Preview: Google Nexus 7

Google's own-branded 7-inch Android tablet.

Google has announced its own Android tablet, the 7-inch Nexus 7.

Google lifted the lid on the Nexus 7 Android tablet at its I/O developers conference, though it was hardly unexpected news. The device had been rumoured for quite some time and was leaked days before the launch. The I/O conference is targeted at web, mobile, and enterprise developers building applications with Google platforms.

The Google Nexus 7 is manufactured by ASUS and will be the first device to run the Google's new version of the Android OS, 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Jelly Bean 4.1 platform is a minor upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, hence the version number jumping from 4.0 to 4.1, rather than leaping up to 5.0.

The main feature of Android Jelly Bean is what Google calls "Project Butter", which centres around making the software smoother, faster and fluid. The company claims using Jelly Bean feels a lot smoother than previous versions of the platform. Triple buffering graphics for a higher frame rate during games, offline voice typing, enhanced notifications that show more details and widgets that automatically resize are other new UI features.

The Google Nexus 7 tablet is powered by a 1.3Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 processor and comes with a GeForce 12-core GPU for gaming and other graphic intensive applications. The tablet has 1GB of RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of internal memory but there is no removable storage. The lack of expandable memory is a downside, but it isn't the first time Google has relied on internal memory only for its Nexus devices. The Google-branded but Samsung-built Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus smartphones both lacked removable storage.

The Nexus 7's smaller 7in screen is a IPS display with a resolution of 1280×800. It has a pixel density of 216 pixels per inch (ppi) which leaves it behind the iPad (264ppi) but ahead of most other Android tablets on the market. Aside from the upcoming ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T and the Acer Iconia Tab A700, both 10.1in tablets, most Android devices have significantly lower pixel density ratings than the iPad. A higher ppi should mean the Nexus 7 displays crisper and sharper text and much higher levels of detail than we've seen on Android tablets to date.

The Google Nexus 7 has a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera for video applications and built-in NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity. However, there is no rear facing camera, an exclusion to save on manufacturing costs, or 3G/4G connectivity. The Google Nexus 7 is a Wi-Fi only tablet.

Google says the Nexus 7's battery will last up to nine hours for HD video playback and will offer 300 hours of standby time, though the specifications page quotes eight hours of "active use". ASUS has used a 4325mAh battery and the tablet weighs a fairly light 340g.

The Google Nexus 7 is available to pre-order in Australia through the Google Play store. It is priced at $249 for the 8GB version and $299 for the larger capacity 16GB model.

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