It's pretty easy to define what a killer graphics card or processor must be able to do. But what makes for an absolutely ideal tablet? Most of the folks in our office seem to have a completely different opinion, and not many of them are willing to concede their criteria. We can come close on a number of points, though.
First, a great tablet has to be affordable. No more of this $500 business. There's simply no way I'm going to spend as much on a tablet as I would on an entry-level Core i5-equipped notebook. And if I'm going to lug around another device in addition to my notebook for simpler content consumption tasks, I'm certainly not willing to spend just as much to make it happen. The Kindle Fire and the HP TouchPad fire sale both demonstrated that low prices are instrumental to moving tablets in significant volume.
Second, it needs to have an unquestionably mature ecosystem. We're not talking about the distinction between mobile and desktop operating systems. We're talking about those cheap Android-based tablets still shipping with ancient builds of the software and haven't been updated with Ice Cream Sandwich. We're talking about HP's App Catalog, which simply couldn't stand up to competition from Apple or Google. We're even talking about excessively locked-down content environments. Unfortunately, Amazon's Kindle Fire is a good example. Unlike the relatively open experience offered by vendors like Kobo, Amazon locks down the Kindle Fire’s environment to the point where it virtually restricts users to Amazon's digital distribution network. The result is very frustrating to use.
Finally, a killer tablet’s physical profile must be truly portable. Compared to the laptops we're used to, every tablet looks thin and light. In reality, though, there is considerable variation when it comes to size and weight. Recently, we've even seen certain models get bigger and heavier. For instance, the current-generation iPad weighs more and is slightly thicker than its predecessor to accommodate more powerful hardware. Our message to tablet manufacturers: do not sacrifice portability in an effort to make the tablet a faster platform.
Google’s Nexus 7 hits all three notes, and then some. It’s affordable, lean, includes the latest version of Android, and feels like a true traveler’s device. Don't underestimate that last point. I have come to appreciate the advantages of a 7" screen, and wouldn't walk out the front door with anything larger. A 10.1” tablet is nice to use at home in the kitchen or hanging out on the couch, but my love stops there. Whether walking to work, waiting in line for a cup of coffee, or burning time at an airport, a thinner and lighter 7” tablet delivers portability that larger tablets cannot match.
I admit that a notebook is still my primary computing device on the road. Most of editorial staff here simply requires the power and capabilities of a more functional notebook to get work done. The tablet is more of an afterthought. It's what I drop into my luggage if there's room. Although it's enjoyable to use, even the vaunted iPads aren't particularly convenient. In fact, every tablet I have used seemed to be more trouble than it was worth—until the Nexus 7.
So, what’s not to love? Sure, the Nexus 7 could be improved, mostly by dropping the price even further and adding SD card storage expansion. But we are not going to quibble with what we see today. I am happy to give the Nexus 7 our Recommended Buy award, something we try to bestow sparingly and only to hardware that stands out for its value proposition. Tom’s Hardware has dissected, tested, and reviewed a wide array of tablets over the past two years. In that time, no tablet we have reviewed has impressed us enough to confer this distinction—until now.
- Tom's Takes Two Weeks With The Nexus 7
- Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) Improves Performance
- Nexus 7 Performance: Consistent With Other Tegra 3-Based Tablets
- Google Play Isn't Just About Apps
- Testing The Nexus 7's IPS Display
- Battery Life And Recharge Time
- Nexus 7: The First Tablet To Win A Tom's Hardware Award