Google announces Nexus 7 take 2, how does it measure up to iPad mini?

Google has just announced an update to their original, genre-defining Nexus 7 tablet, and it's the new Nexus 7. It doesn't radically change the formula, but the new Nexus 7 does take everything to the next generation, and the next level. Android Central's Andrew Martonik went hands on with the new Nexus 7 and here are his first impressions:

Starting with the build, the new Nexus 7 is thinner, narrower and about 50g lighter than the original. Bezels on the top and bottom remain large to help with usability, but the width has been reduced by over 6mm in total -- and you can tell instantly when wrapping your hand around it. Around the front, Google has upped the screen both in terms of resolution -- 1920x1200 now -- and overall quality. On the back, we're looking at a dual speaker setup with synthetic surround sound software to provide a more immersive experience. Up in the top left corner you'll find a 5-megapixel camera (nothing fancy here, just a camera) and a new, larger "Nexus" logo that runs vertically rather than horizontally when holding the tablet in portrait mode.

It's also updated on the inside with quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 16 or 32GB of storage and optional LTE connectivity, septaband for Europe and pentaband for North America.

I wasn't a huge fan of the original Nexus 7. I've owned one since launch and found the aspect ratio less to my liking (16:10 rather than Apple's 4:3), the hardware less than reliable (especially where the battery's concerned), and the software frustrating (updates fixed some stuff, broke other stuff.) However, it inarguably proved the small tablet form factor could be a winner, more so than either the BlackBerry Playbook or the Amazon Kindle Fire before it.

Then came the iPad mini, and while Apple didn't even try to beat Google on all the specs, they beat them on total package and experience, and massacred them on tablet-optimized apps. (Google, inexplicably and horrifically, went TVDPI for the original N7, something so bad even they recommended developers not use it, resulting in a mishmash of smartphone and tablet apps, frustrating designers and customers alike.)

So what lessons has Google learned since the iPad mini took over the small tablet market, and how does the new Nexus 7 compare?

As usual, new Android kills old Apple on specs. The 1920x1200 display is 1080p+ and far denser than the iPad mini's 1024x768 standard display. (A theoretical iPad mini Retina would be 2048x1536, but such a thing doesn't exist in the retail world yet.) The N7 is still 16:10 though, and while that works great for small devices, I'd argue it doesn't work great for tablets where portrait and landscape are equally important for content consumption, and tall and skinny isn't as traditionally comfortable.

LTE is a great upgrade for the Nexus 7. I barely used mine because I've come to need cellular networking on my tablets, so Wi-Fi only meant it spent more time collecting dust than being used while I was out and about. Quad-core is nice, but until someone explains what specifically the extra cores give me (video mirroring? what else?), I'm not getting excited about them. With a circa-2011 Apple A5 processor, the iPad mini manages to move just fine. Throw an Apple A6 or the upcoming A7 in there, and it'll fly.

The stereo, reportedly simulated surround-sound speakers, are where I start to want to rant about Apple again. The iPad mini was the first iOS device with stereo speakers, which in and of itself was not-too-little-but-really-kinda-late, but they were both at the bottom of the device, not really optimizing the potential. When you listen to what HTC is doing with Beats, you start to expect the inventor of the iPod to do better with sound.

As to the software, it's too early to tell how Android 4.3 will perform on the new Nexus 7. The original Nexus 7 perplexingly shipped without ubiquitous landscape support, and though that came in an update, most of the updates introduced glitches and performance issues all their own. The multitouch was never great, and the back button was random enough to be rage inducing. And the lack of proper tablet apps was an undeniable problem.

If Android 4.3 fixes the core user experience issues, great. If Google can fix the lack of tablet support among their developers, even better. Until then, Apple's going to keep crushing them with 375K iPad-optimized iOS apps. (And yeah, it really makes a difference.)

On the plus side, however, Android 4.3 on the new Nexus 7 looks to have fantastic support for multiple user accounts, which will no doubt be a boon to single device, multiple person households and businesses.

Ultimately, the new Nexus 7 is absolutely a better Nexus 7 than what came before, but it remains to be seen if it's a better tablet. The original Nexus 7 really was more of a big iPod touch that ran Android than a small tablet that ran tablet software. The new Nexus 7 has to prove it can transcend that, and become a real tablet device. Maybe it'll do it easily, at launch. If so, great.

Either way the ball's now in Apple's court again. We'll be getting a new iPad mini soon enough, but will it be Retina, will it be fall or spring, and what if any ground can the new Nexus 7 make up in the meantime?

Source: Android Central

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • While this might sound unrelated, I'm more interested in a change in the big iPad form factor or a Surface redesign than in new small tablets. The new Nexus 7 really brings nothing new to the table except better guts.
  • I like my iPad Mini well enough, but beyond having a display some triple the overall resolution of the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7 2 has quadruple the RAM, NFC, GPS on ALL models, wireless charging, HDMI-out, a much more one-hand-friendly form factor with a slip resistant coating, an exponentially more powerful SoC, and several other features lacking in the iPad Mini., NOT the least of which is a far more reasonable price. The iPad Mini's only appeal is that it supports Apple's rather plentiful (though redundant) app selection, otherwise it's not even close to matching the Nexus 7 2.
  • "tall and skinny isn't as traditionally comfortable". Really? You must be very unhappy with iPhone5 then. I wish there were any website which gave unbiased reviews; no matter which platform the device is on. Good and bad.
  • Did you miss the line "and while that works great for small devices...." or did you simply not understand it?
  • Reading for comprehension ;)
  • Rene, quad core can be really useful for graphic intensive games such as real racing, shadowgun, infinity blade, etc... Mobile games are advancing at a really fast space. We no longer have angry birds as gaming. Dues ex, x com, dead space... See a trend going on here. I think processing power is very important for tablets since they are better for gaming compared to playing on a tiny phone screen. Other than that we can do fine with what apple has currently in the iPad mini but they will have to step up since developers are now getting serious with mobile gaming. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's GPU though, right? iPad 3 and iPad 4 have quad core GPU. I'm curious about quad core for a CPU.
  • Oops I didn't read that. I thought you were referring to gpu. Well anyway, the iPad mini doesn't have quad core gpu does it? Apple only mentions it as an a5 dual processor. My point is that these 'mini tablets' need the beefy specs since mobile gaming on them is perfect due to the size and portability. Google nailed that with the nexus 7 specs. The iPad mini could use them as well. Now if only we could just get a retina display for the mini, it would be perfect. Sent from the iMore App
  • Not sure where you're coming from the the Nexus. My Nexus 7 bought at the off has performed fantastically. I have no issues with it at all. The aspect ratio fits my film watching. The playstore has enough apps to be useful but not so much as to confuse with pish. The software has been fawltless in my use. Yes the initial portait mode was a pain but that got fixed almost immediately so why is that been brought up? In fact the nexus has been a godsend as my ipod has basically died a death going from fully charged to empty in minutes and regularly shutting down without warnings. So I just don't get this overview of the Nexus. You must have gotten a duff example. Maybe you should have exchanged it for based on my experience I have been more than happy. As for the refresh. We not a huge leap. Not sure it warrants me upgrading but what really can we expect? Most tech companies upgrade thongs in this fashion after and initial release of a product. No doubt others will wet themselves at the thought of a retina scrèen or some other similar improvement. Except in Googles case some think it's a failure whereas in the case of others the positioning of earphone jacks is extrodinarly progressive.
  • It's brought up because it's indicative of the culture: Releasing the N7 without landscape support was a silly decision. Subsequent software updates fixed that, but broke other things. I'm hardly the only one who had issues with them either, many at Android Central complained angrily. Google wasn't in any rush to release the first N7, nor to update it, they could have gotten landscape done at launch, and made sure the update didn't mess it up. And saying it replaced your iPod was exactly my point; it was more iPod than iPad, more big phone than small tablet. I disagree about the update though. It's so cheap that I think people who love, love, love the N7 - and there are many - will be very interested in upgrading, especially for the screen.
  • From what Iaz said on Leo's Google Special the resolution is so high on the screen you can see FULL DESKTOP type web pages in landscape without any zooming. If that is not a killer feature than I don't know what is. I hate having to scroll around webpages and then zooming it. Just this alone would make it killer. Also I saw you commented about chromecast and how you think the Apple tv is better or offers more but remember this. Chromecast is an open device with SDK. It's going to be easy to add the support to apps and websites. No content deals needed. No walled garden. I also read the you can stream any chrome tab. Think HBO GO. Yes there is an app for Apple TV but this chromecast reports to websites as standard Google Chrome so to only way for any company (ABC, CBS, and so on) to block it like they did on Google TV is to block all Chrome browsers which means it's in the best interest to built in support for these content companies and they have the new DRM in Android 4.3 or people will just stream it to the TV in 720p High Quality. Also this fits in your pocket. You can carry this much easier anywhere. To your friends, hotel, and work. Since this is an open SDK this could be put into cars like apple is doing as a second screen too. Food for thought.
  • "The original Nexus 7 really was more of a big iPod touch that ran Android than a small tablet that ran tablet software. " ...What? Isn't that pretty much what every popular tablet is? Just a bigger version of the phone counterpart?