If you were a fan of the last Nexus 7, you probably wished that Google had added a rear-facing camera to handle all of your Instagram-posting needs. Well, it's finally here—but while the 5-megapixel camera is certainly capable, you won't want to rely on it for vacation photos. Photos taken at the stock Android camera app's low-light setting came out too dark; better-lit photos are adequate for posting to the Internet, but not for archiving the days of your life.
The Nexus 7 comes with a few other goodies, including an MHL port, support for wireless charging, and NFC capabilities. The new stereo speakers are a dramatic improvement, too. If you have big hands and hold the device in landscape orientation, however, you might muffle the sound—which can be inconvenient when you're trying to play a game or watch a movie without headphones.
Annoyingly, the Nexus 7 doesn't supply any expandable storage, so you'll have to opt for the priciest model—and probably buy into some cloud storage, too—if you're a media junkie.
Dang, that screen!
Whether it's dark in your house or very bright on the train, the Nexus 7's new 1200-by-1980-pixel LCD display is quite a sight—literally. I was stunned to see a display of this caliber on a device priced at under $250. At 323 pixels per inch, the resolution makes for crisper text in apps like the Kindle ebook reader.
At full brightness, last year's Nexus 7 display looked dimmer than the new Nexus 7's display, though the new colors on the new model seem a little oversaturated, like a bag of Skittles.
In general, I enjoyed reading text more on this year's Nexus 7 than on last year's, thanks to its slimmer body and brighter display.
Better than all the rest
Based on specs alone, the iPad mini has some work to do. Its current processor is a bit more dated than the one that new Nexus 7 runs on, and the mini packs only 512MB of RAM. The mini's display is bigger than the Nexus 7's and it features a different aspect ratio, but it's not a Retina display, which gives Google the upper hand. And whereas Apple's 16GB iPad mini sells for $329, Google's Nexus 7 starts at $239, and its 32GB variant costs only $30 more. If you need that much space on an iPad mini, Apple asks you to fork over an extra Benjamin. The only upside to Apple's offering is its superior collection of tablet-optimized apps. The Google Play store is full of apps, but fewer of them are specifically made for tablets.
Meanwhile, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD is in so much trouble. The 7-inch Kindle Fire is cheaper at $199 (for 16GB of storage) and $229 (for 32GB), but its screen resolution and pixel density leave much to be desired. It's also about 2mm thicker than the new Nexus 7. In addition, the Fire HD uses a customized version of Android and doesn't come with Google's standard applications—and they're not available to download if you decide you want them.
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