Nexus 7 Review: Good Value, Even with Higher Price
At $229 for the base model of Google's Nexus 7 tablet, it is still a bargain -- and 30 percent cheaper than Apple's $329 iPad Mini. The Nexus 7 may lack the cachet and many of the apps that the iPad Mini has, but you'll be able to do a lot with it. The display is sharper and the sound is richer than the old model. There's now a rear camera.
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 porn 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. But that's not as glaring on the Mini as it is on the full-size iPad. And 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.