I’ve been a Kindle user since Amazon's $199 tablet hit the market - and even found myself liking it more than Apple's iPad over the past 6 months.
The Kindle is simply more portable, and since I mostly use it to read, portability is obviously quite important. However, I also found myself wanting to play games, browse the web and write emails.
Now the Nexus 7 isn’t ideal either, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but it is certainly better than the first-gen Kindle and hints at the evolution of the upcoming Kindle Fire 2.
Supposedly the Nexus 7 cost about $19 more to build but holy crap, what a difference $19 does make.
One of the first things you’ll notice if you use the Kindle reader is how brilliantly all devices stay synced when connected. Going from the Kindle Fire to the Nexus 7 was absolutely seamless with one caveat - actually finding the book I was in the midst of reading.
I have hundreds of books in my library by now and you’d think there would be a simple way to list them in order of most recently read. Instead, you get a listing by title and author. However, I read so many books so quickly that I seldom remember what they are called or who wrote them. This is obviously a lot easier on the web and inside the Amazon store where you can quickly look up recent purchases.
Other than that, the the Kindle app for the Nexus 7 works pretty much equally on both devices. Remember, at its core Amazon is in the book business - not the hardware business - and is therefore motivated to give you a good time regardless of the hardware you buy.
As expected, the Netflix experience is practically identical on both devices. Fortunately, the video streaming service actually does give you a listing of the most recent movies you’ve watched, along with your on-line queue and algorthim-generated suggestions.
The only basic feature you lose in switching from the Fire to the Nexus 7 is a slightly better buying experience on Amazon with the indigenous Kindle app. Frankly, I actually prefer movies on a 7” tablet, simply because I can easily hold the device. Plus, it isn’t exactly as if 10” is great for group viewing anyway.
The reason I highlighted these two specific apps is because I use them the most and experienced no real pain in switching over. I would also like to note that the Nexus offers so much more than the Fire in so many different ways. Let's explore this.
Gaming with the Nexus 7 is like entering a new dimension. Indeed, Tegra 3 optimized games render in higher res and are noticeably better looking. Then again, to be fair, the Kindle just wasn’t a gaming box and wasn’t ever designed to be one. In contrast, the Nexus 7 clearly had gaming in its sights - which kind of makes you wonder what goodies the next generation tablets will almost undoubtedly offer.
Meaning, the clear advancement - in less than a year - between the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 is stunning when it comes to performance. The products are clearly generations apart and in all fairness, probably shouldn’t be compared with each other. To do so would probably be akin to comparing a circa 1950’s Corvette to a 2012 model. That being said, it is honestly amazing how much better the Nexus 7 is technically, which is highlighted most clearly by the gaming experience.
Google's Nexus 7 also offers a better experience with Mountain View's Chrome browser, showcasing that tablet platforms can approach PC like capabilities. We’ll likely see this experience on a variety of platforms, including the upcoming Windows 8 tablets on ARM.
This full featured browser makes it less likely you’ll have to wait to get home to look things up on the web However, be aware: 7” is a very small display which means either the text will be too small for many of us to see without glasses or you’ll be scrolling around the page a lot to view things. In this regard, bigger is actually better, and without glasses or some other form of magnification, larger will always be better for web work.
Wrapping Up: A Taste of What is to Come
In the end, the Nexus 7 is the first of the next-gen tablets and sets the bar both in terms of price and performance for future devices. Yes, the Samsung 7.7 may be better in a number of ways, but at around three times the price it is probably well outside of a mainstream budget.
By the end of the year we are likely to see a number of tablets with similar features at similar price points and much like smartphone prices hit $200 and never looked back (few buy above this now) the same is likely to happen to tablets. This will put huge pressures on both Microsoft's Surface and Apple's wildly popular iPad. Clearly, it is going to be an interesting year.
Last, but certainly not least, there are two apps you may want to consider snapping up if you have an Android-powered tablet: SeekDroid and Locate My Kindle. As you can probably tell from the title, both allow you to geographically locate your Android Table or Kindle. The apps cost between $2 and $5, repsectively, yet can save you $200 for a lost tablet.
One final thought. There is a great YouTube video here here comparing the Nexus 7 to the iPad which is primarily focused on durability. So if you have kids, you’ll probably conclude that you’d be far better off giving them the Nexus.
In short, the reason I traded in my Kindle Fire for a Nexus 7 is that the damn thing is a whole lot better. Plus, my wife needed a new Kindle Fire (she has lost 3 of them by now) and figured I’d give her my old one, albeit with Locate My Kindle installed.