Watch out, iPad; Google's Nexus 10 has your number
If you're searching for an iPad alternative, Google's Nexus 10 is worth a look.
Until recently, Apple pretty much had the full-size tablet market to itself. The early competitors to its iPad were pricey, hard to use and clunky.
But the market has changed in recent months, and Apple is starting to see some real competition. For the price of an iPad — or less — you can now find devices with easy-to-use interfaces, lightweight designs and features you won't find on Apple's gadget.
Google's new Nexus 10 fits in with this new generation of iPad competitors. Made by Samsung for Google, the Nexus 10's technical specifications match or better those of Apple's device in many ways.
It has a higher-resolution screen than the iPad's vaunted Retina display. It's both lighter and slightly thinner than the latest iPad. And in my tests, its processor and graphics chip compare favorably with those in Apple's device.
These specifications may or may not matter to you. I didn't find the Nexus 10's higher resolution display to be significantly sharper than the iPad's. And its differences in weight and thickness were small enough not to be noticeable.
But Apple clearly no longer has an advantage for those who are looking at the specs. With the Nexus 10, you get a speedy, responsive, lightweight device with a beautifully sharp screen. Even better, you can get it for $400, which is $100 less than you'd pay for the comparably equipped iPad.
The Nexus 10 runs Android 4.2, the latest version of Google's smartphone and tablet operating system. I still don't think that Android is as easy to use or intuitive as Apple's iOS, which underlies the iPad, or the new Metro interface that's a central part of Microsoft's new Windows RT software. But the tablet version of Android has improved steadily in the past two years, and Google has added some compelling features.
The Nexus' native Gallery application, for example, now includes photo editing tools that allow users to crop or rotate their photos or apply filters to them without buying an extra editing app. The device's native Google+ app both connects users to Google's social network and allows them to make video calls.
This helps address one of the shortcomings of previous Android tablets — the lack of a built-in video calling app comparable to Apple's FaceTime. Google+ isn't as well integrated into the Nexus 10 as FaceTime is on the iPad, but unlike Apple's app, it allows users to set up video conferences with multiple contacts.
One new feature that has a lot of potential is the Nexus 10's support for multiple user logins. It will allow consumers to share the device among several friends or family members, with each user having their own personal and customizable space.
That feature isn't up and running yet, so I didn't get to test how well it works. But it's an idea whose time has come, because it addresses one of the big flaws of tablets: They often contain personal information, but are also frequently shared by more than one user.