Google [NASDAQ: GOOG] has entered the hardware business. With the unveiling of its latest attempt at world domination, the Nexus 7 tablet, the search giant enters a market crowded with competition from Apple's [NASDAQ: AAPL] iPad, Microsoft's [NASDAQ: MSFT] upcoming Slate device, and the product's nearest rival, the Amazon [NASDAQ: AMZN] Kindle.
Aggressively priced at $199 for the 8GB model and $249 for the 16 GB model, the Nexus 7 is smaller than an iPad at 7 inches, but it's still packed with impressive innards, including a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, a 1.2-megapixel camera, 1GB of RAM, a 4,325mAh battery and NFC built in. The Nexus will start shipping next month with Google's updated Jelly Bean 4.1 OS.
A day after the product was revealed at a news conference, here are the first hands-on impressions of the Nexus 7:
According to the Washington Post, the build feels really solid with a nice, grippy rubberized back and metallic-style silver trim. Even though the unit on display was tethered to a table, the Nexus 7 feels remarkably light.
Thumbs up for the display, too, with the Post describing the 1280 x 800 resolution Asus unit as glossy ... bright and readable, adding that the viewing angles are fantastic.
The only issues the paper mentioned was the lack of a photo app (the front-facing camera is intended for video conferencing only) and the fact that scrolling in the Chrome Web browser Couldn't quite keep up with our thumbs.
Britain's Daily Telegraph was more forthcoming in its outright praise of the device, saying the Nexus 7 feels like the device that might just usurp the [Amazon] Kindle.
It does everything that Amazon's device has done so successfully since it launched in 2007, the paper opines, but with Google you can now also watch videos, browse beautifully rendered magazines and the Web and of course check your email.
Instead of an iPad killer, however, the Telegraph notes that the Nexus is a cooly utilitarian device aimed at the mass market, again rather like the Kindle.
Overall, the paper concludes, they're [Google] aiming far beyond the small minority of global Web users who are iPad fans.
This is a pretty good first shot at that target.
Elsewhere, All Things Digital.com also compared the Nexus 7 favorably to the Kindle, with reviewer Bonnie Cha writing, It's much more attractive than the drab Kindle Fire, and the leatherette finish on the back is a nice touch.
I could see myself using it as an e-reader on my bus ride and watching movies during a flight, she added.
Newsday made an interesting point by noting that the Nexus 7 is designed specifically for Google's online store, Play.
That mirrors Amazon's strategy with the Kindle Fire, the paper noted, although it added, crucially, that Amazon's strength in online retailing has seeded its store with a more extensive selection than Google Play.
This could be one of the pitfalls of the Nexus. Google's Play store is no Amazon or iTunes; it simply does not have the same amount of content yet.
How quickly Google can turn this around could be crucial to the success or failure of the Nexus and indeed the idea of an Android-powered tablet.
So there you have it. According to reviewers, the Nexus 7 is not an iPad Killer, it is a mass-market device aimed at stealing market share from Amazon and other small tablet makers. Utilitarian, solid and easily portable, this could be just the device to make tablets as ubiquitous as mobile phones.