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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.

As a result, you get the best collection of fun and serious apps available for mobile devices for practically any purpose, and Apple's iTunes U library of free courses, aimed mainly at high school and college students, is an amazing resource. That's probably the iPad Mini's biggest advantage: It's not just a media tablet.

The Apple App Store also has the benefit of being rigorously screened for malware, which is not true for the Google Play Store that powers the Nexus 7 and other Android devices. The app selection in the Play Store does not match what Apple offers, but for the kinds of apps you'll want on an entertainment tablet — gaming, social networking, and information apps — the Play Store's options are strong. Over the years, Google has strengthened its backup services so that apps you get in the Play Store are available to your other Android devices. The Nexus 7 can therefore double as a business tablet in a pinch.

But just because you bought an app on one Android device does not guarantee it will run on another. You only find out when you try to install them — there's no indication in the list of previously purchased apps as to which are compatible. The good news is that some of my media apps that didn't run on the old Nexus 7 — such as the Economist and USA Today — do run on the new Nexus 7.

The Kindle Fire HD's selection of apps is more limited than Android's Play Store offerings, mainly to edutainment apps and lightweight utilities. But the Kindle Fire has an extensive game catalog.

All the media tablets have the most popular social apps, such as Skype, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook, either preinstalled or downloadable for free.

The app support winner. There's no question the iPad Mini has the greatest and best app catalog. But the Nexus 7's catalog is strong for media tablet usage, and the Kindle Fire HD's catalog is adequate.

Although "consuming" media and playing games are the main uses of a media tablet, being able to connect to the Internet for Web access is a close third. It's no surprise that all the devices support Wi-Fi for Internet connections, and like the old model, the new Nexus 7 will soon follow in the iPad Mini's and (8.9-inch) Kindle Fire's footsteps and support cellular connections for anywhere-access to the Internet.

Browsers. As you might expect, all the media tablets provide Web browsers. Using a browser on a 7-inch device, however, is often difficult. Web pages are designed for viewing on PCs, where 19-inch and larger monitors are now the norm. On a 10-inch tablet, they often feel scrunched, and it's worse on a 7-inch device. Plus, the onscreen keyboard for entering URLs is harder to use.


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