Archive for the ‘Tablets’ Category
Amazon unveiled the latest generation of Kindle e-ink ereaders and Kindle Fire tablets today and the Kindle family has grown by quite a lot. First of all, the Kindle Fire HD tablets which will come in two sizes:
- 7-inch IPS LCD display: 1280 x 800 resolution; 10 point capacitive touchscreen; polarizing filter and advanced anti-glare technology.
- Processor: Dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4460; Graphics: Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core.
- 720p video playback.
- Stereo speakers; Dolby Audio.
- Front-facing camera.
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; dual-band and dual antenna for improved connectivity; Bluetooth.
- Ports: USB 2.0 (micro B); Micro HDMI out; 3.5 mm stereo; Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) support.
- Battery life: Up to 11+ hours; Charge time: 4 hours with optional Kindle PowerFast charger or 13.5 hours over USB connected to computer.
- Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches (193 x 137 x 10.3): Weight: 13.9 ounces (395 grams).
The Kindle Fire HD will ship on Sept 14th and will be priced at $199 for a 16GB version and $249 for 32GB – the 32GB edition ships on Oct 25th. Available to pre-order now.
Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet – same features as Fire HD plus:
- 1920 x 1200 resolution 8.9-inch IPS display.
- Processor: Dual-core 1.5 GHz TI OMAP 4470.
- 1080p Video playback.
- Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.35 inches (240 x 164 x 8.8 mm); Weight: 20 ounces (567 grams).
- 10 hours battery life (same for the 4G LTE model).
The Kindle Fire HD 8.9” is expected to ship on November 20th. It comes with either 16GB or 32GB of memory and is priced at $299 or $369. Available for pre-order now. A 4G LTE version of the HD 8.9” tablet is also available at $499 for 32GB and $599 for 64GB. Comes with a 250 MB per month data plan for $50 per year. Larger data plans are also available.
Amazon claims the dual antennas and dual band support built into the Fire HD result in less dropped connections and faster speeds – up to 41% faster than the iPad 3.
The original Kindle Fire has gotten a hardware makeover and new UI and is now 40% faster, comes with twice the memory and enjoys longer battery life. It will be available on Sept 14th for $159 and can be pre-ordered now.
Both sizes of the Kindle Fire HD tablet and the Kindle Fire 2 include special offers and sponsored screensavers. Amazon’s X-Ray feature that was previously confined to the Kindle Touch is now available for ebooks and more on the Kindle Fire HD tablets. The Silk cloud-accelerated browser included on the Fire HD tablets has been updated and according to Amazon the new version is 30% faster than the previous version.
The Kindle Fire also comes with the same new X-Ray, Whispersync and FreeTime features (see below) as the Kindle HD tablets.
Update (9/07/2012: Yesterday I called Amazon CS to verify that the Paperwhite has no audio and to get the battery life of the Fire HD 8.9” tablet (it’s 10 hours), which is not listed on the product info page. I had a few more questions so I bugged them again today. I had hoped to find out if it will be possible to pay extra to remove the special offers from the new tablets, but the CS rep I spoke to told me this is not an option at the moment and they don’t know if it will be possible in the future. I also tried to get pricing info for larger data plans for the 4G model, but they could not tell me that either. For the time being I am assuming it will be AT&T’s normal pricing structure ($30 per month for 3GB or $50 for 5GB), which you can see here. And to clarify: The Kindle Fire 1 & 2 and the Fire HD tablets can play back audiobooks from Audible.com – the Audible app comes pre-installed –
but they don’t have TTS capability and therefore cannot read back a Kindle ebook aloud. I was told by CS that the Fire HD would not have TTS, but this is in the manuals: “This feature is available for Kindle 2nd Generation, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle DX, Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire 2nd Generation, Kindle Fire HD 7", and Kindle Fire HD 8.9". “
Update (9/10/2012): Amazon has relented and now says on the Fire HD product info page (click the ‘Learn more’ link after the bulleted feature “Includes special offers and sponsored screensavers.”) that users can choose to pay to opt out of the special offers. The price? Only $15.
Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite ereader features a higher resolution e-ink display with 62% more pixels, 25% higher contrast, a built-in adjustable front light, 8 weeks of battery life (even with the light on) and is slightly thinner and sleeker. It also comes with a black bezel – something I’m really happy about as a darker bezel improves the perceived contrast of e-ink screens. Some of the other Paperwhite features:
- 6 font styles; 8 font sizes.
- Time to Read – new feature uses your reading speed to predict when you will finish the current chapter. This is nice as the end of a chapter is a natural place to break your reading.
- Capacitive touchscreen (vs IR based touchscreen of Kindle Touch).
- Parental controls: Control access to Kindle Store, Cloud and the web browser.
- Storage: 2GB – approximately 1.25 GB available to user – holds up to 1,100 ebooks.
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
- Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.6 x 0.36 inches (169 x 117 x 9.1 mm); Weight: 7.5 ounces (213 grams).
One feature that the Paperwhite is missing and that will be important to some users is audio capability. Yeah, that’s right – accessibility, playback of audiobooks from Audible.com, text-to-speech and the experimental music player all just went out the window.
The new version of the basic Kindle ereader is now priced at $69 with special offers and $89 without. It features 15% faster page turns than the older model. Some of the other features:
- 6-inch Pearl display.
- Dimensions: 6.5 x 4.5 x 0.34 inches (165.75 x 114.5 x 8.7 mm); Weight: 5.98 ounces (170 grams).
- Battery life of up to one month.
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
The basic Kindle does not have audio.
In addition to new devices Amazon also today announced some new features for the Kindle Platform:
Kindle FreeTime: Advanced parent controls for the Kindle Fire HD tablets allow creation of separate profiles for each child. Tools include the ability to set daily screen limits and control access to appropriate content, including books, apps, games and video for each child. This feature will be released in an update soon after the initial release of the Fire HD.
Whispersync expansion – Amazon’s Whispersync technology has moved beyond ebooks and streaming video. Whispersync for Voice: Audiobooks from Audible.com are now synced with the Kindle ebook version – if you read a Kindle ebook and then switch to the Audible version your last read page is synced. Whispersync for Games remembers your progress in GameCircle titles.
Immersion Reading: There are currently almost 15,000 Kindle ebooks with matching Audible companion audiobooks available. These now sync your position between the ebook and audiobook versions and feature real-time highlighting.
The Fire and Fire HD tablets do not have a text-to-speech feature and so the only way to have a Kindle ebook read aloud to you on them is to purchase the Audible version.
X-Ray for Movies is powered by IMDb (owned by Amazon) and can show info such as what actors are currently on screen, let you jump to other movies they star in and more. For the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire 2 tablets.
X-Ray for Textbooks: Find related pages about a topic or search the web for more information when reading supported digital textbooks on a Kindle Fire HD tablet.
I have not seen any mention of the Kindle Fire or Fire HD tablets becoming available internationally, but that must be in the works after the expansion of the Appstore to Europe paved the way.
The Kindle Fire HD 7" tablet and the Kindle Fire are now available for pre-order in the UK. The Fire HD is priced at £159.00 for 16GB and £199.00 for 32GB, with a shipping date of October 25th. The Kindle Fire 2 is priced at £129.00 and will also ship on Oct 25th. Both tablets are also available at the Kindle Stores for France, Italy, Germany and Spain. These prices, as is often the case with electronic devices, are higher than the U.S. prices. And yes, they do come with the special offers and sponsored screensavers.
The Paperwhite is still not available in the UK, but the new basic Kindle is on pre-order and will ship on September 12th. It is priced at £69. The Kindle Touch is still being sold in the UK.
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I was already liking my new Nexus 7 tablet as I was releasing it from its packaging, before I even had it turned on and tuned in to my Google account. The Nexus 7 is very ergonomic and more comfortable to hold than most of the other small tablets I’ve had a chance to use, including the Kindle Fire, which is rather blocky in comparison. The Nexus 7 also weighs approximately two and a half ounces less than the Fire and the difference in weight is noticeable.
After getting to know my new toy a little better over the past couple of weeks my enthusiasm for the Nexus 7 has only grown. If you’ve been put off by the poor performance of many lower priced Android tablets in the past you don’t have to worry about this one. The Nexus 7 is very fast and responsive with no clunkiness to spoil the experience.
I have noticed one small glitch with my N7 – occasionally the virtual keyboard does not record a keypress. For some reason this especially seems to affect the final ‘M’ when I’m signing into an account and entering my email address. For example, when I type *****@***.com, the final ‘m’ will not be registered, resulting in an error message if I don’t notice it before I hit the enter key. This issue occurs only intermittently so no biggie.
Update: As I usually do with my Android devices, I’ve installed Thumb Keyboard on my N7 and I like it better than the stock keyboard. I’m a fan of TK’s split keyboard layout.
Android 4.1, otherwise known as Jelly Bean, made its debut on the Nexus 7. Actually we’re at 4.1.1 now – there was an update waiting to be downloaded and installed when I got my N7 connected. Jelly Bean doesn’t bring huge changes, but it does bring improved performance and added depth and sophistication to the Android OS. A number of accessibility features have also been added as well as additional international language support.
One of the new Jelly Bean features is Google Now, which uses your current location, location history and other data Google has about you to present information relevant to your current location and interests. Google Now is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the Nexus 7’s screen. Information such as traffic conditions to your home or work or an upcoming appointment is displayed on virtual cards. Other cards can display weather conditions at your location, flight information if you have booked a flight, sports scores, etc.
When Google Now is open, you can initiate a voice search by saying “Google” aloud if you can’t be bothered tapping the microphone icon. Android now also has a Siri-like personal assistant who speaks to you in a natural female voice.
The Nexus 7 comes with an NFC chip that will enable you to share photos and information with another NFC equipped Android device simply by bringing them into close proximity with each other. This is a new feature that is finding its way into more and more portable devices and that should find some interesting uses as NFC technology becomes more widely adapted. Barnes & Noble has indicated that future Nook ereaders will enable owners to simply touch their Nook device to a paper book on the shelves of a B&N store to be offered the option to purchase and download the digital version directly to their ereader.
One of the features of the Kindle Fire that got a lot of hype before its release and then fell somewhat short of expectations is the Silk browser. Silk makes use of Amazon’s AWS cloud and historical Internet traffic patterns to predict next requested pages and theoretically speed up the web browsing experience – especially on busy, frequently visited sites.
The Nexus 7 comes with Google’s Chrome browser, which in general I found usually loads webpages faster than the Fire. Where Silk was sometimes faster was when surfing through individual pages at large sites like Yahoo and MSN, where the Silk browser can be expected to have the full advantage of its heuristic abilities. In that type of situation the speed difference between the two was usually negligible with the Silk browser sometimes coming out ahead.
Besides Chrome, there are other web browsers available to install from the Google Play store; I’ve briefly used Dolphin HD and Firefox Beta and both seemed to work well.
Adobe Flash is no longer supported on devices using a version of Android beyond 4.0, so this unfortunately means no Flash video in any browser on the Nexus 7. This will also be bad news for Amazon Prime account holders, as Amazon Instant Video requires Flash and therefore does not work on the Nexus 7 at present. Hopefully Amazon will release an Instant Video for Android app similar to the one recently released for the iPad.
There are some workarounds to enable Flash on the Nexus 7, such as sideloading the Adobe Flash APK. It took a few attempts, but I was able to use this method to watch streaming video from Amazon on my N7 with the Firefox Beta browser. You can find in-depth instructions for getting Flash to work on the Nexus 7 here.
Of course, there is always Netflix. The Nexus 7 has a higher resolution display than the Kindle Fire and, as expected, Netflix video looks better on the N7 than on the Fire, but not as much better as I was expecting. The Netflix player for the Fire has been substantially improved since I did my previous comparison between the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet. Now I’m finding that the Nexus 7 is only slightly better at streaming video from Netflix than either the Fire or Nook Tablet.
Google has added streaming movies and television episodes to the Google Play store and, while the selection may not be as great as elsewhere, it is growing. The N7 comes with a free movie – Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon which, while not exactly being my first choice of material, does serve to demonstrate the excellent streaming video performance of the Nexus 7 when streaming video from the Google Play store.
The speakers of the Nexus 7 are usual for a small tablet and are adequate for casual use. For listening to music or to the soundtrack of a movie you will want to use headphones.
In my previous comparison between the Fire and Nook Tablet I found the sound quality to be much superior on the Fire when listening to music with high-end headphones. When comparing the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet this time around I think the Kindle Fire still has the clear edge in sound quality, with the Nexus 7 coming in second.
I tested using the Amazon MP3 player with the same equalizer settings on both the Fire and N7 and with the built-in music player on the Nook. On the N7, where I could compare both the Amazon MP3 player and the Google Play Music player I found the Amazon player to sound much better. In comparison Google’s player is somewhat lacking in definition and clarity and even sounds a bit muddy at times. The Nexus 7 cannot pump out as much volume as the Fire, which is capable of getting very loud but is hampered by its much criticized lack of hard volume controls.
I have to confess that the last time I bought an ebook from Google was when I had the iRiver Story HD ereader. That ereader was integrated with the Google ebookstore and the integration worked well. But when I tried to import my Google ebook into Adobe Digital Editions to transfer it to my Nook ereader I just kept getting an error messages. ADE kept trying, and a few weeks later was finally able to import the ebook successfully. Obviously this was unacceptable, and at the time I read complaints from other users suffering through the same problems. This no longer seems to be an issue – I just purchased another couple of ebooks from Google Play and was able to import them into ADE immediately and with no problems.
In my experience Google Books now works well at syncing your ebooks across multiple Android devices. If you are reading a Google Play book across several Android devices your last read page will be synced, but if you use ADE to transfer your ebook onto an e-ink ereader or other device it will not be synced on that device. Google’s reading platform is getting better but still does not have all of the bells and whistles of the other major players. There still does not seem to be the ability to pre-order ebooks at Google Play, for example.
The Google Play store now features a newsstand with a growing selection of digital magazines. The Nexus 7 came with a few sample magazines and the magazine reader works similarly to the magazine reader in the Nook and Kindle apps. If you can’t find the digital magazines you want at the Google Play newsstand there are of course many other choices, such as Zinio or the Kindle and Nook newsstands. I also have a Next Issue subscription which gives me access to a number of digital magazines, but unfortunately that app is not yet compatible with Android 4.1, although Next Issue does say they are working to add support for Jelly Bean and the Nexus 7. Not sure when that will happen – things seem to move very slowly indeed at Next Issue.
If you like gaming on tablets, then you will like the Nexus 7. Graphics are great, especially in games that are designed for the Tegra 3 chipset. The tablet is very responsive and fast and comes with an accelerometer, gyroscope and other features handy for gaming control.
The Horn game from Phosphor Games Studio that Google showcased on the Nexus 7 at its unveiling looked quite spectacular. This game is not out just yet, but I have played Dark Meadow: The Pact from the same developer on my iPad 3. When I received the Nexus 7 I installed the Android version of this game to compare the two.
The Android version of Dark Meadow is optimized for the Tegra 3 chipset and does have some additional eye candy stuck on that is not present in the iPad version. Performance in the action sequences is quite good. The photo shows a typical example of the improved graphics on the Tegra 3 version – a view of the starting location of the game on both the iPad 3 and the Nexus 7. On the Nexus 7 (right) instead of just an empty window frame you get a carpet of overgrown vegetation invading the room with flowers gently swaying in a breeze.
The Nexus 7 seems quite good for gaming today, but I’m not sure how it will fare a year from now. Just a year ago, when I bought my Moto Xoom tablet, new games designed to take advantage of its Tegra 2 processor were being hyped and promoted in the same manner as the current crop of Tegra 3 games. Now the Tegra 2 chipset is getting the cold shoulder – newer games optimized for the Tegra 3 such as Horn and Dark Meadow will not run on my Xoom. If this state of affairs continues you can expect that the Nexus 7, which is great for gameplay today, will in turn find itself uninvited to the party next year when tablets incorporating NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 chipset start shipping.
Android gaming at the moment seems somewhat reminiscent of the old days of PC gaming, when gamers often found themselves in need of a new graphics card upgrade and even had to replace their CPU and motherboard on a regular basis in order to play the latest games. While this planned obsolescence strategy is quite good for NVIDIA’s bottom line, I’m not sure how good it is for Android as a gaming platform. Especially when this is a nonissue for iPad users – you can download and play Dark Meadow from iTunes regardless of whether you have the iPad 1, 2 or 3. True enough – at $199 the Nexus 7 costs less than the latest PC video cards, so perhaps this is less of an issue than I am making it out to be.
Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet
I currently have three 7-inch tablets in my collection: the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet and now the Nexus 7. I had to choose one of these to sell off – I can’t keep all three – and unfortunately it will have to be the Nook that goes. This is not to say that the Nook is an inferior device, but since it is so tightly tethered to B&N it is somewhat less versatile. Yes, you can root the Nook – but with the Nexus 7 at the the same price I don’t think that makes much sense for most users any more.
The Kindle Fire is somewhat clunkier and less elegant in appearance, but at least one can add other apps and ebook reading apps to it (by going to Settings > Device and turning on ‘Allow Installation of Applications’ then go to GetJar.com or another 3rd party Android app store, where you can install the Nook or Kobo apps, etc.). This makes the Kindle Fire somewhat more versatile than the Nook.
Both the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet will have some appeal for hardcore fans of their maker’s platforms, especially the Kindle Fire, which has advantages for Amazon Prime members. The future of the Nook Tablet seems more in jeopardy to me, especially if Barnes & Noble continues to force users to root the device to get apps and content from other sources. CNET reported recently that B&N is working on “revolutionary screen technology” for the next color Nook device. I suspect it will take more than a cool new display to make the Nook Tablet thrive and be a compelling buy in an arena full of more versatile competitors.
Amazon will probably launch a new version of the Kindle Fire soon. The next generation Fire is expected to feature a higher resolution display amongst other improvements. But for the moment the Nexus 7 is the 7-inch tablet to get in order to avoid tablet envy – it offers great performance at a very reasonable price. The N7 is the best 7-inch tablet I’ve used so far or, for that matter, one of the best tablets of any size. That being said, there are several things missing from the Nexus 7 that will be important to some users: an SD card slot for expandable memory, HDMI out and a rear-facing camera. If you can do without those features then the Nexus 7 is a winner.
Cases & Covers for the Nexus 7
There is a large selection of cases and covers for the Nexus 7tablet to choose from, many of which are quite reasonably priced. A few of the more interesting:
DODOcase currently offers three styles of its high quality covers and a sleeve for the Nexus 7 tablet. The covers are handmade in San Francisco using traditional bookbinding techniques and the sleeve features a waxed canvas exterior with leather accents. Prices range from $35 to $65.
The MoKo Slim Cover Case is made of PU leather (leather with a plastic layer applied to the surface) with a microfiber interior lining. Features include a hand strap, stylus loop, integrated stand and automatic sleep/wake function. Priced at $14.99.
The Poetic Slimbook Leather Case is made of faux leather and costs $12.95. Features include a thin and lightweight design, a hand strap and the cover automatically wakes the Nexus 7 or puts it to sleep when opened or closed.
The Supcase Slim Fit Leather Case is another PU leather cover and features an adjustable stand and wake/sleep function. This cover comes in nine different colors and is $16.
The i-Blason Leather Case features a dual position stand, wake/sleep function and comes with a stylus. This cover is made of genuine leather and is available in several different colors for about $20.
If you need a keyboard, CrazyOnDigital makes a leather case for the Nexus 7 with detachable Bluetooth keyboard and a built-in stand. The exterior is pebble-grain leather and this case is available in several colors. Priced at about $35.
IVSO makes a couple of PU leather keyboard covers for the N7. The keyboard of the lower priced Faux Leather Keyboard Case plugs into the USB port and sells for $19.99. The second model features a Bluetooth keyboard and is $35.99.
For a waterproof case for the Nexus 7 there is the Proporta BeachBuoy. I have one of these for another device, but the Nexus 7 fits in it and works well. This cover is waterproof to a depth of 5 meters. Priced at about $18.
Pelican makes a carrying case for 7-inch tablets and ereaders that is crush resistant and waterproof to three feet. The HardBack Case features anti-scratch foam inserts and stainless steel hardware. Priced at about $26.
The photos below are, from the left, of the Poetic Slimbook Leather Case, the i-Blason Leather Case, the CrazyOnDigital keyboard case and the Pelican HardBack Case.
Device skins for the Nexus 7 tablet are now available from DecalGirland GelaSkins. There are lots of companies making screen protectors for the N7, but a couple to look at are the amFilm Premium Screen Protector Film, available in either matte clear (anti-glare) or clear (invisible) for $8 – $9 and the ArmorSuit MilitaryShield with lifetime replacements for $14.
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At an event in New York today, Samsung announced the new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. The new Note runs Android 4.0 and is packing some nice features:
- 1.4 GHz quad-core processor
- 1280 x 800 resolution display
- 1080p playback; HD recording
- 2 GB RAM; available with 16GB or 32GB user memory
- 5 Mp rear-facing and 1.9 MP front-facing cameras
- NFC chip enables easy sharing other devices – particularly with Galaxy SIII mobile phone
- Multiscreen feature: True multitasking allows for use and display of two different supported apps side-by-side simultaneously
- S Pen – Pressure sensitive stylus fits into slot on tablet. When used for drawing, line thickness can be adjusted by pressure applied to S Pen.
- Built-in Adobe Photoshop Touch optimized for use with S Pen
- Comes with Kno digital textbook app and the Nook app pre-installed and a free two-year 50 GB Dropbox subscription
- Samsung Smart Remote uses the built-in IR emitter to act as a universal remote
- Polaris Office pre-loaded
- Exchange ActiveSync, Cisco VPN, Juniper Junos Pulse VPN
- Bluetooth v4.0; USB 2.0 Host; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n; 3.5mm earphone jack
- microSD card slot
- Dimensions: 262 x 180 x 8.9 mm (10.3 x 7. 09 x .35 inches); Weight 597 grams (21 ounces)
The Galaxy Note 10.1 will go on sale in the U.S. tomorrow and is priced at $499 for the 16GB and $549 for the 32GB model. Best Buy already has the Note 10.1 listed for sale and is offering a $20 gift card and free shipping with purchase.
Samsung Mobile has released the promo video below:
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The Sony 9.4-inch S tablet is the latest to get the discount treatment. Until tomorrow night the 16GB version is priced at $299.99 at 1SaleADay – a $100 discount off of the regular price. These are new units – not refurbished.
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Staples announced today that it will be selling the Google Nexus 7 tablet. Both the 8GB and 16GB versions are now available for pre-order from Staples with an expected shipping date of between July 12th and 17th.
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Right now Daily Steals has refurbished BlackBerry 16GB Playbook 7-inch tablets for $119.99. This deal will last for a little less than 24 hours or until sold out.
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Google unveiled its much anticipated 7-inch tablet today at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco. While the announcement itself of the Nexus 7 tablet hardly comes as a surprise, what with the many rumors and leaked specs that have been circulating around the net lately, the nimble performance shown by the Nexus 7 in its onstage debut and the number of features that Google and partner Asus have managed to cram into a device that will sell for $199 is impressive:
- 7-inch IPS LED display with a resolution of 1280 x 800.
- NVIDIA quad-core Tegra 3 processor.
- First tablet to run the newest flavor of Android – Jelly Bean (v4.1).
- Front-facing 1.2MP camera.
- Available with 8 or 16 GB internal storage
(8 GB version only at launch)and 1 GB RAM. Update: The 16GB version is also available for pre-order and is priced at $249 + tax and shipping.
- Microphone; NFC (near-field communication) (Android Beam); Accelerometer; GPS; Magnetometer; Gyroscope.
- Bluetooth; Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
- Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.72 x .41 inches; Weighs just under 12 ounces.
Sure, it would have been fun to have a rear-facing camera, a micro SD card slot and perhaps an HDMI out, but let’s not get greedy – for $199 the Nexus 7 looks quite good. One problem with many lower priced tablets has been battery life and according to the published specs the Nexus 7 shines in this area as well, with over 8 hours of video playback or 10 hours of ereading between charges. Standby time is said to be up to 300 hours.
The Nexus 7 will provide some serious competition for the Kindle Fire, which Amazon sells as a loss leader. Amazon makes money on the Fire by selling content to its users and the Fire also serves as a gateway into the Amazon shopping platform. In a similar manner the Nexus 7 is first and foremost a platform for Google Play and obviously Google hopes to sell owners of the Nexus 7 lots of apps, music and ebooks from its Google Play store.
Just as with e-ink based ereaders, the money comes from selling the content – hardware makers that rely on the content stores of others to support their devices are going to have an increasingly hard time competing in the budget tablet market.
Customers in the U.S., Canada, UK and Australia can pre-order the Nexus 7 tablet now at Google Play. Availability in other countries will follow. Shipping is expected to start around the middle of July. For a limited time Google is throwing in a $25 Google Play store credit with the purchase of the Nexus 7 and it will come pre-loaded with some free content including the Transformers: Dark of the Moon movie, The Bourne Dominion ebook by Robert Ludlum as well as some free music tracks and digital magazines.
Digital magazines are a new addition to the Google Play store, where they are now available as single issues or by subscription. The Nexus 7 appears to include a decent magazine reader with the usual features such as an article view mode, page thumbnail scrollbar and a dropdown article index.
TV shows are another new addition to Google Play. These are available a la carte for $1.99 per episode or season passes to a series can be purchased. The selection does not yet approach that of the iTunes store or Amazon, but this is a new department at Google Play, so expect it to grow. Movies can also now be purchased as well as rented.
Today Google also updated the Google Play Books app. Some of the new features added to the app help to bring it up to par with the other major ereading apps out there and include: The ability to add bookmarks by tapping the upper right corner of a page; support for embedded links to video and audio and a switch in the Settings menu to enable text-to-speech.
In mid-July, Google will release Jelly Bean to open source and start sending out the Jelly Bean updates OTA to the Galaxy Nexus, Motorola Xoom and Nexus S.
Below is a promo video of the Nexus 7 from Google:
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Microsoft officially unveiled its Windows based tablet today at an event in Los Angeles. Dubbed the Surface, the new tablet was conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft, rather than being farmed out to outside hardware design shops.
The Surface will come in two flavors: One built on an ARM processor and running Windows RT (a version of Windows designed to be run on ARM processors) and a higher end model based on an Intel processor and running Windows 8 Pro. The exact pricing has not been released yet, but the two versions are said to be priced competitively with other tablets based on the same processors. We’ll see.
The case of the Surface is made of magnesium using VaporMG manufacturing techniques, which allow for very thin, strong and light parts with a luxury finish. Corning’s Gorilla Glass is used on the display. The ARM version weighs in at 24 ounces (about an ounce heavier than the iPad 3) and is .36 inches thin, while the Intel model is 31 ounces and .53 inches – a little thicker and heavier.
The Surface has an integrated kickstand and Microsoft has designed a nifty magnetic cover that has a built-in multitouch keyboard with touchpad and is only 3mm thick. Both versions of the tablet will sport a 10.6-inch screen with a 16:9 ratio – a ClearType HD display for the Arm version and ClearType Full HD on the Intel model. The ARM version will be available with with a choice of 32GB or 64GB of internal storage and the Intel model will come with either 64GB or 128GB. Both also have micro SD card slots. The ARM based Surface has a micro HD video out port and the Intel model features mini DisplayPort. Both models feature front and rear facing cameras, stereo speakers and dual microphones.
The Intel based Surface also comes with a digital ink pen (stylus is such a bad word these days) that features palm block to shut off accidental input caused by touching the screen with one’s hand while using the pen. The pen attaches to the tablet magnetically for storage.
Both versions of the Surface will be available via Microsoft stores. The ARM version will be released first, about the same time as Windows 8 becomes available (should be third or fourth quarter this year), and the Intel model is expected to be released about 90 days later.
There has been speculation recently that Barnes & Noble would have something to do with the Microsoft tablet. That didn’t really make much sense – it has only been less than two months since Microsoft’s investment in B&N’s Nook business. Several weeks ago an associate at a B&N store told me he had heard internal rumors that the next Nook Tablet would be based on Windows – there has been speculation on the Net about that as well since the MS investment, and I have to say that would make much more sense to me.
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Idolian Mobile has launched the IdolPad Plus, an Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) 7-inch tablet that will sell for $98. Idolian makes a number of low priced tablets, including the previous generation of IdolPad, which runs Android 2.3 and carries a MSRP of $99.
The features of the IdolPad Plus include:
- Processor: 1.2 GHz Cortex A8.
- 7-inch multi-touch capacitive touch screen; 800 x 480 resolution.
- 512 MB DDR3 RAM.
- 4 GB built-in memory; micro SD card slot.
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g; micro USB 2.0; USB host; HDMI out; earphone jack.
- Accelerometer and front facing camera (1.3 MP).
- Dimensions: 7.75 x 4.875 x .56 inches; Weight 12.8 ounces.
- Battery life is 3-4 hours.
Well, it ain’t the iPad – but considering the price, it doesn’t sound all that bad either. If you want a cheap LCD tablet/ereader that you can put the major reading apps on and use for browsing the Internet, watching Netflix or even doing some light gaming with, this might be worth looking at. The IdolPad Plus is expected to ship this week and should be available at Amazon, Sears and Buy.com.
Below is a promo video for the IdolPad Plus:
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Velocity Micro has had a new series of Cruz tablets in the works that will run Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). The first of the new tablets to launch is the top of the line T510, which is available now for $249.99.
Some of the features of the T510:
- 10-inch capacitive touch screen; 1024 x 768 resolution.
- 1.2GHz Cortex A8 processor.
- Front facing video and rear facing 2MP cameras.
- Microphone with voice recording software; mini HDMI out; host micro USB.
- Kindle for Android and Amazon Appstore preinstalled.
- Media compatibility: Video – MPEG-4, MOV, WMV, FLV, and H.264/H.263; Music – MP3, WMA, WAV, and OGG.
The T5 series of Cruz tablets features a faster processor, more RAM and in some models more built-in storage than the previous T4 generation. Battery life has fallen to around 5 hours with the new models.