July 07, 2012, 7:09 AM — Google's announcement of the Nexus 7 tablet raised many of the same questions as Microsoft's announcement of its Surface tablet, earlier in June: What is it, really? Why does it exist? Why would a major platform vendor compete with its OEM partners by releasing its own branded hardware?
There's one major difference between the Nexus 7 and the Surface, though. The Nexus 7 exists, here and now. Google handed out 6,000 of the Asus-manufactured devices to attendees at its Google I/O developer conference last week, and it expects to begin shipping the tablet to paying customers by late July. With product in hand, I explored what the Nexus 7 has to offer.
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The Nexus 7 is a low-cost tablet. It lists at $199 for a version with 8GB of storage and $249 for one with 16GB. (Neither model has an SD card slot for expansion.) That pits it against Amazon's similarly priced Kindle Fire, which by most estimates is the best-selling Android tablet so far.
For the price, the Nexus 7 is a nice piece of gear. It fits comfortably in one hand, and it weighs about as much as a thick paperback book (340 grams). Its back is coated with a pleasing textured rubber. Its overall build quality is what you'd expect of a costlier device.