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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.

Still, the ability to zoom in as needed makes surfing acceptable. The iPad Mini provides the best browsing experience due to its larger (8-inch) screen and the capable Safari browser, which has the extra benefit of iCloud synchronization with other iOS and OS X devices.

Android's Chrome browser has a similar sync feature, and it's a great browser choice overall. Chrome is slightly more HTML5-savvy than Safari on the iPad — Chrome scores 510 out of 500 points versus Safari's 386 in the compatibility tests — but Safari is better at Chrome in supporting AJAX controls. Thus, some interactive websites will work better on iOS's Safari than on Android's Chrome. All in all, running Chrome on the Nexus 7 is a close second to running Safari on the iPad Mini.

The Kindle Fire HD has the least satisfactory browser experience. Its Silk browser is noticeably slower to load — sometimes excruciatingly so — than the other media tablets. And it often reports itself to websites as a smartphone, causing you to get the mobile versions of websites rather than the desktop versions. Plus, Silk responds jerkily to zoom and swipe gestures. Silk is anything but smooth. The Amazon Appstore does have a few hobbyist browsers available for it — Maxthon, Opera, and Dolphin — so you're not stuck with Silk.

Silk offers good bookmarking and history capabilities, but no private-browsing mode, no cross-device tab syncing, no on-page search capabilities, and no built-in sharing capabilities, as both the iPad Mini and Nexus 7 do. Silk has good HTML5 compatibility, scoring 358 points, and its AJAX support is better than Android's or Windows RT's, and nearly equal to iOS's. Too bad using the browser is so frustrating.

Messaging. If you're under a certain age, you text more than you email — but standard SMS messaging is not supported on tablets. On an iPad Mini or any iPad, you can use Apple's iMessage service to message other iOS and OS X users.

If you don't want to restrict yourself to just people using Apple hardware, you can install a variety of messaging apps such as AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Google Talk, and Yahoo Messenger, or you can message across multiple services using an app like IM+ Pro. The same options are available for Android devices such as the Nexus 7. Among these, Yahoo Messenger, AIM, and a version of IM+ Pro called IM+ All in One are available for the Kindle Fire HD.

Apple's FaceTime is an easy-to-use video-calling service, but it too is restricted to iOS and OS X devices. For cross-platform video chats, you'll want to use Skype, which all three tablets support.


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