In late 2011, my family took the plunge and began testing the Nook Color, Kindle Fire, new iPad (as well as having an iPad 2 & iPad 1, iPhone, iPod Touch and a few Android smart phones). We spent several months comparing the different devices and compiled a detailed matrix in our post: The new iPad vs Nook Color vs Kindle Fire: Who has the best family tablet? back in March of 2012.
But when the Nexus 7 came out last month, we were still hungry for a real option for a solidly built tablet that can access the Google play marketplace. My husband, a versatile computer programmer who prefers the Android format, was interested but not impressed with the Nook & Kindle approach to tablets, although he appreciated the stability and intuitive design both offered to less technically savvy users. When we received the Nexus 7, it was obvious right away this tablet was more than ready to compete with the Nook, Kindle & Apple devices.
First of all, the Google play apps, purchased for our smart phones over the past few years, could instantly be loaded for free onto the new Nexus tablet. The Kindle market app could also be downloaded and then all of the apps we’ve purchased for our Kindle Fire tablet were available as well – a huge improvement over the Nook & Kindle tablets, which do not allow access to Google play apps. The Nook app market cannot be downloaded onto any other device, however, the Nook ebook reader (and any books downloaded into it) can easily be added to the Nexus 7 (or any Android tablet) to restore purchases to a new device via a convenient Nook app.
In addition, another superb offering of the Nexus 7 (that Nook & Kindle can’t match), is the deep integration it has with Google’s services. This includes improved and intuitive integration for users with popular programs like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar and more. It will suggest content for users, much like the other marketplaces, but also has instant set-up for previous users of the Google play market. This makes the Nexus 7 the first tablet to truly offer to Android users what Apple offered to their users in 2010, with the launch of the first iPad. Seemless integration is something users want in their lives with any technology, so given the current marketplace, we are giving the Nexus 7 a solid “thumbs up” or “buy” rating for anyone considering a mid-sized tablet device for Android.
The game experience was also quite good, especially for some of the top titles both my child and husband enjoyed for pure entertainment value. Voice recognition was also stellar on the Nexus 7, something we tested a lot; it got a rave review from a programmer with a background in audio compression even! However, much like the limitations of the Kindle & Nook markets, the selection and curation of titles for educational use is significantly less impressive when compared to the iOS marketplace. It’s a healthy selection but no where near as robust or inexpensive as what can be found for even an older iPod touch.
But if you go with Android (and it has lots of advantages), we feel pretty certain when we say, “Go with the Nexus 7 (or any other comparable tablet to come to market in the future), so long as it allows access to as many content sources as possible.” Not only will it give you the best selection of digital media to consume on your tablet, but it will also give you the freedom (and cost-savings) of getting to move previous purchases from other devices. This allows users to invest in their content long term (which is very good news for content creators, by the way).
Still unsure? You can compare for yourself. Here is our updated matrix, created earlier this year for our tablet comparison post. You can see the different aspects of each tablet and our comments, as well as some unique ratings for each tablet’s marketplace for family-friendly and educational content (unless you have reading glasses, click on image for full size):