As expected, Google unveiled the Nexus 7 at their developer event yesterday, which will be the first reference tablet for Android. The device, whose hardware is produced by Asus, will be the first device to use the next version of Google’s mobile operating system, 4.1 codename Jelly Bean.
The tablet is aimed squarely at the Amazon Kindle Fire, one of the best selling Android tablets of the year. It exists in the same 7″ form factor and $200 price point as the Fire, but offers Jelly Bean, the full Google Play store and some much more powerful hardware.
While the Kindle Fire is similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook, with a slow dual-core processor and half a gigabyte of RAM, the Nexus 7 includes a powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor that debuted on the flagship Transformer Prime last year, as well as a full gigabyte of RAM. The display is also improved, with resolution being 1280 x 800 compared to the Fire’s 1024 x 600. Internal storage is still small, at 8 GB for the $200 model and 16 GB for the $250 model.
Jelly Bean includes a number of new features and changes to the already mature Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, as you’d expect from a point release.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade is ‘Project Butter’, which aims to get the whole OS running at a smooth 60 frames per second, through the addition of triple buffering for the UI, improved Vsync, changes to the CPU governor and the new Systrace tool for developers. All of this has really paid off, with the device feeling a lot more fluid than its predecessor.
The notification menu has been reworked, allowing you to see more information on incoming notifications and take action on them without needing to leave the notifications menu. The settings menu has been cleaned up, too. The lock screen now has a shortcut to Google Now, a context-sensitive search and information kiosk. Widgets now are more elegantly resizeable, and will gently displace other widgets or icons in their path. Offline voice recognition has been added. The camera UI has been updated. Chrome has been made the standard browser for the OS - that means no Flash.
Google and Asus have certainly worked well together to produce a tablet of this quality at such a low price point, and it’ll be interesting to see how Amazon respond with the follow-up to their Kindle Fire tablet, which is expected to be coming soon. Jelly Bean went beyond what I expected as well - I can’t wait to get it running on my Galaxy Nexus!