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Google Nexus 7 Tablet: 10 Coolest Features

Jun 29, 2012 (09:06 AM EDT)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240002946


Amazon, and to a lesser degree Barnes & Noble and Samsung, have proved there's vibrant market for 7-inch color slates, even if Steve Jobs thought otherwise. The Kindle Fire, Amazon's first entry in the tablet market, was a hit last holiday season, although recent evidence, including a dramatic drop in first-quarter 2012 shipments, suggests its popularity may be waning a bit. Still, Amazon's formula of delivering an inexpensive, consumer tablet with hooks into an online store--where users can buy or rent movies, music, books, and other items--is a good one.

It's so good, in fact, that Google has copied Amazon's approach with its new Nexus 7 tablet. The 7-inch Nexus starts at $199, same as the Kindle Fire, and provides home-screen access to Google Play, the search giant's online marketplace.

Assuming the Nexus 7 is a loss-leader--and given the tablet's solid specs, it's hard to imagine Google is earning much (if anything) from each tablet sale--the tie-in with Google Play is essential for the company to profit from the undertaking.

What makes the Nexus 7 interesting is the quality of its components, which top those of most $200 tablets. Google and its manufacturing partner Asus have built a slim-yet-substantial slate that raises the bar in the low-end tablet market, perhaps making it difficult for smaller competitors to keep up.

Featuring a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor with a 12-core graphics subsystem, a 1280 x 800-pixel HD display, a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, and the new Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) mobile OS, the Nexus 7 has the best specs of any $200 slate available today.

The Nexus 7's advantages may be short-lived, of course. Amazon's second-generation Kindle Fire is rumored to debut soon. Barnes and Noble, maker of the Nook Tablet, recently received a much-needed financial boost by teaming up with Microsoft. Samsung's Galaxy Tab series of slates continue to impress. And don't forget those persistent "iPad-mini" rumors, too. Apple may decide to enter the 7-inch tablet market in the near future, particularly if consumers gravitate toward smaller slates.

Whatever happens in the coming months, Google has made an impressive debut with the Nexus 7. Here are 10 of the tablet's coolest features.




The Nexus 7's 1280 x 800-pixel display may not be "resolutionary"--that's what Apple calls the new iPad's pixel-packing, 2048 x 1536 screen--but it's better than the 1024 x 600 displays of comparable 7-inch slates, including the Amazon Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.

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When it comes to tablets, a few ounces matter--particularly if you're holding the device for hours on end. Weighing in at 340 grams (12 ounces), the Nexus 7 is a hair or two lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (345 grams), not that you'd notice the difference. However, the Nexus 7 has a significant weight advantage over other leading 7-inch tablets. It's 2 ounces lighter than the Nook Tablet (400 grams), and about 2-1/2 ounces lighter than the Kindle Fire (413 grams).

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Most of today's 7-inch tablets, including the Kindle Fire, Nook Color, Nook Tablet, and Kobo Vox, don't have a camera. But the Nexus 7 has a 1.2-megapixel, front-facing camera designed primarily for face-to-face chats via Google+, Skype, and other videoconferencing apps. You want a rear-facing camera too? Sorry, the Nexus 7 doesn't have one. You might try the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 instead. It has dual cameras: a 3-megapixel rear shooter and a front-facing VGA camera for video calls.

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Google boasts that the Nexus 7 is the "world's first" 7-inch slate to have a quad-core processor. As a result, the tablet's Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU promises better multitasking, as well as smoother video streaming and Web browsing, than the dual-core chips found on competing tablets. The Tegra 3 also features a fifth core that conserves battery life by managing low-power activities such as active standby. One thing's for certain: The rest of the 7-inch pack will soon add quad-core CPUs as well.

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A quad-core CPU may be interesting, but the Nexus 7's 12-core graphics processing unit (GPU) is the real jaw-dropper. The ability to deliver an immersive gaming experience with richly detailed graphics would certainly help distinguish the Nexus 7 from its competitors.

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The Nexus 7 is the first tablet to ship with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the latest version of Google's mobile OS. Jelly Bean delivers incremental improvements, such as smoother scrolling, better widget controls, and faster overall performance. Not exactly showstopper upgrades, perhaps, but Nexus 7's head start with Android 4.1 gives the slate a short-term edge over competing Android tablets.

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Android's Compass Mode, the ability to view panoramic views of street-level photographs, has been around for a while. The same goes for Google Maps' Business Photos feature, which shows 360-degree scenes inside local businesses. But Nexus 7 melds the two into something truly interesting. Its new Compass Mode for Business Photos feature uses the tablet's gyroscope to make the process more intuitive: To look around a business, you turn the tablet rather than tap onscreen controls.

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Chrome is a great browser; Android's stock browser isn't. The good news is that Chrome is the default browser on the Nexus 7. What's so great about Chrome? In addition to tabbed browsing--the ability to open a virtually unlimited number of tabs--Chrome for Android also syncs with Chrome on your other devices. Example: Chrome browser tabs that you've left open on your Nexus 7 will open automatically in Chrome on your PC.

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Near field communication (NFC) tap-and-pay technology may be next-year's thing--or perhaps the year after. But when (or if) NFC hits it big, the Nexus 7 will be ready. Incorporating Google's Android Beam feature, the tablet can exchange data--a photo, for instance--with a compatible machine simply by tapping the two devices together. The beauty of this technology is that NFC devices connect automatically when in range, enabling potential applications such as the ability to share business cards, board a bus, or buy a latte with a simple wave or tap of your mobile device.

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Given the Nexus 7's better-than-average feature set, Google could have charged $249 for its tablet without incurring much wrath from tech pundits. But the Nexus 7's impulse-buy-inducing $199 price should make the slate a popular item this holiday season. With its front-facing camera, (relatively) high-resolution screen, quad-core processor, and 12-core GPU, the Nexus 7 has the $199 Kindle Fire beat--well, on paper, at least. But how will the Nexus 7 stack up against Amazon's second-gen tablet? We'll find out soon enough.

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