too heavy and costly when compared with a low-end Kindle or Nook.
Original Post 9-28-11:
Okay, there is no way Karen is going to let me purchase any more electronics soon, given that I recently purchased a new Macbook Air. Nonetheless, bookworm that I am, and the fact that I already love my Kindle app on my iPhone and Kindle device, I’m wondering how I’ll be able to convince her that the new Amazon Kindle Fire is worth buying sometime. After all, I am 49 and reading all my books on the iPhone does induce eyestrain (iStrain?) after a while.
Perhaps when the inevitable Kindle Fire 3G comes out, coupled with Amazon’s new browser Silk, and the fact that Jack and I could then get rid of the iPad 3G data plan, I can show that the cost savings justify it. I’m open to suggestions!