No, that title isn’t a typo! Sure, I’m the editor-in-chief of the #1 site for everything iPhone and iPad, but I’ve gotten my hands on Google’s brand new Nexus 7 tablet, running the all new Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system, and I aim to put it head-to-head, tablet-e-tablet against Apple’s new iPad.
And I’m starting with the traditional unboxing and some quick hardware impressions.
First of all, the interface on the Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean is, for the most part, gorgeous. It doesn’t look at all like iOS, and that’s refreshing. It’s filled with flat, high contrast colors and lines and the language works. The only downside is, it’s not consistent yet. I think Google decision to allow a mishmash of smartphone and tablet interface elements was the wrong one. Having beautiful, pixel perfect, tablet-specific apps would make the entire experience better.
It does feel like a stop-gap, however, and more an issue of time more than anything. The animations are much, much better as well, serving more as transitions the way they should, and not delays. Matias Duarte is definitely having an impact at Google.
The only issue I have with Chrome — and it’s really with Android in general — is that a) it can’t use elastic bounce-back effect that Apple’s patented, and that really does add to the experience of scrolling, and b) even with “Project Butter”, Jelly Bean physics still isn’t anywhere near the level of iOS, and the touch tracking still feels looser.
For many users this won’t be an issue at all. For me, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. Android 4.1 undoubtedly the best, most fluid android yet, but slapping on experience polish may simply not be an option. They may need to re-build core parts of the OS from the ground up.
Unlike iOS, the app launcher isn’t the main Home screen, but it available if you want to see all the apps that come with the Nexus 7. I really do miss having a Home button — I keep trying to hit it on the Nexus 7 only to find it’s not there! But what’s irking me the most is that, if I put the Nexus 7 to sleep or it goes to sleep on its own, when I wake it up, it often goes to a welcome screen instead of restarting where I left it. Not a great experience. If I can find a setting to change that, I will. If not, I hope Google fixes that behavior in an update.
The small, 7-inch form factor on the Nexus 7 is terrific. It’s light, you can hold it by its sides with one hand, and it can easily slip into and out of a jacket pocket. The size does come at a price. While it’s every bit as good for enjoying videos, books, websites, and games, the lack of screen real estate hurts it as a productivity device. I got a 13-inch MBA over an 11-inch MBA because, even though it’s not as ultra-portable, I want those pixels.
If I’m reading in bed and pass out, the lighter Nexus 7 will dent my face considerably less when it falls on me, but when I’m out without a laptop and need to get things done, I want the iPad.
If I had to line them up, a Nexus 7 is closer to a big, more functional phone where an iPad is closer to a small, less functional laptop.
With a 1280 x 800 display at 216dpi, the Nexus 7 isn’t as high resolution or as high density as the iPad’s 2048 x 1536 Retina display at 264 dpi, but they’re both IPS (in-plane switching) so they both have excellent viewing angles and both look fantastic for everyday use.
At times, the Nexus 7 feels like a front end to the Google Play store, much like the Kindle is a portal to the Amazon Store, but here I think Google’s “openy-ness” will make a big difference — It doesn’t feel anywhere nearly as locked in as Amazon.
The Nexus 7 is the best 7-inch tablet I’ve used so far. It’s not and iPad, and that’s a good thing. It fills a space, and a need, that the current iPad does not. In fact, it’s more like a big iPod touch than an small iPad, which is a good thing in this context.
Because I don’t think the rumored 7.85-inch iPad will be anything like that at all. It will be a small iPad, not a big iPod touch, and that will make them very different products. And that will make things even better for consumers, and more interesting for those of us who love gadgets in all shapes, sizes, and flavors.
Back with more on Monday when I’ve had a chance to user the Nexus 7, Jelly Bean, and Google Play some more.
Meanwhile, if you’re an Android Central expert, feel free to give me your best tips and tricks. I want to get the most out of the Nexus 7!
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