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Review: Google's Nexus 7 tablet with Android 4.1

Google's first Nexus-branded tablet is a compelling device offered at an aggressive price point — a combination that could make the Nexus 7 a fierce competitor to Amazon's Kindle lineup, though it won't likely have much of an effect on Apple's current, larger iPad.

Starting at just $199 for the 8-gigabyte model, going up to $249 for double the capacity, the Nexus 7 is clearly an aggressive effort by Google to push Android in the tablet space and an attempt to counter Amazon's Kindle Fire. Google has good reason to go after the Kindle Fire: Amazon's own touchscreen tablet, released less than a year ago, essentially hijacked Google's work on the Android platform to make its own forked tablet operating system.

In countering the Kindle Fire, Google's Nexus 7 is an indisputable success. While the $199 price point was essentially the main selling point for the slow and limited Kindle Fire, the Nexus 7 would be a compelling device for consumers looking for a 7-inch tablet at prices much higher than the $199 Google is asking. Unlike the Kindle Fire, the Nexus 7 has adequate horsepower to do most of the activities users have come to expect with a tablet.

But because of its smaller screen — particularly its narrow width when used in portrait mode, which is the default orientation — the Nexus 7 feels like a device that is better suited for reading e-books or light Web browsing. The device's form factor, combined with a relative lack of enticing tablet-specific applications for Android, simply puts it in a different class of device — and an entirely different market segment — than Apple's market leading iPad.

Nexus 1

User experience and hardware

If first impressions are everything, the packaging of the Nexus 7 stumbles right out of the gate. Attempting to slide the box cover off and get to the tablet is an unnecessarily difficult task thanks to a strange packaging choice. We weren't the only ones to encounter this issue, as the video below clearly demonstrates.

Once it's finally out of the box and up and running, the most noticeable feature of the Nexus 7 is how snappy and responsive the device is, thanks to optimizations in Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean," plus the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and a full gigabyte of RAM. While previous versions of Android and older Android hardware had a noticeable lag in user interface responsiveness, the Nexus 7 feels akin to what iPhone and iPad users are already accustomed to.

On page 2 of 4, more on the hardware, including performance, weight and battery life