Google the Nexus 7. You’ll be glad you did.

As I grumble and stumble head-on into a holiday season I am woefully underprepared for, I am told to focus on the positive. Fair enough. Recently I won* a new Nexus 7 tablet from Google. And let me tell you, overall, it rocks.**

The smaller-than-a-tablet-but-bigger-than-a-smartphone space has been heating up.

The Nexus 7 has been hyped as the Google head-to-head competitor for the souped up Amazon Kindle, the color Kindle Fire. Google introduced it at the same basic price point as the Kindle Fire. Just in time for holiday shopping. Naturally.

  • Not coincidentally, over at monster e-tailer Amazon, the retail pricing on a basic Kindle Fire is now lower. With “special offers.” Act now.
  • And our friends at Apple have fired up their retail pom-pons, also. After positioning the iPad as THE perfect size to revolutionize our lives with touch screen technology (and rolling out successive upgraded models), Apple unveiled the new iPad Mini.

Having had this new tablet dropped on me without too many expectations on my part (I enter a TON of contests and sweepstakes) I just sort of turned it on and spelunked around. It was easy to learn. The screen resolution is crisp. The web surfing is fast with wifi. Good performance in playing video and audio.

More good stuff

  • A seven-inch diagonal screen with 1280 x 800 high resolution screen; excellent colors
  • Fast connections online with the wi-fi and a really long-lasting battery
  • Regular, easy updates to the Android operating system with reminders; my Nexus 7 is at version 4.2.1 and doing fine
  • A 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • One of those weird swipe keyboard options, “Gesture Typing,” which I found well, weird, and turned off

Going all in with the Google

If you like all that Google has to offer — Google search; the Google Play store for apps, music and video; Gmail; YouTube — the Nexus family of tablets will be easy to use and enjoy. If you’re one of those scruffy, rumpled-wardrobe types that uber-customizes with your favorite off-brand browser and cool underground hacked apps, then this (or frankly any) tablet may frustrate you.

For instance, the Nexus 7 comes with the Google Chrome browser loaded, and there really isn’t any reason to monkey with that, in my opinion. One huge advantage of going all-Google is the synching and backup features. Take the time to synch and you can be assured that all your contacts, phone numbers, music and video will be safe in the cloud.

A couple of hiccups

  • I did download the YouTube app but ended up removing it. It was confusing and buggy. I opted instead for surfing YouTube through the Chrome browser and everything is fine.
  • The more I used my Nexus 7, the more I realized the thing I love most about it is also the thing I hate most about it: the screen size. It is amazing for traveling; it even fits in the back pocket of jeans. I just wish there was more screen so the display wouldn’t be so small. Yes, you can always scroll and zoom in and zoom out, but aren’t we on the cusp of the Jetsons era? Personal jet packs are a real thing. Finally. Space tourism is a real thing. Why do I have to squint at this tiny screen? I can do that on my smartphone. Jacking up the default font sizes just makes it worse.

Comparing the numbers

  • The Kindle Fire base model is $199 at Amazon.com; $159 with “special offers”
  • The Base model Nexus 7 with 16GB retails for $199
  • The 32GB model Nexus 7 retails for $249
  • The base model 16GB iPad Mini retails for $329, with less screen resolution than the Nexus 7 (1280 x 800 on Nexus vs 1024 x 768 on the Mini) but with front and back cameras

Bottom line No. 1

The Nexus 7 rocks the Android world for both performance and price. It’s fast, it’s clear, it travels easily. And it does most everything (e-reading, web surfing, playing videos) at a hundred and thirty bucks LESS than the [*cough* *yawn*] exciting new iPad Mini.

Bottom Line No. 2

At the risk of sounding like a spoiled child, after noodling around and getting hooked on my new Nexus 7 … Dang I wish I had won a Nexus 10!

It has everything I love about my 7, plus dual front-and-back cameras, even crisper resolution AND more real estate on the screen. The 10s start at $399 retail for the 16GB model; fully twice the price of the 7, and about 50 bucks more than the base model iPad Mini. But still …

******

* Yes, won it free and clear. From a photo contest on Facebook, sponsored by a bagel chain of all things.

** As do every one of the co-workers, friends and family members that were virtually nagged and nagged every day during the voting period of the contest. You guys are the wind beneath my wings! [No. You can’t borrow my Nexus 7.]

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