This week's big news came from Google as it unveiled its first tablet, the Nexus 7, which refers to its 7-inch screen. Up until now, talking about a tablet was just a politically correct way of saying iPad -- the only tablet that mattered to most people. But the Nexus 7 could be a contender for several reasons.
It's the first tablet with a quad-core processor, meaning that it's really fast with no annoying lag between your swipe or tap and the tablet's response. The Nexus 7 will be the first device to run Jelly Bean, the latest and as-yet-unreleased version of Google's Android operating system.
There is plenty of entertainment available in Google Play, the company's rebranded app store that houses games, movies, music and apps. And, most important, is the price. At last, we'll have a fairly high-end tablet at an affordable price.
The Nexus 7 will sell for $200 starting in July, the same price as Amazon's Kindle Fire -- which is not much more than a glorified Kindle -- and less than half the price of an iPad.
Earlier this month, Microsoft showed off its tablet entry, which will run Windows 8. However, the 10-inch Surface won't be available until this fall and the company has not announced a price, saying only that the standard model will cost about the same amount as an iPad, and its pro tablet could be more.
What makes it different from an iPad? Aside from some very high-tech materials, the only visible difference is a magnetic cover that can double as a keyboard. Nice, but not enough to woo customers away from the iPad.
Microsoft followed many hardware manufacturers, including Motorola with its Xoom and Samsung with its series of Tabs, who tried to go head-to-head with Apple and failed.
From a technological standpoint or based just on good looks, the iPad has proved impossible to beat. But a powerful, sleek device at a fraction of the cost? That's a winner.
Need a few more tidbits about the Nexus 7? The tablet is manufactured by Asus, a Taiwanese company best known for its Eee PC netbooks. It will come in two capacity versions: 8GB for $200 and 16GB for $250. (The base iPad has 16GB for $500.) The 1280 x 800 pixel display is said to be sufficient for watching HD movies, but only half the resolution of an iPad. However, it's made of a tougher glass that should make it more durable. The Nexus 7 has a 1.2-pixel camera, compared to an iPad's 5-pixel camera, and the Nexus does not have a second camera that iPad users like for video chatting. Google said the tablet has an 8-hour battery life, about the same as the Kindle Fire and two hours short of the iPad's rated battery life. On balance, the Nexus 7 is a better value than Amazon's tablet and should make budget-conscious buyers happy.
And here's a perk: If you purchase from the Google Play website, you'll receive a $25 gift certificate that you can use toward books and other entertainment in the store.
You may be skeptical about buying a tablet. I was. Did I really need another Internet device? I work on an all-in-one computer with a roomy screen, there are several laptops in the house that rotate among the kids and we all have smartphones.
But when the new iPad came out earlier this year, I couldn't resist. In just a few months, it has become my camera, my video recorder, my home phone (via Skype), my stack of bedside books and my TV. The only thing it hasn't replaced is my desktop computer, but that could happen with the addition of a keyboard and stand. My iPad is currently in Paris on loan to my daughter. It's tough to do without it.
If you're thinking about buying a tablet, your best choices are between an iPad and the new Nexus 7. Clearly, I need another one in this household because I'm afraid my daughter won't want to give it back when she returns next week.
Her iPad replacement? My money is on the Nexus 7, a good alternative for teens and their mothers who worry about a pricey device getting lost or damaged.
For that matter, the Nexus 7 is a good option for any tablet buyer who has something they'd rather do with the $300 savings.
Ogden-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question for TopTenREVIEWS? Email Leslie Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org.