Best Small Tablet: Google Nexus 7
The Nexus 7 has a brilliant 7-inch LCD screen.
If you want the iPad's large screen and can accept its large price, you should go for it. But if you would like a more portable device, a lower price, or both, the Nexus 7 (starting at $199) is the best choice among all the small tablets out there.
Why we like it
Like the satisfying thunk of a door closing on a Mercedes, nearly every aspect of the Nexus 7 has a solid feel. It has a clean, iPad-ish front, with a camera but not a single button. And the textured, soft-touch underside gently grips to your hand when you hold it.
Running atop a powerful processor and graphics chip, the new Android Jelly Bean operating system is very responsive — with virtually zero lag while toggling between apps. Google's Chrome Web browser, which reflects and syncs with the PC and Mac versions, pulls down pages lickety-split. And the graphics system shows extreme detail in Android games on the Nexus 7's very bright screen, such as reflections in the water on the Jetski racing game "Riptide GP" and a flag billowing in the wind on the shoot-em-up title "Shadowgun THD."
Measuring 4.7 inches across, the Nexus 7 is narrow enough for holding in two hands and typing on, Blackberry style. And at just 12 ounces, it's light enough to hold for ebook reading.
The $199 starting price is far easier to swallow than the iPad's $499. Although to match that iPad's 16GB of storage for apps and data — which we recommend — go for the $249 version of the Nexus 7. That's half the price of an entry-level iPad, and all Nexus 7s come with a $25 coupon to the Google Play app-and-media store.
Keep in mind
Google Play is especially handy for music, as you can stream when you are connected to Wi-Fi or download any of the songs you buy for offline listening. But Play is just one way to get media. You can also install, for example, the Kindle or Nook apps for ebooks, Spotify or Pandora for music and Netflix or Hulu Plus for video.
Best bring a set of headphones, however. The built-in speaker barely provides enough volume. And it often gets muffled due to its unfortunate location on the bottom of the device. [Best In-Ear Headphones: Bowers & Wilkins C5]
The magazines app, so far, provides mostly disappointing scans of pages, with text too small to easily read. But the Google Currents app presents Web-based publications (including the sites for magazines) in an attractive, easy-to-navigate format.
Easy to carry, the Nexus 7 has a nearly flawless design with excellent build quality. It has the processor and graphics power to run any app — or many apps simultaneously — without a hiccup. And it has a price that makes all those virtues attainable.
- 7-inch, 1280-by-800-pixel LCD
- 1.3-GHz, quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor
- 7 hours and 26 minutes battery life (as tested)
- 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera
- 7.8 by 4.7 by 0.4 inches, 12 ounces
- $200 for 8GB storage or $250 for 16GB