Android 4.1

In the process of working on the Nexus 7 review I dusted off (literally) my Kindle Fire, powered it up and checked for updates expecting to find tons. I found none. The Kindle Fire is still running 6.3.1, released a few months ago, and more importantly it's still relying on the CPU for a lot of drawing, which means the UI isn't smooth. Scrolling in Amazon's Silk Browser is fast, but only because the Kindle Fire drops a lot of animation frames. The experience is jarring, and much better on the Nexus 7 by comparison.

While the Kindle Fire's OS looks like a polished, previous generation of Android, Android 4.1 delivers much of the smoothness of the iPad's iOS. Don't get me wrong, there are still some rough edges and hiccups. Project butter or not, Android 4.1's UI performance is still not perfect, but it's nearly so, and it's miles better than the Kindle Fire.


Nexus 7 running Kindle for Android (left) vs. Kindle Fire (right)

The Kindle Fire's carousel of previously used apps and media is smooth, but browsing the web on it is a mess compared to the Nexus 7. What's even more embarrassing for the Fire is even the Kindle app on the Nexus 7 delivers a smoother experience. Couple that with a warmer display and you actually have a better Kindle in the Nexus 7 than with Amazon's own device. When the Kindle Fire was released, its imperfections were easily overlooked since the Fire was so much better than any prior $199 tablets. The Nexus 7 dramatically raised the bar in the experience department.

Even compared to the Transformer Pad Infinity, the Nexus 7 feels faster thanks to UI speed improvements in Jelly Bean. The entire OS feels snappier, despite running on technically slower hardware.

What sets a tablet apart from a smartphone isn't just physical size, but also applications that take advantage of the size/resolution. Google attempts to deliver this with giant widgets that serve as portals to your content. The My Library widget automatically populates itself with books, magazines and movies you've purchased from the Google Play store. The result is quite impressive:

Start adding more conventional shortcuts to your home screen and the illusion quickly collapses, but I do believe the well laid out main home screen is what Google originally intended with widgets on Android.

As an eReader I'd argue the Nexus 7 is at least as good as the Kindle Fire. You can debate the pros/cons of books from Google Play vs. Amazon's Kindle store, but the fact is that both are available on the Nexus 7. The Kindle app for Android works well (as I've already mentioned), although for actual shopping you'll have to use Amazon's website. A small price to pay for a much better tablet experience everywhere else.

In all honesty, that's what you really give up when picking the Nexus 7 over the Kindle Fire - you lose the tightly integrated Amazon shopping experience. You also lose Amazon's video streaming service, which presently doesn't have an Android client.

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  • ericore - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Assuming the price is 299 for the entry 16 GB version of Nexus 10, I will only buy it under the following conditions:

    -storage option
    -2GB Ram
    -Preloaded with Ubuntu (duel boot)
    -Option to load other distros in its place

    Linux complements Android very well and fills a lot of the gaps.
    It would be a smart move on Google's part.
    It would be my move.
    Reply
  • richough3 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I would be tempted to buy this but the lack of decent speakers on a tablet like this is one of the deal killers for me. The other one is the lack of an SD card slot. Sure, it's up to preference, but the way I see it is more and more ISPs are moving to tiered services, so to do everything across the cloud will cost more. Reply
  • Chesher - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Nexus 7 has bluetooth - Kindle Fire does not.

    So, I can use Google Play with my bluetooth speakers with my Nexus 7.

    Just wanted to mention this - because this is a big deal.
    Reply
  • tssynergy - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    Moore's law is in full effect in the tablet world. Given the recent technological progress in components and the slew of new hardware about to hit the streets, I think the differences in the actual devices will become narrow to the point of being insignificant (excluding Windows RT/8, primary computing tablets for now). The key differentiation, in my opinion, lays in the various ecosystems. iTunes vs. Amazon vs. Google Play is where the battle will be won or lost. Sustainable competitive advantage on hardware will be short lived to non existent. Reply
  • ssddaydream - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    While I agree for the larger portion of the market, I think the enthusiast market cannot be ignored. There will always be those who want the absolute best hardware and will just load up AOSP/AOKP. I think the enthusiast market will find a way to bring multi-platform support to their device. Reply
  • Diogenes5 - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Anyone that thinks Windows 8 Tablets will be competitive at all are fooling themselves. People use Windows devices because they have to, not because they want to. i5/i7-based designs don't offer the kind of battery life and form factor needed for what people have come to expect in the storage space and Tegra 3/ARM based windows 8 tablets offer nothing more hardware wise than current tablets.

    That leaves only the GUI and OS as the differentiating factor between Windows Tablets and Current Tablets. Do people really think that Windows 8 will offer anything near the experience of current android and iOS tablets? Everyone using the RC (including me) is underwhelmed. This is the same Microsoft that produced tablet laptop's for years that nobody bought. Thanks but no thanks, Windows 8 will be a laughingstock just like windows phone.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Monday, July 30, 2012 - link

    Another troll..
    all you provide are your opinions and you think they're a reflection of the majority.

    "People use Windows devices because they have to.." plenty of other OS out there if you don't like windows. And guess what? a lot of people do like it.

    "Do people really think that Windows 8 will offer anything near the experience of current android and iOS tablets?" Euh yeah it will, how about proper compatibility and seamless transition between your pc and your tablet for a start?
    I'm a New Ipad owner, and i find the OS very limiting. Awaiting a windows tablet.

    "Everyone using the RC (including me) is underwhelmed.." have you used it in a tablet environment? thought so.

    "Thanks but no thanks, Windows 8 will be a laughingstock just like windows phone". Of course, you'd know that already.
    Reply
  • shaolin95 - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    I was very happy when I saw this tablet first until I read about not SD card options...totally killed it for me...very lame. Reply
  • bertiebond - Monday, July 30, 2012 - link

    but the samsung tab 7.0 (p1000) i use has 3G, has micro SD slot.

    7inch is perfect size for on the go, emergency phone in a pinch, read comics, books, films.

    Nexus, much better hardware specs all round, but critically crippled for what you actually want to use it for.
    Shame really. Samsung sucks with OS upgrades, you have to root it just to get ICS, nevermind jellybean!
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    " In every sense outside of portability, a 10-inch display is much nicer to look at than a 7-inch one in my opinion. There's less zooming in you need to do on web pages or magazines. Text in general is just easier to read and perhaps I'm getting too old, but there's something nice about everything being comfortably bigger.
    Read more at http://www.anandtech.com/show/6073/the-google-nexu...
    "

    really, anand, really?
    would you say the 17 inch notebook is much nicer to look at than 12 inch one?

    my company laptop is a pain in the ass 17 inch dream color elitebook, but i find myself using 12 inch thinpad x unless i absolutely have to do use the company laptop. it is not always the bigger the better.

    with that said, i have both ipad 3 and nexus 7, and my experience has been entirely different from yours. the ipad3 is way to heavy as a tablet, and if i have to use a dedicate carrying device, i find myself using 12 inch laptop most of time. the nexus 7, however, is so light (which you should really focus more in the review IMHO) and allow you to use to use it like a tablet. it also magically fit in all my pants and as someone who travels 70% of time, this is a god send.

    apple is making a big mistake not to release the mini ipad, and now the market is taken.
    Reply

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