With the announcement of Google’s Nexus 7, the tablet market just got another major player alongside Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Apple’s new iPad. These three devices are the ones you’re most likely to be choosing from when you’re looking to buy a tablet. We’ll show you what sets each apart so you can decide which is best for you.
The newest of the three, Google’s Nexus 7 runs the company’s Android operating system. There are dozens of other tablets that do too, but this is the only one from Google. This means a couple of things. For one, it’s the first tablet that runs Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, the latest version of Google’s software. It also provides a “pure” Android experience, as compared to some other tablets that run their manufacturers’ own interfaces on top of Google’s. Essentially, the Nexus 7 is Android as Google intended it to look, feel, and function (be sure to check out the Nexus 7 eye candy in our gallery).
The Nexus 7 is a small tablet, featuring a 7-inch, 1280 x 800 resolution screen, a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, and NFC for mobile payments. It packs some decent muscle with a quad-core processor and a 12-core graphics chip, making it formidable at tasks such as gaming. Its price is also worth noting: $199 for a version with 8GB of storage and $249 for a 16GB model, both of which are wifi-only. The tablet comes with preinstalled Google apps such as Maps, Gmail, and Chrome, along with free movies, music, and books. For a limited time, you can get $25 in Google Play credit if you buy a tablet.
The Nexus 7 is available for purchase directly from Google and will ship in mid-July.
Released in November 2011, the Kindle Fire is Amazon’s first full-featured tablet. It’s comparable to the Nexus 7 in size; both tablets sport 7-inch screens and have roughly similar shapes and weights. The Fire’s screen has a lower resolution, at 1024 x 600 pixels, and it also has a slower processor. But the most significant differences between the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 are their operating systems and software features.
The Kindle Fire runs a custom version of Google’s software that bears little similarity to what you’ll see on other Android tablets. Its interface has been designed to capture the look and feel of shelves rather than rows of same-sized icons, and it features its own email, web browser, and other apps.
Unlike the Nexus 7, which gets its content from the Google Play service, the Kindle Fire is meant to get apps, movies, music, and books directly from Amazon. It ties directly in to your Amazon account, making it especially attractive if you buy a lot of titles from Amazon or use Amazon Prime but less so if you want access to a large variety of apps. It’s priced similarly to the Nexus 7 at $199 for a model with 8GB of storage. The Kindle Fire is also wifi-only.
Amazon sells the Kindle Fire directly, but it’s also available from retailers such as Target and Best Buy.
The largest and most technologically advanced tablet of the three, Apple’s iPad is also the most expensive. The latest version, simply called the new iPad, has a 9.7-inch screen with a very sharp 2048 x 1536 resolution, also known as a Retina display. The iPad’s most significant distinction is the fact that it runs Apple’s own operating system, iOS, which offers different functionality and apps than Android. In general, the iPad is considered to be more user-friendly than pure Android tablets like the Nexus 7, and the App Store offers more apps than Amazon’s or Google Play.
In addition to its larger size, the iPad has additional hardware features such as a 5-megapixel camera on the back (it has a front-facing camera like the Nexus 7, too) that allows for HD video recording. The iPad’s wifi-only model starts at $499 for 16GB of storage and goes to $699 for 64GB. Unlike the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire, the iPad is available in models that offer 4G wireless connectivity, priced from $629 for 16GB to $829 for 64GB.
Apple also sells older iPad models. The iPad 2 features a lower-resolution screen, slower processor, and 0.7-megapixel back camera. But models cost $100 less than the new iPad, with the 16GB wifi-only model going for $399 and the 16GB version with 3G wireless internet going for $529.
Which is right for you?
The Nexus 7 is a good choice if you’re testing the tablet waters, since it offers a good selection of games and apps coupled with Google’s own familiar programs at a very attractive price. The Kindle Fire is best for those who want a low-priced tablet for books, movies, and music, but don’t necessarily care about having access to a large number of apps. For those who want the pinnacle of current tablet tech and the largest selection of apps — particularly games — the new iPad is the way to go, but you’re going to have to be seriously committed to the tablet lifestyle to justify the relatively higher price tag.
Randy Nelson writes for Tecca. Randy has spent most of his waking life since the age of five playing video games, and the last 14 years writing about them professionally. In the rare moment he’s not playing or writing about games, he can be found checking out the latest iOS apps, streaming inappropriate amounts of TV and movies, and obsessing over his home theater settings. Randy has written for IGN, Next Generation, Official Dreamcast Magazine, PSM, and Joystiq. He also loves cats. Tecca is a next-generation personal electronics information and shopping service. We bring together the web’s leading content, commerce, and community features to provide comprehensive solutions for consumers’ ever-growing technology needs. Think of us as that tech savvy friend who helps you when you have questions about what to buy, what to pay, how to make the most of you already have, and when it’s time to upgrade. Get to know us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.