Android 4.1

In the process of working on the Nexus 7 review I dusted off (literally) my Kindle Fire, powered it up and checked for updates expecting to find tons. I found none. The Kindle Fire is still running 6.3.1, released a few months ago, and more importantly it's still relying on the CPU for a lot of drawing, which means the UI isn't smooth. Scrolling in Amazon's Silk Browser is fast, but only because the Kindle Fire drops a lot of animation frames. The experience is jarring, and much better on the Nexus 7 by comparison.

While the Kindle Fire's OS looks like a polished, previous generation of Android, Android 4.1 delivers much of the smoothness of the iPad's iOS. Don't get me wrong, there are still some rough edges and hiccups. Project butter or not, Android 4.1's UI performance is still not perfect, but it's nearly so, and it's miles better than the Kindle Fire.


Nexus 7 running Kindle for Android (left) vs. Kindle Fire (right)

The Kindle Fire's carousel of previously used apps and media is smooth, but browsing the web on it is a mess compared to the Nexus 7. What's even more embarrassing for the Fire is even the Kindle app on the Nexus 7 delivers a smoother experience. Couple that with a warmer display and you actually have a better Kindle in the Nexus 7 than with Amazon's own device. When the Kindle Fire was released, its imperfections were easily overlooked since the Fire was so much better than any prior $199 tablets. The Nexus 7 dramatically raised the bar in the experience department.

Even compared to the Transformer Pad Infinity, the Nexus 7 feels faster thanks to UI speed improvements in Jelly Bean. The entire OS feels snappier, despite running on technically slower hardware.

What sets a tablet apart from a smartphone isn't just physical size, but also applications that take advantage of the size/resolution. Google attempts to deliver this with giant widgets that serve as portals to your content. The My Library widget automatically populates itself with books, magazines and movies you've purchased from the Google Play store. The result is quite impressive:

Start adding more conventional shortcuts to your home screen and the illusion quickly collapses, but I do believe the well laid out main home screen is what Google originally intended with widgets on Android.

As an eReader I'd argue the Nexus 7 is at least as good as the Kindle Fire. You can debate the pros/cons of books from Google Play vs. Amazon's Kindle store, but the fact is that both are available on the Nexus 7. The Kindle app for Android works well (as I've already mentioned), although for actual shopping you'll have to use Amazon's website. A small price to pay for a much better tablet experience everywhere else.

In all honesty, that's what you really give up when picking the Nexus 7 over the Kindle Fire - you lose the tightly integrated Amazon shopping experience. You also lose Amazon's video streaming service, which presently doesn't have an Android client.

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  • bennyg - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    Maybe Google saw the gobs of cash Apple make from crazy high markups on storage once you lock your userbase out of choice in the matter.

    I'm glad Android has internal competition in the smartphone area for this reason. Time will tell if my decision to opt for 8gb is a bad one, but really since it has no camera I'll only ever run out of space when copying something onto it which puts me firmly in control and I'm fine with that.
    Reply
  • fmcjw - Thursday, August 02, 2012 - link

    Applaud mentioning that Google is charging $50 for $4 of NAND. Wondering why Apple is not reviewed with such analytic words.

    Brian's and Anand's writing are the only knowledgeable content on this site, with the rest being filler material. That said, still not lowering my ad-block on Anandtech, since Anand drools praise on Apple products, throwing money at a 117b dollar rich company which is:
    monopolistic (in behavior if not absolute terms),
    dictatorial (imposing business-driven restrictions on technology), and
    unimaginative (riding wave of state of the art tech manufacturing, always at the cusp of killing established business models with many players for its sole profit)

    IMO Anand is single minded and is narrow in his views. Yes, he appreciates "the best" tech, but is eager to distance himself from less obvious virtues and legacy concerns. It's also apparent he feels no responsibility and vision towards diversity, choice, and the underdogs in the industry, preferring the elite wherever possible, Intel over AMD, Apple over the rest. By being "objective" and focused on what he deems palatable and suitable, he is no different from Monsanto: technology in a vacuum, umbilical cord as leash.

    And once he is happily on Apple's leash, you can see how his values get whipped around.
    Reply
  • NoNeedForMonkeys - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    I have not had to pay for cloud storage. The N7 is a play store front-end for media streaming. Google is heavily pushing streaming services over local storage.

    The USB port on this thing is compliant to MHL specs and future software should be able to enable HDMI adapters, but the software is not allowing full functionality yet. The USB port is also hardware compliant with USB OTG, it is just not enabled in software.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    What is there for a reviewer to talk about besides simply stating it doesn't have one? Which they all do. It doesn't have one, this you know already, you're either ok with it, or it's not for you. They know what they did and they still chose to do it. Get over it? Reply
  • Sined - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    To be honest, it's a bit unfair to knock on any Android Device for the lack of MicroSD card storage.

    Dan Morrill of Google's Android Team explains why:
    http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/11/18/impromptu-...

    It has to do with how USB Mass Storage works and how Apps and Media mingle in the same storage when dealing with internal storage only.

    Ideally, ALL Android devices should have SD Cards but Android hasn't matured in that department enough to have them on the Nexus Line.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    As I read that, he says they don't have a microSD slot because it would make settings up things harder ("where does the camera save pictures, where should that app be installed?"). I am glad that I only have android devices with microSD slots. I don't agree with the dumbing down of options he wants. If I wanted that, I'd go with iOS. :-) Looks like I won't get any Nexus device any time soon. Reply
  • leexgx - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    Samsung seem to do it right, the as the main 16gb mem (for example) is split norm 2gb and 12gb (that shows as an SD card)

    and ones with an SD card slot are shown as an second SD card slot
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    Yes, a shame that the phone slows down so much when you start filling up the internal memory though, its like it doesn't ring-fence enough for the OS. Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I don't think they've omitted the expandable storage slots for any one particular reason but more a combination of them... Usability + cost cutting + working out some technical aspects. Still, it's a compromise and he admits as much.

    I think the best compromise is what HTC did with the EVO LTE and what I believe Samsung did with the SGS3: internal storage is all MTP so apps, media, and the OS can share the space without strict partitions and you don't need to unmount from theOS to sync content, and the external storage is still good old UMS so you can work around MTP sync issues and/or have expandable storage for media.

    It's still a compromise tho, what Morrill states is true, not all apps are built to scan external storage or handle the disconnect of it elegantly. The OS handles it just fine in the case of music/photos IMO (since there's a media scanner) but other stuff can be hit or miss.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Anyone who buys a device like this with no storage option is just a fool. Let it burn. Reply

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