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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  • dcollins - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Not everyone is like you.

    All my music lives in Spotify and I stream the vast majority of the movies/tv shows I watch. Plus, 90% of my tablet time is spent reading or browsing anyways.

    Expandable storage is nice, but it certainly is not a blocking issue for my usage.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    I love that how all the screaming for future proof options is out the window.
    Steve Jobs loves it too.
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    Agree. I think the Retina Macbook is the poster boy for this though. Not having upgradeable ram on a £2500 laptop is pretty inexcusable. What if I need more than 16GB to run virtual machines etc? It's the only thing which keeps me from buying one. Reply
  • dmyster - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    well, I have a pretty good set up at home for streaming most media to tablets and media devices. The extra 50 bucks for 16 gig was not worth it to me since I will not be traveling with it. I can watch all my movies, listen to all the songs in my library and read books. There are some decent apps - stock ticker, netflix, skype to mention a few. For 200 bucks it is a good deal if you can do without the extra storage or a sd card which I can... Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Root it, install Stickmount, use any removable media with a USB OTG cable. If there was a better 7" alternative for $50 more or even $100 more that comment might make more sense... But as it is, the Nexus 7 is still a fantastic device and unless you're very tech averse the lack of expandable storage out of the box really isn't a big deal...

    I'd even take a gamble that most people who'd balk at rooting the thing will probably never store enough media or games on it to really have an issue with 16GB, the 8GB model will be tight if you start to download big games left and right tho.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Boy you have no clue on the public and general end users.
    Let me help.
    They are utterly clueless, and when faced with storage constraints, they have no idea what to do, and deleting for space is above their user skills.
    That's the vast majority of purchasers.
    Reply
  • TheJian - Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - link

    Don't confuse apple users with Android users :)

    We don't call them SHEEPLE for nothing ;)

    A large portion of Android users are above the norm and believe in using their devices for more than Steve Jobs every believed you should get away with.
    Reply
  • NoNeedForMonkeys - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    Perhaps you should burn every iOS device for not having expandable storage. Reply
  • lunarx3dfx - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    http://www.androidcentral.com/why-nexus-devices-ha...

    That article talks about the lack of SD cards, and honestly it makes sense to me. Also, keep in mind that they do have a 16 GB Nexus 7 available for purchase. Although, I think it's currently sold out.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Of course it's sold out. Reply

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