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Google Nexus 7 vs iPad 3

Apple iPad 3 or Google Nexus 7? It’s a difficult question to answer because these tablets aren’t quite like-for-like rivals. And yet they’re still competing for similar audiences. After all, how many people do you know who own multiple tablets?

One’s portable and affordable, the other is – well – an iPad. But is that Apple tablet experience, seen by many as the tablet experience, really worth an extra £200? We’ve decided to deconstruct exactly what the extra outlay gets you.

Read our full Google Nexus 7 review

Nexus 7 – soft touch “leather effect” plastic rear
iPad – aluminium rear

Talked about in the simplest terms, it sounds like the iPad is the clear victor in terms of design. How can plastic hope to compete with anodised aluminium?
New iPad 3 4
iPad – cool, hard metal

Weirdly enough, the Google Nexus 7 makes a good account of itself, while costing half the price. We don’t know quite how its maker Asus managed it, but the finish of the Nexus feels more like leather than ropey old plastic. It has a pleasing tactile quality that’s just as enjoyable as the cool touch of metal.

The Nexus 7’s back uses a pattern of tiny little dimples rather than a completely smooth surface, and comes in white and black-brown finishes. However, the white version doesn’t seem to be readily available in the UK as yet.
Nexus 7 12
Google Nexus 7 – tactile leather-effect plastic

Having been around for longer, both the white and black editions of the iPad are readily available. The two tablets’ approach to colour is quite different, though. The Google Nexus 7 offers different-coloured backs, and the iPad different-coloured screen bezels.

iPad colours
White or black – no 50 shades of grey here

Nexus 7 – one-handed fun, 340g
iPad – slim, but less agile, 652g

As slim and stylish as the iPad may be, it just can’t compete with the Google Nexus 7 on portability. A 7in device feels much, much more comfortable in one hand, and thanks to the high friction leather-effect rear it doesn’t feel in constant peril – every moment being one in which you might drop the thing.
 New iPad 3 5
iPad – two hands please…

The Nexus 7 is also just over half the weight of an iPad 3. The third-generation Apple tablet gained a significant amount of weight over the second one, in order to house a larger battery.
Nexus 7 10
Google Nexus 7 – one mitt does the trick

If you want a tablet you can read on while standing up on the train or bus, the Nexus 7 is hands-down the winner. Have a seat? Well, that changes things. The larger iPad can rest on your knees with the right case, where the Nexus 7 is a little small for such a purpose. For a long-haul flight, we’d also rather watch a movie on an iPad than a Nexus 7.

Nexus 7 – 8/16GB internal memory, no memory card slot
iPad – 16/32/64GB internal memory, no memory card slot

Where Android devices were once the home of the free and easy “open” style – free to install dodgy apps, free to expand the internal memory, free to fiddle as you please – the walls have started closing in. The Google Nexus 7 follows an Apple-style trend in disallowing any physical form of memory expansion.

There’s no memory card slot in the tablet, meaning you’re stuck with the 8GB of 16GB of internal memory, depending on which version you bought. Both these capacities are absolutely piddly if you want to watch movies or listen to music.

Why reject those free-wheeling Android roots? It’s obvious, really. Google wants you to use its online media streaming services, like Google Music and Google Movies rather than watch your own stuff. That Google Music isn’t even available in the UK yet, and that the movies service is pretty basic here doesn’t seem to have affected the decision. Ho hum.
Nexus 7 11
Google Nexus 7 – no memory of a memory card slot
Of course, it’s no surprise that Apple has gone down its traditional root of not letting you expand memory in its “new iPad”. However, it is compatible with the camera connection kit, which lets you plug SD cards and some other types of USB devices (mainly cameras) in order to let you view digital camera photos on the thing directly. This is sold as a separate accessory – and the official one costs around £20.

Can the Google Nexus 7 match this functionality? Not fresh out of the box no. It has a microUSB socket – about as universal as you can get – but it’s not setup for USB host functionality, which lets you plug-in external hard drives and other such USB bits and bobs. You’ll need to root the tablet in order to get this host function working.
New iPad 3 1
iPad 3 – microSD MIA

Google seems to have deliberately bodged this feature, as the tablet will accept keyboards and mice, just not other devices. We can only assume it’s another effort to get you hooked into those Google services. Thank heaven for hacks.

Nexus 7 – 7in, 1,280 x 800 pixel IPS
iPad – 9.7in, 2,048 x 1,536 pixel IPS

The Google Nexus 7 has a “nice” screen. It uses the right display tech, has a pretty high resolution and at 7in it’s large enough to watch TV shows on comfortably while you’re out and about.

However, the iPad 3 screen is quite remarkable. It boasts more pixels than any TV you’ll find down the local Dixons – including the 60in ones that cost a couple of grand. Why so many? It’s Apple’s continuation of the Retina Display movement it started with the iPhone 4.
New iPad 3 2
iPad 3 – you can’t beat this beauty (yet)

The aim of a Retina Display is to ensure that you can’t see single pixels in normal usage. This should in theory result in less eyestrain, as well as much sharper images.

The iPad 3 packs-in 265 pixels per inch. This wouldn’t earn you the “Retina” title in a mobile, but in a tablet Apple thinks it more than suffices. And we tend to agree.

The Google Nexus 7 brings 215dpi to the table. In any other comparison, the tablet would look like a king, but here the competition is just a little too great. One thing to bear in mind – in 2011, the 1,280 x 800 resolution used by the Nexus was the industry-wide standard used in much larger 10.1in tablets. Its screen is still dead-sharp.

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