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What's the best Android tablet? Google Nexus vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 3

Al Sacco | Sept. 19, 2013
If you're in the market for an Android tablet and have your eye on both of these terrific tablets, how do you choose which one is for you? Here's a quick breakdown designed to help make your decision.

Nexus vs. Galaxy Tab 3: Android Experience
Both Nexus tablets run the latest version of Google's Android mobile OS: Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean." Both devices will also be among the first to get the next version of Android 4.4 "KitKat."

Both the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 and Tab 3 10.1 devices run Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, while the Tab 3 7.0 runs a slightly older version, Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean.

The Nexus tablets run newer, more polished versions of Android, but the Android software itself is quite different than the Samsung version that runs on its Tab 3 devices. Samsung's "flavor" of Android is dubbed "TouchWiz," and it's basically a customized version of Android with a number of Samsung-specific features.

For example, TouchWiz gives you unique home-screen customizations options; gesture and motion-based controls; themes and wallpapers, and settings that are specific to Samsung devices. It has a number of third-party Android apps preinstalled, too, including the SWYPE keyboard and Polaris Office suite.

Some of these unique features are valuable, some, well, aren't so valuable.

The "pure" version of Android that runs on Google's Nexus devices is basic and simple. In some ways, it doesn't have as many extraneous bells and whistles as TouchWiz. But it's also updated before the software on any other Android device, and updates don't go through any manufacturer before being released, so you always have the latest and greatest software tweaks as soon as they're available.

Also, if you already use a Nexus smartphone, you may appreciate the software similarities in the Nexus tablets, and vice versa; if you already use a Samsung Android phone, you may value the similar Tab 3 Android software.

It's hard to say which version of Android is better, and some users will feel differently about each software flavor. If you don't really care about getting software updates just as soon as they're available, and you like the idea of using gestures and motion-controls to navigate around your device, you might prefer TouchWiz. If possible, you should spend a bit of time with a Samsung TouchWiz tablet and a Nexus tablet, then move through the UI and check out the settings, before making a final decision.

Nexus vs. Galaxy Tab 3: My Take
I prefer Google's Nexus tablets to Samsung's Galaxy Tab family of devices. I appreciate the clean and simple interface that's a part of the pure Android experience, and I value the ability to get my hands on the newest version of Android just as soon as possible.

I also like the Nexus 7 form factor better than the Galaxy Tab 3 designs. (It's worth noting that the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 have very different form factors. In fact, the Nexus 10 is made by Samsung and feels somewhat like the Tab 3 devices. The Nexus 7 is manufactured by ASUS.) The Nexus tablets are sleeker looking, and they're all solid black; the Galaxy Tab devices all have somewhat cheap-looking, silver-colored plastic bezels around their edges. I also prefer the solid Nexus display with all the controls on screen, as opposed to the Galaxy Tab 3 devices, which each have a "physical" home buttons on their displays.


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