Google Unveils a New, Nicer, Pricier Nexus 7 Tablet

At an event this morning in San Francisco, Google rolled out a new Nexus 7. The name remains the same, but otherwise, an awful lot has changed.

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Harry McCracken / TIME

Google's Hugo Barra brandishes the new Nexus 7 at an event on July 24, 2013 in San Francisco

It wasn’t all that long ago that Google announced its Nexus 7, a $199 7″ tablet built by Asus — it’s only around 13 months old. But so much has happened in tabletland since then that the Nexus 7 feels a bit like an old-timer. Lots of folks expected Google to replace it back in May at the company’s I/O conference. It didn’t. But at an event this morning in San Francisco, the company rolled out a new Nexus 7. The name remains the same, but otherwise, an awful lot has changed.

As its name suggests, this is still a tablet with a 7″ screen. It’s also still based on Asus hardware. But it’s svelter than its predecessor: 2mm thinner, almost 6mm narrower and 50 grams lighter. And Google packed far more pixels into the new tablet’s display real estate. It’s going from 1280-by-800 pixels and 216 pixels per inch to 1920-by-1200 pixels and 323ppi, giving it true HD resolution and making it, Google says, the highest-resolution 7″ tablet to date. (Apple’s iPad Mini has a bigger screen but far fewer pixels — 1024-by-768 — and barely over half of the new Nexus 7’s pixels-per-inch.)

Nexus 7


Inside, the new tablet has a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with 1.8x the computational oomph of the old one. It has double the RAM — 2GB — which should also boost performance, especially if you’re juggling multiple apps and/or browser tabs. It has HDMI output for TV hookups, wireless charging and NFC, and supports Bluetooth Smart (aka Bluetooth Low Energy), providing compatibility with the coolest, most power-efficient Bluetooth add-ons.

Google says that the more potent features haven’t hurt battery life. Actually, it’s claiming an extra hour of performance: up to nine hours of streaming video or ten hours of web browsing.

The revamped Nexus 7 is the first Android device to ship with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, a fairly minor-sounding operating-system upgrade with features such as multiple user profiles with varying levels of access (so that your kid, for instance, can play only kid-friendly apps and can’t download new ones) and new copy protection, which Netflix uses to stream video at 1080 resolution. It also has access to Google Play Games, a new Google App Store focused on…well, you know.

Oh, and the tablet also has a new price. Instead of starting at $199, it’s a $229 tablet. (Yes, Google is opting out of the $199 tablet wars it kicked off with the first Nexus 7.) That gets you 16GB of storage. For $269, you can upgrade to a 32GB model; for $349, you can buy a 32GB unit with unlocked 4G LTE, which works on AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. The Wi-Fi-only models will be available on July 30 from the Google Play store and will be broadly available at retail stores; the LTE one will follow “in the coming weeks.”

The original Nexus 7 was the tablet that pretty much snapped the Android-tablet market out of its doldrums. As an improved model of the original at a higher price, the new version is unlikely to be anywhere near as influential. But it does look pretty snazzy, and reasonably priced for what you get. More thoughts once I’ve had a chance to try one for myself.

Nexus 7 [Google Play]

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