Head-to-Head: Google Nexus Vs. Apple iPad

Nexus 7 vs. iPad 3

Google today announced Nexus 7, a seven-inch quad-core Android tablet device that will be "specially designed to access content on the Google Play" marketplace. The news came this morning at its Google I/O conference in San Francisco, just days after Microsoft's big Surface announcement.

The Nexus 7 will cost $199 for an 8 GB device ($249 for 16 GB) and can be ordered now for delivery in mid-July. To be manufactured by Asus, the device will be as technically capable as Microsoft's ARM-based Surface but will cost about half as much. While Microsoft is clearly targeting Apple's iPad market, most speculation assumed Google was taking aim at Amazon's Kindle Fire. However, with the exception of the screen size and OS, Nexus 7 surpasses Kindle Fire in every way. That said, we think the company has far loftier aspirations. Here's how it stacks up against Apple's iPad 3.

CPU, GPU, Memory

Nexus 7 won't be the first computing device to bear the Google name, but it will have the most cores -- with 16 in all. Google confirmed that the Nexus 7 will be built around an Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-chip with four 1.3GHz Cortex A9 ARM cores plus a 12-core GeForce GPU with 1 GB of video memory.

Apple is somewhat less forthcoming about the Samsung-made A5X custom SoC that runs iPad 3. The Samsung-made A5X includes two Cortex A9 cores and a quad-core PowerVR GPU and was designed according to Apple's performance and power specifications.

In the CPU/GPU department, Nexus 7 has the advantage with 16 cores versus iPad's six. Nexus falls a bit short in terms of storage with a maximum of 16 GB, while iPad is available with as much as 64 GB. However, we believe that performance trumps storage.



Nexus 7 will sport a 7-inch screen, though it's unknown whether it will be made of Gorilla Glass like the iPad. Its LCD will be of the (relatively costly) IPS variety, giving it an enormous color palette and a wide viewing angle of 178 degrees. However, it will apparently operate at 1280 x 800 pixels, which by today's standards seems downright Spartan. Google confirmed this report, and that's a disappointment. Because with a GeForce GPU that can pump out 2560 x 1600 pixels, it seems crazy to hobble it with such a limited display. At a resolution of 1280 x 800, the Nexus 7's pixel density of 215 pixels per inch.

Conversely, the iPad 3 boasts a much greater density of 264 PPI. With the release of the Retina display in the iPhone 4 last year, Apple described its pixel density as being akin to the human retina. The 9.7-inch Retina display in the iPad 3 offers 2048 x 1536, double that of iPad 2 and significantly greater than that of the monitor you're looking at right now.


Operating System

Nexus 7 will be the first device to run Android 4.1, also known as Jelly Bean, the forthcoming release that will include a file manager, malware protection and further optimizations for tablets and possibly laptops. It also will reportedly be the first to have updates controlled entirely by Google. Not much more is known about Google’s next mobile OS, but based on significant improvements to Android 4.0, developers have clearly hit their stride.

However, comparing Android with iOS is almost like holding up a mirror. So close, in fact, that a court last December ordered HTC to halt Android phone imports as of last April 19, while Apple is offering settlements to other Android OEMs for iPhone patent infringements. There's no reason to think that the same reasons Apple was suing HTC might not apply to Google-branded devices running Android. And Asus might also take note; the company is under contract to manufacture the Nexus 7.


Bottom Line

Google's tablet will weigh just 0.75 pounds (340g), and include a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera, gyroscope, accelerometer and lots of apps specifically designed to provide simple access to Google's vast library of e-books, music and video content in the Google Play market. For Nexus vs. Kindle Fire, there's no contest. With technical specs vastly better than Kindle Fire at the same price, there's simply no reason to buy Amazon's device anymore.

Nexus also gets the nod over iPad in terms of compute and graphics processing horsepower. The real question will be whether Google will be able to combine the hardware and software magically enough to attract potential buyers of Apple's iPad. Or, will Apple continue to steal the show with the intuitiveness of its user interface and rock-solidness of its platform?

More Google Nexus Coverage From CRN

Google Introduces 'Nexus' Tablet:
7 Must-Know Features Of Google's Nexus 7 Tablet
Nexus 7 Tablet Will Bring Users Into Google's 'Ecosystem'
Google Unveils Nexus 7 Tablet, Android 'Jelly Bean' OS
Google Reported To Introduce Tablet, Cloud Service