Google has beat Apple at its own Retina-display-thumping game. Meet the Nexus 7, the eye-popping 323-pixels-per-inch wonder.
Here's the deal: If you can find most of the apps you need on Google's Play Store and would like a small tablet with the highest resolution display on any tablet to date (i.e., higher than the 9.7-inch Retina iPad and way higher than the iPad Mini), then the second-generation Nexus 7 may be a good choice.
How did this happen? Well, Google, Asus (the device manufacturer), and Japan Display Inc. (the display maker) have managed, for the first time, to slap a smartphone-density display on a small tablet.
Without getting too technical, the second-gen Nexus 7 uses a display technology (called low-temperature polysilicon, for those keeping score) from Japan Display that has been used, to date, only on phones like, ironically, Apple's iPhone 5 (which has a pixel density of 326, just slightly more than the new Nexus 7).
Maybe more ironically, Apple is considering the same technology for a future Mini Retina, according to Richard Shim, an analyst at NPD DisplaySearch. When that Mini would appear ranges from sometime in October (optimistic) to early next year (pessimistic).
Analysts have told me that the 7-inch 1,920x1,200 display on the Nexus 7 may be the upper size limit for Japan Display's ultra-high-resolution technology -- at the moment. In other words, JDI's tech is not quite ready to scale up to the larger 7.9-inch screen on the Mini.
Whatever the case, you can pick up the new Nexus 7 for $230 at some Best Buy stores as of Friday. That's about $100 less than Apple's cheapest Mini (which I also own) but with a much better screen and a faster (quad-core) processor.
That's a really tough hardware/price proposition for Apple to beat, in my opinion.
I like the Mini a lot. I'm not sure yet but I may like the second-gen Nexus 7 better. (I have to be careful, though. I've only had it for about 18 hours so the out-of-box wowness may be impairing my judgment.)
I will say this, though. Apple has its work cut out for it.