Nexus 7 – Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
iPad – iOS 5
The battle between Android and iOS has always tended to rest on upon one vague conclusion – if you want the slickest software, iOS is the one to pick. But if you want to fiddle, tinker and change, Android is a much better bet.
That argument is starting to change a little, though. Thanks to what Google calls Project Butter, Android is much quicker than it used to be. The system now makes much better use of the hardware in devices, and Jelly Bean (at least in theory) runs at a solid 60fps, with just-about zero lag. When we reviewed the Google Nexus 7 ourselves, we found it remarkably slick. Android ain’t what it used to be – in a good sense.
Google Nexus 7 – Jelly Bean makes significant improvements
Does Android now offer the best of both ends – flexibility and lightning speed? Not quite, as some of the immediacy of iOS is traded-in for flexibility. But almost all the awkwardness of the Honeycomb tablet era (Honeycomb was the first version of Android designed for tablets) is more-or-less gone. Hallelujah!
One of our favourite benefits of Android – Jelly Bean or otherwise – is that it’s geared towards letting you install software and transfer files much more freely than Apple’s OS. In iOS, you have to use the iTunes software to sync any files you want on your iPad. With a Google Nexus 7, you can just plug the tablet into a PC and drag ‘n’ drop the things. As long as you enable third-party installs within the Nexus’s Settings menu, you can install random APK Android app files too. There’s no reason to stick to Google Play (other than that it’s by far the best Android app resource in town. D’oh.)
Apps and Games
Nexus 7 – Google Play and co, Tegra Zone
iPad – App Store
Google’s tablet may give you more ways to get apps on the device than an iPad, but despite positive developments in the Android tablet app world over the last 12 months, the iPad is still the clear apps and games winner. The breadth, and depth in some cases, of apps available on Apple’s tablet far surpasses what’s available on Android, in niche fields in particular.
Google Nexus 7 – advanced 3G gaming on the cheap
The basics have gotten a lot better in recent months, though. Photo editing, news reading, and advanced 3D games have become much better-served on Android, but for anything more left-field you’re better of with an iPad.
Nexus 7 – 1.2MP user-facing camera, no rear camera
iPad – VGA user-facing, 5MP rear camera
Nexus 7 maker Asus says that it left out the rear camera of the tablet in order to save costs – better to leave out the camera altogether than include a rubbish one. There is, however, a decent user-facing sensor, of 1.2MP resolution. Keen to downplay its photographic skills, the tablet doesn’t even give you access to a standard camera app. It’s clearly intended for video chat through apps like Skype and not a great deal else.
Google Nexus 7 – just the one camera
The third iPad does the double, with a 5-megapixel rear sensor, sans flash, and a simple VGA user-facing one. After the travesty that was the iPad 2 camera, the main snapper of the new iPad seems great, with touch focusing, f/2.4 aperture and pretty good image quality for a tablet. It can also capture 1080p video. However, it’s not a patch on the camera of the iPhone 4S.
iPad 3 – two cameras, one not too bad
Nexus 7 – Quad-core Tegra 3 1.3GHz, 12-core GPU
iPad – Apple A5x, dual-core 1GHz CPU, quad-core CPU
The numbers don’t work in the iPad’s favour when it comes to processing power. The Nexus 7’s Tegra 3 CPU has a quad-core main processor and a 12-core GPU. Meanwhile, the iPad trundles along with a dual-core main chip and a quad-core CPU.
Of course, the numbers don’t tell the whole tale – not by any means. Even in benchmarks, the Nexus 7 only just manages to climb slightly above the iPad – and the iPad 3’s superior developer support means you’ll get more of what that power’s really about, high-end apps and games, with the Apple tablet.
Nexus 7 – £159 (8GB), £199 (16GB)
iPad – £399 (16GB), £479 (32GB), £559 (64GB), add a £100 for 3G models
If you’re strapped for cash, it’s pretty hard to justify the additional £200 an iPad costs over the Nexus 7. Even the last-gen iPad 2 costs £130 extra, and developer support for that will start to wane over the next 12 months or so.
The Google Nexus 7 is represents fantastic value. It’s fast, it’s well-made and it’s powerful. The iPad is all these things too, of course, but it just doesn’t have that sense of being particularly aggressively priced anymore.
The Tilt Factor
Nexus 7 – lovable, among the best Android tabs
iPad – that games library can’t be beaten
In terms of the amount of tablet you get per pound, it’s hard to conclude anything other than that the Nexus 7 is the most impressive tablet on the market right now. Other than featuring the new Android OS, it’s not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s a more palatable “mainstream” Android tab than we’ve seen from any of the big names – beside Apple of course.
We were surprised by how “not cheap” the tablet feels, and by how few of the typical Android niggles we encountered in our time with it. Has Android gone and grown up?
Well, not quite. There are still significant advantages to the Apple iPad. It’s less flexible, but is capable of doing more once you factor-in all the intriguing apps and games it has access to That still haven’t made it to Android. For an everyday tablet to use on the way to work, or for brief browsing sessions in front of the telly, the Nexus 7 will more-than satisfy – and at half the price of an iPad. But there are still plenty of experiences that are still only available on iOS.