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New Nexus 7 takes on iPad Mini and Kindle Fire HD

Galen Gruman | Aug. 15, 2013
Google's revised media tablet is a lot better than the original, but not enough to unseat the iPad Mini in our media tablet deathmatch.

In the new model, Wi-Fi support has been improved to include 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi in addition to 802.11g/n 2.4GHz, so your range and speed are now compatible to the competitors. Plus, the Wi-Fi radio supports the new Miracast video streaming standard that is expected to be adopted by TV and other entertainment hardware makers in the next few years. The Bluetooth radio has also been updated to the low-power Version 4.0. Finally, you get the near-field communications (NFC) radio that Google has long promoted but has gained little traction in peripherals.

Like the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7 offers no expansion capability for storage. Like the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7 comes with a dual-voltage USB wall charger and MicroUSB charge/sync cable. Like its two competitors, it supports HDMI video output.

Performance is good. Although not quite as zippy as an iPad Mini, the Nexus 7 doesn't have the periodic lags of the Kindle Fire HD. The 16GB model costs a modest $229, whereas the 32GB model costs $269. A 32GB model with LTE cellular radio will cost $349 when it ships later this year.

Its 10-ounce weight is 2 ounces less than the iPad Mini and 4 ounces less than the Kindle Fire HD. In other words, it's the lightweight of the group, at least when it comes to actual mass. All in all, the Nexus 7 has good hardware that will meet many users' needs.

Kindle Fire HD. The display quality of the Amazon media tablet is adequate, though crisper and clearer than the Nexus 7's even with the muddiness created by the Kindle's yellowish color balance. But the Kindle Fire HD's screen is not nearly as good as the iPad Mini's screen, despite the fact that it has a higher pixel density (216 ppi versus the iPad Mini's 163 ppi).

Although it claims fast, dual-radio Wi-Fi, I found the Kindle Fire HD was the slowest of the three media tablets for Wi-Fi access, with occasional stuttering when playing streamed videos that I didn't experience on the iPad Mini or Nexus 7. It was also poky when opening media files and suffered from stutter occasionally during playback of stored movies.

You get a MiniHDMI connector for video-out, as well as a MicroUSB connector for charging and syncing. There's also a front-facing camera for video chats, but no rear camera for taking pictures. There's no SD card or other expansion capability, and it uses the older, power-hungry Bluetooth 3.0 technology. It's clear that the Kindle Fire HD's low price comes from hardware compromises.

Beware the prices you see on the Amazon website for the Kindle Fire. Once you pay to remove the obnoxious ads and pay for the power charger block that isn't included as it should be (though it comes with a USB cable, so you can charge it from an existing 10W power block), the 16GB model costs $224 and the 32GB model costs $274.


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