Last year's Asus-made Google Nexus 7 was the first 7-inch tablet done right, and it quickly created a market for a media tablet, a more portable unit primarily used to read books, watch movies, and listen to music. Although backward-thinking analyst firms and IT pros considered the iPad and the 10-inch Android equivalents to be "mere" media tablets, in fact they were general-purpose tablets, with the same mix of entertainment and business uses as, say, a Windows PC. The Nexus 7, by contrast, was designed to be primarily a media tablet, even putting the Google media services front and center on its modified Android home screen.
But the original Nexus 7 was a poor piece of hardware, a clearly compromised device meant to get customers with a low price. Compared to an e-reader, its color screen and multiple capabilities may have seemed advanced, but to anyone who used an iPad or a better Android tablet, such as a Galaxy Tab 10.1, it was an unsatisfactorily cheap device.
Amazon.com's Kindle Fire HD followed a few months later, but it too was a compromised device. Then came the iPad Mini, which showed everyone how to do a media tablet, though for $329 rather than the $199 of a Nexus 7 or the $214 of a Kindle Fire HD. Its hardware quality put it head and shoulders above the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD, meaning you got a much better media experience. And it did everything a full-size iPad did, as long as you could read the smaller screen. Ironically, the Nexus 7 did almost everything a standard Android tablet could do, too, but many people never noticed due to its media-centered initial UI.
Now Asus and Google have reworked the Nexus 7, delivering a new model with significantly better hardware that's more in line, at least at the spec level, with what an iPad Mini delivers. The new Nexus 7 does cost $30 more than the old model, bringing the 16GB Wi-Fi model to $229 versus the iPad Mini's $329. The 32GB model costs $269, versus the iPad Mini's $429. The new Nexus 7 appears to be a bargain compared to the iPad Mini — but is it?
A good media tablet is all about quality entertainment: music, videos, books, magazines, games, edutainment apps, information services, social networking, Web browsing, and messaging (chat and email). Of course, it needs to be lightweight and easily carried in your hands, purse, or jacket — so much the better if it can be used to check on business in a pinch, such as when you're standing in line for the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland and your boss has a mini-crisis about one of your accounts.
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