Google’s Nexus 7 gives iPad Mini run for its money

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Google’s Nexus 7 gives iPad Mini run for its money

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The new Nexus 7 tablet, left, is shown next to an older version during a Google event on July 24 in San Francisco. [AP/NEWSIS]

When it comes to technology, we’ve been trained to expect more for less. Devices get more powerful each year, while prices stay the same or drop. With the new Nexus 7 tablet, Google hopes we’re willing to pay more for more.

The new tablet comes with a $30 price increase over last year’s model. At $229 for the base model, it is still a bargain - and 30 percent cheaper than Apple’s $329 iPad Mini. The display is sharper and the sound is richer than the old model. There’s now a rear camera for taking snapshots. The new Nexus 7 is the first device to ship with Android 4.3, which lets you create profiles to limit what your kids can do on your tablet when you’re not around.

Amazon.com’s $199 Kindle Fire HD is cheaper, but it doesn’t give you full access to the growing library of Android apps for playing games, checking the weather, tracking flights, reading the news and more. The Nexus 7 does.

It’s a fine complement to your smartphone if it’s running Google’s Android, the dominant operating system on phones these days - even as Apple commands the market for tablet computers with its full-size iPad and iPad Mini. Unless you tell it not to, apps you use on the phone will automatically appear on the Nexus 7, so you can switch from device to device seamlessly. When you are signed in, bookmarks will also transfer over from Google’s Chrome Web browser, as will favorite places on Google Maps.

If you were already looking at last year’s Nexus 7 model, then go ahead and pay $30 more for the latest.

Although screen dimensions are identical, the new Nexus 7 has a higher pixel density, at 323 pixels per inch compared with 216 on the old model.

Sound is much better with speakers on the left and the right side of the tablet, held horizontally. Although they are technically back facing, the speakers are placed along a curved edge in such a way that sound seems to project outward and not away from you.

The new Nexus 7 also feels more comfortable. It’s 17 percent thinner and 5 percent narrower. The old model was a tad too wide to grip comfortably.

The new Nexus ships with a camera app, something last year’s model didn’t really need because it had only a front-facing camera, for videoconferencing. With the new rear, 5-megapixel camera, you can take photos and video of what’s in front of you.

As for the restricted profiles that come with Android 4.3, it’s a good idea, though it still has kinks. When you set up a profile for your kid, you pick which apps to enable. Don’t want your kid to be surfing the Web unrestricted? Then keep the Chrome browser disabled. Don’t want him or her on Facebook? Keep that app disabled, too. The app store is also disabled. If you do allow access to a particular app, though, then it’s full access. There’s no filtering to block adult Web sites and other questionable material, for instance.

And although the new tablet is the first to ship with Android 4.3, it’s available to download on other devices, including last year’s Nexus 7.

What the new tablet does offer is the promise of a longer battery life - up to 10 hours for Web surfing and nine hours for video streaming. Last year’s model was rated at eight hours.

There’s no question the new model is better and worth the price increase.

Choosing between the new Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini is tougher.

If you already have an iPhone, the iPad Mini will be a nice complement. You won’t have to buy music, video and apps twice, for instance. You might want to wait until this fall, though, to see whether Apple comes out with a new model.

It’s a tougher call if you have an Android phone.

By volume, the two systems have a comparable number of apps. But I’ve found that many larger app developers have made versions only for the iPhone and the iPad.

Android is good in that many apps designed for a phone’s smaller screen are automatically adapted to take advantage of a tablet’s larger screen. On the iPad, apps that aren’t optimized for it are squeezed into a smaller window the size of an iPhone. Blow it up to full screen, and it looks distorted. Having apps automatically change their layout isn’t the same as designing them for the tablet from scratch, as is the case with the hundreds of thousands of apps optimized for the iPad.

The Nexus 7’s screen is much sharper than that on the iPad Mini, which has the non-HD display technology of the iPad 2 from 2011. AP



BY ANICK JESDANUN

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