(Update: See my review of the Nexus 7.)
The internet has been abuzz for weeks with rumors of Google’s upcoming refresh of its Nexus 7 tablet. The official unveiling is scheduled for Wednesday July 24th, and according to a leaked Best Buy flyer, retail availability should follow by July 30th.
(Edit: Here is is!)
I don’t normally write too much about specific models of specific gadgets, but already, the new Nexus 7 looks like it will be a wonderful tablet for teachers. (Edit: Here’s my review.) Some of the features important to teachers:
- It has a crisp, spacious retina display for viewing and interacting with text. When it comes to reading text on a screen, the higher your pixel density is, the better. The Nexus 7’s seven-inch screen crams in 1920*1200 pixels, or 323.5 pixels per inch. By comparison, Apple’s $649 iPhone 5 features 326 pixels per inch—essentially equivalent. When I bought my current laptop in 2010, its 15-inch screen was considered top of the line for having 1920*1080 pixels at 147 pixels per inch. The Nexus 7 crams even more pixels into less than 25% of the space.
- It includes a reasonably high quality rear-facing camera. Like Apple’s iPad, the Nexus 7 has a five-megapixel camera. At that resolution, it can take photos and videos and scan classroom documents just fine. And as a bonus, because the Nexus 7 is smaller and lighter than the iPad, it’s much less cumbersome to use it as a camera! Granted, neither device gives you the sort of quality you’d get in a larger stand-alone camera, but that’s due to the pesky laws of physics: better quality images require bigger lenses, and there’s no room for that in these tiny devices!
- It can easily connect to a projector or classroom monitor. This is the dealbreaker which made the older Nexus 7 model inappropriate for classroom use. It didn’t have any kind of video connector! The new model uses SlimPort HDMI for video output. With the correct dongle or adapter, you can hook it up to any type of projector or monitor.
- It provides an unvarnished Android environment. Amazon’s line of Kindle tablets is notorious for its baked-in advertising, and other tablets, like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series, use proprietary technologies and modifications which alter the Android experience. The Nexus tablets showcase Android as it was meant to be used.
- The $229 price is unbeatable—especially compared to the iPad. At $329 for the most basic model, Apple’s equivalent tablet, the iPad Mini, costs much more than the $229 Nexus 7—and has a much poorer screen at just 163 pixels per inch, versus the Nexus 7’s 323.5 PPI! (Apple skimped on giving the iPad Mini a retina display.) Unless you’re locked into the iOS ecosystem for institutional reasons, I cannot think of a single reason why one would prefer to purchas the iPad Mini instead of a Nexus 7. The full-size iPad starts at $499, meaning that the Nexus 7 costs just 45% as much. That’s a huge chunk of change. Rather than getting an iPad, you could literally buy two Nexus 7s and have change left over. That’s amazing.
Back in early 2012, I purchased a third-generation iPad because it was the first consumer device on the market to sport a screen good enough for the kind of professional, heavy-duty reading and annotation I wanted to use my tablet for. I was also lured in by the promise of being able to use my iPad to project presentations in my classroom. A year and a half later, the new Nexus 7 fulfills both of those requirements at a fraction of the size and price of the iPad. I’m not in the market for a new tablet yet, but I can’t wait to get my hands on one to play around with.