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Alan Zisman on the Mac

Google Nexus 7 Tablet More Than a Match for Larger iPad

- 2012.08.29 - Tip Jar

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Back in 2010, Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs suggested that no one wanted a 7" tablet - Apple's iPad has a 10" (9.7" to be precise) screen. His reasoning - 7" was too large to fit in a pocket like a mobile phone but too small for more data-rich tablet apps.

And none of that first generation of non-iPad tablets sold particularly well.

Google Nexus 7 tablet
Google's 7" Nexus 7 tablet

Google wants to prove Jobs wrong. Its new Nexus 7 tablet, manufactured for Google by ASUS and powered by Google's new Jelly Bean Android 4.1 mobile operating system, has a 7" display and an attractive price: Can$209 with 8 GB of storage, Can$259 for a 16 GB model.

The low prices don't equal low-end specifications.

Apps open quickly, screens display smoothly, and links and special effects run without a hitch - which was not the case on other Android tablets I've tested. Google claims a goal developing Jelly Bean was to make Android feel "buttery". It has succeeded. It's only useful, though, if there are apps for it. Apple boasts a huge library of tablet-optimized apps, while relatively few Android apps have been designed for tablet use.

But the 7" screen of the Nexus works to its advantage in this case: Android apps designed for mobile phone screens work just fine.

The 7" screen is easier to type on than phone screens, but not as touch typing-friendly as the larger iPad. I type with all my fingers on an iPad; here it's back to two fingers.

The smaller size works well for ebooks - perhaps better than the larger iPad. You can hold it in one hand and fit it into a large pocket. Battery life is at least the equal of the iPad, about 10 hours. Like Android mobile phones, the Nexus 7 is integrated into Google's collection of online services. You can use it without being plugged into Gmail and the like, and it supports businesslike Microsoft Exchange servers.

Some negatives: Like an iPad, there is no option to increase storage with a memory card. The much more expensive iPads offer between 16 and 64 GB of storage compared with a choice of just 8 GB and 16 GB for the Nexus 7. iPads have WiFi only and WiFi plus mobile wireless options; the Nexus 7 is WiFi only. There's no back-mounted camera, just a low-resolution front camera for video. A big minus for some users - no video output connection, so no easy way to display a presentation.

Like the iPad, there's no Flash support.

But overall, I like it a lot. I've been using it regularly for email, social networking, and web browsing, and it makes going back to my laptop feel like driving a truck - something that's useful for the heavy hauling.

My iPad now feels like the family sedan. But most of the time I'd rather use the affordable Nexus 7, which feels more like driving a peppy sports car for most of my city driving. LEM

First published in Business in Vancouver's High Tech Office column on August 28, 2012.

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Alan Zisman is Mac-using teacher and technology writer based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Many of his articles are available on his website, www.zisman.ca. If you find Alan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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