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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.

The sound from the original Nexus 7's built-in stereo speakers struck me as tinny, muddy, and hollow, even with bass boost on — it was grating to listen to. Its equalizer option in the Play Music app was both unintuitive to use and unable to eliminate the hollow tone. The new Nexus 7's speakers are much better, with clearer tones and range. But there's an annoying echo-chamber effect when the surround sound option is on, and a tinniness when it is off. Overall, the new Nexus 7's speakers are better than the old model's, but still inferior to the iPad Mini's.

The Kindle Fire HD's stereo sound is also tinny and a bit flat, even with the Dolby Digital Plus audio processing option enabled; there's also unmistakable distortion at maximum volume. Unlike the Nexus 7, the Kindle Fire HD offers no equalizer controls. Its speakers sound better than those of the original Nexus 7 but not as good as the new Nexus 7.

TV/stereo playback. The iPad Mini supports AirPlay streaming (if you have an Apple TV), along with video-out via HDMI and VGA cables. You can use it as a portable DVD and music player at hotels and other people's homes, as well as a presentation device at conferences and meetings via its video mirroring capability.

The new Nexus 7 supports the Miracast wireless video streaming protocol, like the Nexus 10 tablet, though compatible TVs and other devices are so far unavailable. If that changes, the Nexus 7 may gain the same streaming advantage the iPad Mini has today. The Kindle Fire HD has no streaming capability.

All three tablets let you connect to TVs and projectors via HDMI cables, which are available from third parties. The iPad Mini needs an adapter for its Lightning connector, just as the Nexus 7 needs an adapter for its SlimPort connector. The Kindle Fire HD has a MiniHDMI port. All worked just fine, both for playing videos on an HDTV and mirroring the screen.

Book reading. For reading books, Apple's iBooks and Amazon's Kindle apps are the best. Their default settings are the most readable, though you may want to increase the Kindle's default text size. I like iBooks 3.0's scroll mode for reading — turning virtual pages may remind you that you're reading a book, but scrolling is faster and a bit more natural. The interactive Multi-Touch style of e-book available only for iPads can be nothing short of amazing in presentation richness and flexibility — it's little used, though, outside of textbooks. After using an iPad with a Retina display, I noticed that text on the iPad Mini's non-Retina display was not as crisp — yet it's roughly equivalent to the crispness of the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7, which pack more pixels per square inch.


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