Google Nexus 7: Small Tablet To Beat

Google announced the second-generation Nexus 7 tablet Wednesday with a low price and high-definition 7-inch screen, raising the standard for small Android tablets.
Tablet Buying Demystified: 10 Tips
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Tablet Buying Demystified: 10 Tips
Google on Wednesday announced an updated Nexus 7 tablet that boosts specs and features across the board. The low-cost 7-inch tablet, which goes on sale as soon as July 30, furthers Google's attempt at being a relevant hardware company.

Google didn't change much about the Nexus 7's cosmetic design. It is about the same size and shape as before, although Google says it is about 6mm narrower thanks to thinner framing. It is about 1.76 ounces lighter. Google's Hugo Barra said the new tablet is much more comfortable to hold due to the thinner and lighter profile. It will be sold in all black and features the same soft-touch finish that adorned the first version. It is being manufactured for Google by Asus.

The Nexus 7's defining feature is a new screen. It has been dramatically improved from 1280 by 800 pixels to 1920 by 1200 pixels, making it a full HD screen. The pixel density improved from 216ppi to 323ppi, a significant jump. Google says it will be an ideal device on which to watch HD content. The Nexus 7's processor also has been improved, from a dual-core chipset to a 1.5-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2 GB of RAM for apps. The new chip nearly doubles the processing power and boosts graphics performance by a factor of four.

[ Thinking about integrating tablets into your workforce? Read The Good And Bad Of Tablets At Work. ]

Google added stereo speakers to the Nexus 7 and uses Fraunhofer's virtual surround sound technology to improve how movies and other video content sounds. The speakers are located at the top and bottom, so they provide a stereo effect when the device is held sideways in landscape mode. The Nexus 7 now has two cameras. The user-facing camera rates 1.2 megapixels and the new rear-facing camera rates 5 megapixels. It does not have a flash, but it can record 1080p HD video.

Connectivity options are solid. It ships with 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, HDMI out, NFC and wireless charging via the Qi standard. In addition to a Wi-Fi-only model, the Nexus 7 comes in an LTE variant. A single SKU will support AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless's LTE networks. (Sorry, Sprint fans). The device will be sold unlocked so it can be used with any of those three networks. The battery is good for nine hours of video playback or 10 hours of Web browsing, according to Google.

The Nexus 7 will come in three models: 16 GB with Wi-Fi, 32 GB with Wi-Fi, and 32 GB with Wi-Fi and LTE. The Wi-Fi models will cost $229 for 16 GB and $269 for 32 GB. They both go on sale beginning July 30. The 32-GB Wi-Fi and LTE model will become available in the coming weeks and is priced at $349.

As good as the new hardware is, Google made it plain that it wants users to think of its latest tablet as an entertainment device. The Nexus 7 ships with Android 4.3, which has several new content-friendly features, such as control over user profiles and new DRM tools. Google also officially launched its Play Store-based gaming service, and support for textbooks within Google Play.

With its high-definition screen and low price, the Google Nexus 7 is a bargain.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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