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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  • designerfx - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    USB OTG is supported - just not in stock. If you root you can indeed get apps to work out USB OTG. Reply
  • secretmanofagent - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    This has actually been talked about previously on Anandtech by one of the authors:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6061/mhl-and-usbotg-...
    Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    He didn't test functionality once rooted tho, just speculated on it... Stickmount has since been proven to work and rooting Nexus devices is fairly easy, so this is an alternative for expandable storage for all but the most timid users. Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Yeah I bought this thing to use at work. It doesn't work with the open guest wifi. Really disappointing. I'm contemplating selling it off therefore.

    otherwise its great.
    Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    It will fail with numerous public guest wifi networks
    http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?can...

    Google has known about this issue and fails to correct it for 2 years now. Really painful. I own this item and cannot recommend it to anyone beacause it simply can't logon in many places I'd like to use it including airports, hospitals, etc etc
    Reply
  • edwpang - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Thank you for pointing out this issue. Reply
  • HJustin - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    No iTunes, no thanks. Reply
  • ssddaydream - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Troll much?
    If you need iTunes, then get AirSync and Doubletwist. It has been around for a quite a while. It works.
    Or get an Apple product. They have iTunes.
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Both of those as well as iSyncr and Kies are awful,amateurish and buggy and make you yearn for an iDevice. I sold my Galaxy 3 because it's support for actually playing music and even getting it on the phone in the first place seemed to bring me back to 2001 before I got my first iPod. No triple tap to rewind on remote, no easy way to get to the music controls when the phone display is off (like double tapping home), dragging and dropping locking the phone during transfer made something which was previously so extraordinarily basic and straighforward the bane of my life. The couple of people in my team that still have Android devices I asked about it just said that they also carried iPods with them for music. At this point I got fed up and sold it, then went back to the iPhone 4S which might not have a big screen and such a 'modern' customisable OS, but beats it in every other meaningful way including syncing everything I need between multiple iDevices and my Desktops-easily and actually having the apps which I want available. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I question the implicit suggestion that an ios device provides a perfectly smooth ui experience. Forgetting the universal stutter of navigating to the search screen, the system will certainly slow down/stutter under load. IOS is the best out there currently but it could be improved as illustrated above. Reply

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