When Google unveiled the Nexus 7 at Google I/O last week, it struck right at the heart of the growing 7-inch tablet market. The Nexus 7 might be shiny and new, but how does it stack up to the current king of the 7-inchers, Amazon's Kindle Fire? Here we break down the features of both tablets so that you can decide where to spend your hard-earned $200.
First, let's look at what a customer will be looking at - the screens. Both the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 share 7 inches of diagonal screen space. The Fire sports a nice screen resolution of 1024 x 600, but the Nexus 7 beats it out with a 1280 x 800 screen resolution. In addition, the Nexus 7's 216 ppi pixel density soundly beats the Fire's 170 ppi.
As for the body of the device, while the 7.81-inch tall Nexus 7 is slightly taller than the 7.48-inch tall Fire, the Nexus is a hair thinner at .41-inches thick compared to the Fire's .45-inches. Both tablets are 4.72-inches wide.
Inside the devices, the Nexus 7 shows off what difference a year can now make in terms of hardware manufacturing. The 7 has a Tegra 3 quad-core processor, an NVidia 12-core graphics processor, and 1024 MB of RAM. It comes with either 8 GB or 16 GB of internal memory, and has a 4325 mAh battery. That type of hardware is impressive for a 7-inch tablet, and should be good enough save the Nexus 7 from obsolescence for years to come. It was made clear last week that Google is selling the Nexus 7 at cost.
The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, has only a 1 GHz Texas Instruments dual-core processor and 512 MB or RAM. The Fire, though, does have a large 4400 mAh battery, which Amazon claims will run up to 7.5 hours of continuous video.
As disparate as the hardware seems, the software is really where these tablets differentiate themselves. Although both tablets are running on Google's Android operating system, the Fire runs a heavily modified version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Amazon has placed its services front-and-center, and made it difficult for customers to use any others. Amazon Prime members will be able to get the most out the Kindle Fire with Amazon's library of free streaming movies and shows for Prime members. Amazon's video selection is good, but not nearly as nice as Netflix streaming, which is, thankfully, available as a free app in Amazon's app store. Prime members will also be able to access one free book per month from the Amazon Lending Library, which now includes the Harry Potter books.
The Nexus 7 will be running Google's newest version of Android, 4.1 Jelly Bean. This means Google's tablet will have access to the vast array of apps, games, and media in the Google Play store, as well as access many other companies' products, including Amazon's. Nexus 7 users will be able to read their Kindle collection through the Kindle Android app, though Prime members will not be able to borrow their monthly book if they do not own a Kindle. Also, as a Nexus device, the Nexus 7 will be getting the latest Android updates straight from Google.
In terms of connectivity, the Kindle Fire is a bit lacking. While the Nexus 7 even has NFC support, the Fire is missing more basic features that the Nexus 7 has, such as Bluetooth and a front-facing camera.
The comparison between the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire is actually a bit unfair. The Fire is nearly a year older than the Nexus 7, and the tablets were designed with different purposes in mind. Google designed its tablet to showcase all of the media in the Google Play store, including modern mobile games that are becoming progressively processor-intensive. Amazon designed the Kindle Fire as an extension of its e-ink Kindle e-readers, and the result is a device that is great for consuming media content straight from Amazon. The next version of the Kindle Fire (which some rumors relate will roll out in July - around the same time that the Nexus 7 ships) will certainly make up for its hardware deficiencies, making consumers' choice much harder.
If you are looking for the latest, fastest, and most feature-rich 7-inch tablet currently on the market, Google's Nexus 7 has just about everything. However, if you are an Amazon Prime member who is heavily invested in Amazon's content ecosystem, you might want to wait a couple of months to see just what Amazon has in store.