Samsung Galaxy Note 2 vs Google Nexus 7 [video]

August 30, 2012
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So the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is the newest, shiniest toy in Android-ville. It’s both a smartphone and a tablet in one – a phablet in short – which has been unveiled during Samsung’s pre-IFA 2012 Berlin-based Unpacked event.

Android Authority has covered thoroughly the second-generation Galaxy Note – including hands-on videos, specs and features, release date and pricing, but also a wide variety of comparisons with current high-end handsets. We pitted the Galaxy Note 2 against the original Note, the HTC One X, the Galaxy Nexus and the iPhone 4S. The winner in each fight? It’s hard to say, objectively, because not all Android fans need the same kind of the device.

But it dawned on us that while the Galaxy Note 2 is a phablet, a device that covers the niche between high-end smartphones and budget-friendly tablets, we only compared it to its predecessor and current and former flagship handsets. So let’s see how the Galaxy Note 2 does against the Google Nexus 7, arguably the highest-end budget-friendly tablet out there, at least until the new Kindle Fire 2 model(s) and rumored iPad Mini tablet arrive.

Who’s the better tablet between the two? Spoiler alert, I’m going to give you the politically correct answer: it depends what you’re mostly interested in when it comes to tablet use. Worst-case scenario, for you wallet, you just buy both of them and get it over with. I’ll also tell you, just in case you’re wondering, who’s the better phone: the Galaxy Note 2, as the Nexus 7 doesn’t come with cellular capabilities.

Let’s compare some of the most important characteristics of the two devices then!

Size matters no matter what they say

Too big for some pockets – and I don’t mean that figuratively – the Galaxy Note 2 features a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD display with 1280 x 720 resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio. The Google Nexus 7 features a 7-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD touchscreen panel that boasts almost the same resolution, 1280 x 800, and a similar aspect ratio, 16:10. That means that in theory we have a draw between these two displays, but since the Galaxy Note 2 is smaller, it offers a higher pixel per inch density (PPI) which means the phablet gets crispier images than the Nexus tablet, 285 PPI vs 216 PPI, respectively.

But it’s not all in the pixels, and since both devices support HD playback, they’ll certainly be great for consuming content, from apps, to videos (movies and TV shows included) to books, and everything else that has a visually enticing component.

In fact, users interested in only exploring content options on an Android tablet will probably be more interested to do so on a larger display, on a dirt-cheap tablet like the Nexus 7. But don’t be fooled, the Nexus 7’s price does not make it a low- to mid-ranged device, it just makes it unprofitable for Google, when it comes to cash, but very valuable when it comes to displeasing Amazon.

As for the quality of the display, we can debate on what’s better for ages, a LED-backlit IPS LCD panel or Samsung’s PenTile technology, but at the end of the day this aspect is probably not going to affect your buying decision, that much.

Speaking of size, the Nexus 7 is (obviously) bigger than the Galaxy Note 2. Google’s device measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.45 mm, compared to 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm. As for weight, the Nexus 7 weighs almost twice the Galaxy Note 2: 340g vs 180g.

Raw power isn’t for everyone

So how about what’s under the hood, in the hardware department? Since the Nexus 7 had to meet a certain recipe of success – Google told Asus to make it as good, as cheap and as fast as possible – the tablet can’t be compared to high-end tablets. But it does sport a 1.3GHz quad-core Cortex A9 processor, 416MHz twelve-core NVIDIA GeForce ULP graphics,  (NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L SoC), 1GB of RAM and 8/16GB storage options. That’s great, certainly better than what the original Kindle Fire has to offer, but what about the Note 2?

Samsung’s most recent Android creation is slightly better – and by slightly I mean a lot better for consumers that require more raw power under the hood, while regular Android users will probably not even notice the difference. The device features a 1.6GHz quad-core Cortex A9 processor, Mali-400MP GPU(Exynos 4412 Quad SoC), 2GB of RAM and 16/32/64GB storage choices with up to 64GB of expandable memory via microSD cards – the latter being a feature the Nexus 7 lacks.

Photography skills are not just in the megapixels

The Galaxy Note 2 is, of course, a high-end device, therefore it’s better than the first Jelly Bean tablet in the world when it comes to other hardware departments. The phablet sports two cameras: 8-megapixel rear-facing and 1.9-megapixel front-facing, with the former ready to offer 1080p HD video recording while the latter is stuck in VGA mode. The Nexus 7 only has a front-facing shooter for video chatting that has a 1.2-megapixel shooter capable of 720p video recording. But then again, who needs a camera on tablets?

Battery Life

The Nexus 7, with its extra footprint, can house a much better battery than the Galaxy Note 2. We’re looking at a Li-Ion 4,325mAh 16Wh non-removable battery for the tablet compared with the Li-Ion 3,100mAh user-replaceable faster-chaging-than-the-Galaxy-Note’s battery for the phablet.

Jelly Bean-ness

In short, both devices have the latest and bravest Android OS version on board, right out of the box. The long version is more complex though, as the Nexus 7 runs a pure, vanilla version of Jelly Bean while the Galaxy Note 2 comes with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top, not to mention all the S Pen stylus-optimized apps the phablet can offer – oh yeah, we didn’t forget about the S Pen, a built-in accessory for the Galaxy Note 2 that can be very useful for creative types, or a deal breaker for anyone that’s thinks that if you see a stylus, they blew it.

Like always, there’s also the matter of future upgrades. Who’s going to be the first of the two to be updated to Key Lime Pie – which is what comes after Jelly Bean? Well, if you have to ask, it’s the Google Nexus 7.

What should I – and by “I” I mean you – buy?

Now that you know first hand what each device has to offer, the question is simple, what should you buy?

The Google Nexus 7 is available for $199/$249, depending what memory capacity you choose right away, without any contract fees. The Galaxy Note 2 on the other hand will be pricier whether you buy the unlocked version or the subsidized version. So if it comes to budget-friendliness, the Nexus 7 is your pick.

However, the phablet also acts as a HSPA+ / 4G LTE smartphone – no, we can’t forget about this aspect either – so if you don’t want to carry a tablet and smartphone with you at all times, then the Galaxy Note 2 may be the perfect combo.

Budget and phone features are two of the most important factors that come to mind when choosing one of these two devices.

For everything else we have this handy chart:

  • Android purists who want the latest update at all times: Nexus 7 is the way to go
  • Creative individuals who need to edit, annotate, record, draw, design: Galaxy Note 2, new S Pen stylus included
  • Content devourers that don’t care much about anything else: Nexus 7
  • Hardcore mobile gamers: either device would do
  • Hardcore mobile Internet users: Nexus 7 if you do it over Wi-Fi at home or in the office, Galaxy Note 2 if 4G/LTE is how you want to handle things
  • Android fanboys – and we don’t mean that in any negative way: both devices should be purchased provided money grows on trees
  • Developers: both devices should be purchased no matter where money grows
  • Apple lawyers and anyone else from the competition: both devices should be purchased and tore down repeatedly

For best results, mix the categories above with budget-friendliness and the phone-use requirement and find out whether the latest phablet in town or the best budget-friendly tablet should be on your purchase list.

In case you want to see how the two devices look like standing next to each other, take a look at the video below recorded at IFA 2012:

And now, the most important question: is anyone seriously considering buying both of them?

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