Head on: Is the Google Nexus 7 competing with the iPad?

A smaller screen suggests the Google Nexus 7 isn't an iPad competitor, but comparisons will be made
Head on: Is the Google Nexus 7 competing with the iPad?

A smaller screen suggests the Google Nexus 7 isn't an iPad competitor, but it's only natural that comparisons will be made.

In fact, the absence in Australia of the Nexus 7's main competitor, the Amazon Kindle Fire, means comparisons to the iPad will be rife Down Under.

Display

It's tough to compare the Google Nexus 7's display to the new iPad, purely because of the size difference. In opting for a smaller, 7in screen, Google is clearly targeting a slightly different market. The Nexus 7 is competing against Amazon's Kindle Fire rather than the iPad. However, the Kindle Fire isn't sold in Australia, which makes that comparison totally irrelevant Down Under.

The good news is that the Nexus 7's smaller 7in screen shouldn't mean a downsize in quality. The IPS panel has a very respectable resolution of 1280×800 which gives it a pixel density of 216 pixels per inch (ppi). This still leaves it behind the iPad (264ppi) but, critically, ahead of most other Android tablets on the market. A higher ppi should mean the Nexus 7 displays crisper and sharper text and much higher levels of detail than we've seen on most Android tablets to date.

The 7in screen size of the Google Nexus 7 has both positive and negative points. On one hand the smaller size means it's great for travelling and the lighter weight means it's easy to hold single handedly. This will be particularly useful for those who will use the Nexus 7 as an eReader. On the other hand though, the smaller screen means there's less room for Web browsing and gaming. These two features seem to benefit most from the iPad's larger screen real estate.

Design

The reaction to the Google Nexus 7 has largely been positive, even if Google has opted for what appears to be a plain looking design. We are yet to get our hands on the Nexus 7 to make a definitive judgement, but our US colleagues seemed pleased with the look and feel of the device. They liked the "grippy, rubberised back" and also commented favourably on the Nexus 7's light weight, which they say makes it easy to hold in one hand.

The Google Nexus 7 is slightly thicker (10.5mm) than the iPad but this shouldn't pose any real issues during general, day-to-day use. One design aspect that hasn't been mentioned too much is the pogo pins on the left side of the tablet. The four pins look similar to the ones on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone and will presumably allow the Nexus 7 to be charged with a compatible dock. The iPad has no such feature and needs to be charged using the standard Apple dock connector.

Software and content

The Google Nexus 7 is the first Android device to run the company's newest OS, Jelly Bean 4.1. The Jelly Bean platform is a minor upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, hence the version number jumping from 4.0 to 4.1, rather than leaping up to 5.0. The main feature of Android Jelly Bean is what Google calls "Project Butter", which centres around making the software faster and fluid. Google says using Jelly Bean feels a lot smoother than previous versions of the platform. New features include triple buffering graphics for a higher frame rate during games, offline voice typing, enhanced notifications that show more details and widgets that automatically resize when moved around the screen.

Most experts are pinning Google's content store as the main reason the Nexus 7 will succeed. The issue here is that this optimism centres largely around Google's movie, books, magazines and TV show content — all of which is severely limited in Australia compared to the US. At this stage Aussies can rent movies through the Google Play store and buy books, but that's about it. Australian consumers can't yet rent TV shows, buy movies or TV shows, or buy magazines. These features may eventually arrive Down Under but until they do, the Nexus 7 will be a little limited.

Apple's content through the iTunes store is also limited in Australia compared to the US, but Aussies can currently rent or buy movies and buy TV shows, in either SD or HD quality. The iPad also has an edge when it comes to apps — it has more apps than any other software platform, but more importantly, it has a large range of excellent, quality apps built specifically for a tablet device.

Cameras

This is a fairly easy comparison as the Google Nexus 7 doesn't have a rear camera. Its 1.2-megapixel front camera can only be used with video apps, not for taking still photos. We've never seen the real need for a rear facing camera on a tablet so we don't see the lack of camera as a real issue. There are some instances where it might be useful, but if it has been removed to keep the cost down we can live with that.

The iPad's camera features some of the same technology used in the iPhone 4S, but in a 5-megapixel lens with backside-illuminated sensor. It also doubles as a full HD 1080p video recorder. Images aren't as sharp or clear as the excellent camera on the iPhone 4S, but they are certainly good enough for small prints. The front-facing camera on the new iPad is a low-quality VGA snapper, so the Nexus 7 is likely to have the edge here.

Other features

The Google Nexus 7 is missing two features that could turn many potential buyers away. It has no memory card slot for extra storage and lacks 3G or 4G wireless connectivity. Google will argue that the rise of cloud storage solutions negates the need for expandable memory but we're not so sure. With only 8GB and 16GB models available and a lack of content in Google's Australia ecosystem, we suspect many users will fill their on-board storage quicker than Google might believe.

Interestingly, this isn't the first time Google has relied on internal memory only for its Nexus devices. The Google-branded but Samsung-built Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus smartphones both lacked removable storage. In this case the Nexus 7 bears an uncanny resemblance to the new iPad, though at least Apple offers 32GB and 64GB models in addition to an entry-level 16GB model to compensate.

The Google Nexus 7 tablet is powered by a 1.3Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 processor and comes with a GeForce 12-core GPU for gaming and other graphic intensive applications. The tablet has 1GB of RAM and also has built-in NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity, which isn't a feature of the iPad.

Google says the Nexus 7's 4325mAh battery will last up to nine hours for HD video playback and will offer 300 hours of standby time, though the specifications page quotes eight hours of "active use". That's two hours short of the iPad's 10 hour figure, but certainly nothing to turn up your nose at.

The Google Nexus 7 is available to pre-order in Australia through the Google Play store. It is priced at $249 for the 8GB version and $299 for the larger capacity 16GB model.

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More about: Amazon, Apple, eForce, Galaxy, Google, IPS, NFC, Samsung
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