7-inch Android tablets. Let me be completely honest with you folks, forget the iPad, my passion for tablets is entirely thanks to a great 7-inch Android tablet, the first generation Nexus 7. Built for Google by ASUS, the Nexus 7 launched in July of 2012 as Google’s very first Nexus tablet.
I have such an affinity for 7-inch Android tablets that it baffles me there are so few good options on the market today. Where did they all go?
To be fair, there are more 7-inch tablets to choose from than ever before. If Google’s only purpose with the Nexus program was to prove that a sub-$200 tablet was feasible, they have succeeded beyond any expectation.
The reason I say there are no good options out there is simply that there are no major flagship devices at this size. Even many 8-inch tablets are treated as an after-thought, I reference how Apple nearly did not announce the iPad Mini 4, giving it no stage time at their recent event, save for a single image of it along with the entire family of iPads.
Are 7-inch tablets still important?
I cannot deny that many who shared my passion for the Nexus 7 – either the original 2012 model or the updated 2013 model – have long since moved on to other devices. Many of those have chosen a large screen phone, measuring in around 6-inches or larger themselves. With this availability of powerful phones at nearly the same size, should anyone still be excited for a 7-inch Android tablet?
I have several arguments to make in favor of these devices, but I will concede, we are about to talk about personal preference more than about facts and figures. You are welcome to disagree with me entirely, but I beg you to hear me out anyway.
One of the most important factors of the 7-inch Android tablet, at least for me, is the size. If I said nothing else on the subject, I would say that a 7-inch device is the largest device that provides the best fit for my hand size and how I hold my devices. I am able to reach all corners of the display with comfort, this is not true of even an 8-inch device.
Aside from how it fits in the hand, I find the same thing goes for my pockets, where I can squeeze an 8-inch device into only a few of my pockets, the 7-inch frame fits in almost all of my pockets. Not to say that it goes unnoticed in a pocket, I still have to remove a tablet before taking a seat, but at least they can be carried along as I go about my day.
One last positive for the 7-inch size frame is in car docks, or even in-dash installations. You may not know this, but if you have an old ~5-inch TomTom GPS car mount, there is a good chance your 7-inch tablet will fit in it. Your 8-inch or larger tablet will not. Not to mention, Taylor over on Android Authority proves that the Nexus 7 is the perfect fit for most in-dash installations. I’ve measured my car stereo to be within a fraction of an inch the same size as my Nexus 7. It’s like it was meant to be.
Multi-device world and multi-tasking
Our current digital world has most of us enjoying multiple devices on a daily basis. For those of us in this situation, we rarely only use one device, and only one device, at a time. As I type this very article on my laptop, I am listening to music off of a 7-inch Android tablet, have another 7-inch Android tablet working as a photo frame on my desk, a small phone is in Daydream mode as a clock, which is docked and connected to a Bluetooth speaker, on stand-by for my next “OK, Google” command, and my main phone is beeping to inform me of incoming SMS and chat messages from family and friends.
While my described device usage is pretty light-weight – I admit that most of my tasks could be done on one machine, or eliminated – I hope that you get the idea I am portraying here. Considering the minimal multi-tasking capabilities of current day Android, and the somewhat disruptive nature of notifications, you will have a hard time convincing me to try to do it all on one device.
I am a focused person, despite all that I described above. Where multiple devices may be considered distracting, they allow me to assign specific tasks to each device. For example, my phone that is used as a clock and for Google Now voice assistance is never used for games, communications or any other distractions. I am able to interact with it quickly and it will never drag me down the YouTube rabbit hole.
In this multi-device little world of mine, the 7-inch tablet is the core of my mobile device usage. I turn to it for text based communications, entertainment, social interaction, navigation, non-PC productivity tasks and so much more. These tasks do not need to come to a crashing halt when the phone rings, or when Windows needs to restart.
My point, if I have one here, is that while it is absolutely possible to operate effectively with just one powerful device, I have never been more productive as I am with multiple devices within reach. This requires, without a doubt, that the devices are capable of performing their assigned tasks, and in my setup, the 7-inch tablet needs to be my most powerful and effective device.
What is wrong with current 7-inch Android tablets?
I said this earlier, I think almost all current 7-inch Android tablets suck. Where the Nexus 7 ushered in a generation of highly capable tablets, the average 7-inch Android tablet today is equipped with, basically, the same specs as that 2012 Nexus device.
The current run of the best and most powerful phones and tablets have spec sheets with things like an octo-core processor, 3-4 GB of RAM, 64GB or even 128GB of internal storage and beyond Full HD displays.
Conversely, the spec sheet of the average 7-inch Android tablet today reads more like a dual-core, maybe a quad-core, processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and less than Full HD displays. As I said, this accurately describes the now 3 year old Nexus 7. What’s up with that manufacturers?
Oh, that. Of course, consumers are in love with great prices, I cannot admit to being immune to this. The availability of $50 tablets is exciting, but we recently discussed how this polarized tablet market can be problematic. Let’s do something I do not do very often – complain about something being too inexpensive.
The flagship tablets on the market measure in starting at 8-inches, but mostly 10-inch and larger sizes. The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet was contender for best tablet on the market for a time in 2015, the iPad Pro, Surface Pro 4 and Google’s newly announced Pixel C all came later in 2015 with specs we almost envied on our laptops.
You can forget about $50, or even $200, those flagship tablets will run you at least $500 and can reach $1500 or more. With these great tablets all commanding high price tags, why not have a worthy high-end 7-inch Android tablet at the $300-$500 price point? There are a few, but you might not like what they are or what they offer.
What are my best 7-inch Android tablet options?
So, I’ve convinced you to give a 7-inch Android tablet a chance, or another chance, what options are out there today? Sadly, this is the point I have been trying to work up to all along, there are very few good options, and next to no great ones.
Huawei MediaPad X2
The best 7-inch Android tablet I can recommend today is the Huawei MediaPad X2. This device is not for everyone, indeed, it is not even sold in most parts of the world. Rocking an octa-core Kirin processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB+ of internal storage, Full HD display, microSD expansion and fairly amazing battery life, it is a solid performer and only really lacks NFC when you scour the spec sheet.
While I will call the MediPad X2 a tablet, there is room to argue that it is actually a phone. Indeed, it is equipped with Cat6 LTE through dual SIM slots, thus possessing the ability to make phone calls. Further, considering it is a 7-inch device, the overall dimensions are significantly smaller than the Nexus 7, rocking minimal bezels all the way around.
If I had to choose just one aspect of this Huawei tablet to promote, however, it would be the battery life. My first go with the device, I was able to get two full days of use, with a total of 9.5 hours of screen-on time. Oh, I still had 18% left at that point, could have easily taken it to 11 hours. Now that I’ve over-loaded the device with all of my favorite apps, including the heaviest battery eating of my favorite customization tools, the 5000mAh battery provides screen-on time of only about 9 hours, including some gaming.
With a device like this, it should come as no surprise that the Huawei MediaPad X2 costs a bit more than just $50. Expect to drop about $400 for this early-2015 era metal tablet. Check it out on Amazon for more details.
As far as existing 7-inch Android tablets put out by manufacturers that can feasibly enjoy a global reach, that’s about it.
Now, just for the sake of it, let’s take a super quick look at the best of the rest out there, because, let’s be honest, if you are looking to purchase a 7-inch Android tablet today, you will likely be getting one of the following.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7-inch
Not to be confused with a great tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 is still as solid of an offering as you’re likely to find out there, especially for a 2014 era device. Expect as old as Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box, with a quad-core processor and 1.5GB of RAM. You are still looking at 8GB of internal storage, expandable with an up to 32GB microSD card. The 7-inch panel is 1280×800 resolution. As I write this, Amazon has the Galaxy Tab 4 on sale for $149.00.
ASUS ZenPad C 7.0
ASUS is a fan favorite small tablet maker around these parts, thanks exclusively to their success with the Nexus 7 tablets. Their 7-inch tablets have matured very little since then, with the ZenPad C 7.0 finding its way to the top of their list of best 7-inch offerings today. The very similar MemoPad line before it wasn’t half bad, for its time either. Powered by a 64-bit Intel Atom processor with 1GB of RAM, the 8GB or 16GB of internal storage in the Zenpad C 7.0 is backed by up to 64GB of microSD storage. Their 7-inch panel measures in with 1024×600 pixels of resolution. Priced accordingly, take the ASUS ZenPad C 7.0 home for about $100 from Amazon today.
Lenovo TAB 2 A7 or Lenovo IdeaTab A3000 7-inch
While Lenovo is another manufacturer struggling to find a foothold for mobile products on a global scale, the TAB 2 A7 and IdeaTab A3000 are extremely similar devices that land smack dab in the middle of the pack. A quad-core MediaTek processor is backed by 1GB of RAM, 8GB and 16GB internal storage offerings are expandable by up to 64GB in a microSD card. These 7-inch panels clock in at 1024×600 pixels of resolution as well. Once again, the sky is not the limit here, look to drop about $80 on the 8GB model of the Lenovo TAB 2 A7 at Amazon. $110 for the 16GB IdeaTab A3000.
LG G Pad 7.0 or LG G Pad F 7.0
Once again, you are looking at extremely similar tablets here, with the G Pad line in the 7-inch size range mostly found as carrier specific devices with LTE connectivity. In general, you are looking at a Snapdragon 400 or 410 processor 1GB of RAM, 8-16GB of internal storage and a microSD slot running cards up to 128GB. Many consider the 1280×800 IPS panels to be pleasant to look at. Grab yours today, sometimes for free through your local carrier, or about $80 at Amazon.
I will not pretend that the Zettaly Avy is a traditional tablet, but it is still indeed a 7-inch Android tablet, and one of the most used devices in my day-to-day electronic routine. Poised as a music player as much as it is an Android tablet, Avy is a solid performing Bluetooth speaker and tablet all rolled into one. Better yet, Avy works great as a set-top box, personal assistant and so much more.
We spent some time with the Zettaly Avy, giving it the full review treatment. If you are looking to use an Android device as a music player, or otherwise dock it on your desk for any purpose whatsoever, Avy might just be the device for you. Look for a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage extended by 32GB microSD, a 1024×600 display, but don’t forget you can connect to a Full HD external display via the full size HDMI port.
Head on over to Amazon to grab your Avy for $179.95 today.
That’s right, we can’t put together a list like this and exclude the tablet that made us fall in love with tablets. Let me be clear though, Google has officially discontinued this device in favor of the newer and larger Nexus 9, but you can still find this tablet elsewhere. Also, the 2012 version is just too old and tired, please don’t bother with it if you need a general purpose device, it’ll let you down.
The 2013 Nexus 7 is powered by the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB of RAM, 8, 16 or 32GB of internal storage and a 1920×1200 display. With a little processor bump, the Nexus 7 could easily be one of the better 7-inch tablets on the market. Not half bad for a two year old device.
I’ll urge you to look around for deals usually in the $150 or lower range, but you can always grab the Nexus 7 for $199 for the 32GB model on Amazon today.
While there is irrefutable evidence that the tablet market is in a decline, and the 7-inch size of device is one of the hardest hit, allow me to state my semi-ignorant opinion that the main reason 7-inch Android tablets are not selling well is because, well, they suck. Bring on higher quality devices even at a slightly higher price tag and you’ll have my attention.
Manufacturers like OnePlus, Huawei, Motorola and Xiaomi have done a great job disrupting the smartphone market in the last couple years, offering very well appointed phones with superior user experiences and a relatively low price tag. The Nexus 7 offered the same level of disruption back in 2012, but I am left wondering what has happened to the 7-inch Android tablet market since then, wondering if it will ever regain that prestige, or be left to the disappointment that is most budget devices found today.
Did I miss any great devices out there that deserve attention as great 7-inch Android tablets?