Nexus 7 vs. Kobo Arc: Battle of the $200 7-inch Android Tablets

Kobo-Arc-vs-Nexus-7Thanks to Barnes & Noble, there are now a slew of 7-inch, $200 Android tablets to choose from. But ever since the Google Nexus 7 came into the world last year, it’s been hailed as the best of them. Unlike the Nook or Kindle tablets, the Nexus 7 runs pure, golden Android and gives owners access to the largest and still best selection of apps for the platform. While B&N spent their time touting the Nook’s suitability for e-book lovers and Amazon spent their time riding on the wave of just being Amazon (while pushing ads at you), dark horse e-bookseller Kobo took its time creating a tablet that borrows from the philosophies of its competitors.

The $200 Kobo Arc is also for the e-book lover, yet it’s not restricted to one company’s content. Like the Nexus 7, you can install any app, sideload your own content, and even load up the competition’s apps. Plus it features a well-designed UI. But can the Kobo Arc stand up to the alpha tablet? Read our in-depth comparison to find out.

(For in-depth information on these devices, read our full reviews of the Kobo Arc and the Google Nexus 7.)

Display: Tie

Most important element of any tablet is the display. Both the Nexus 7 and the Kobo Arc have 7-inch, 1280 x 800 IPS displays. Both screens are bright, colorful, and responsive with wide viewing angles. Side by side, there’s no discernible difference between them. The Nexus 7 pulls ahead thanks to better fingerprint resistance. The Kobo Arc requires de-smudging daily.

Design: Kobo Arc

This is where you start to see real differences between these tablets.

Google Nexus 7 Tablet review library android tablet

The Nexus 7 has a plain and unassuming design that doesn’t stand out from other tablets, nor does it need to. The soft-touch back and tapered edges make it comfortable to hold, as does the light 340g weight. The all-Gorilla Glass front pulls focus where it belongs: the display. The Nexus 7’s speakers sit on the back of the device, which isn’t ideal, especially since they get muffled if you rest the tablet on a soft surface.

The Kobo Arc’s speakers face front and get plenty loud. The audio quality isn’t great, but it’s good enough for watching and sharing Web video. The design of the Arc is more attention-getting than the Nexus because it’s more in line with Kobo’s design for their e-readers than tablet design in general. That’s okay since there are nice aspects to it. The plastic bezel around the display means you have a place to rest your thumbs that isn’t glass – useful since the screen collects fingerprints so easily. The recessed display is less prone to cracking if the tablet lands face down since the screen won’t come in contact with the floor. Though almost the same size as the Nexus, the Arc is a little heavier at 364g. It’s still light and comfortable to hold thanks to a curved back, but the flat edges aren’t as pleasant at the Nexus 7’s tapered ones.

Android OS and Interface: Nexus 7

Android is a very malleable operating system, which is why tablets like the Nook HD and Kindle Fire HD can look so different from other Android tablets when the software underneath is essentially the same. The Nexus 7 represents Android as Google intended it. Pure, unadulterated, and sleek. For the Arc, Kobo created an extensive user interface to go on top of Android, much as B&N and Amazon did for their tablets. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

kobo arc menu

Right now, the Kobo Arc now runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, same as the Nexus 7. When the tablet launched, it came with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich even though Jelly Bean has been available for months. The (completely justified) worry that some customers have with custom interfaces is that the device won’t get updated to the latest Android in a timely manner, if at all. Whereas the Nexus 7 will be updated, without a doubt, until the hardware can no longer support the software.

kobo arc screenshot discoverAndroid 4.2’s interface is a big improvement on past efforts, but Kobo’s user interface, called Tapestries, is much more user friendly for the less tech savvy and fun to interact with for those who know their way around Android. Tapestries turns the Home screen into a pin board for all the things you’re interested in: apps, books, websites, pictures, movies, music, everything. You can pin all of these things to the main screen or collect them in content-rich folders. The more you pin, the better the Discovery engine at the bottom of the screen gets. This area suggests books (from Kobo, of course) websites, media and more based on the tapestries you create. Click over to the Kobo Arc review for more in-depth impressions.

Google Play Store access: Tie

In the ways that matter, the Arc works just like the Nexus. There are no restrictions on apps and you can download them (along with video, books, magazines, music, etc.) from the Google Play Store.

The Kobo Arc offers a more intimate way to interact with and personalize Android. If that doesn’t appeal to you, the Nexus 7 is there for your stock Android needs.

Hardware and Performance: Nexus 7

The biggest difference between the two tablets is the processor. The Nexus 7 boasts a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 chip whereas the Kobo Arc has a dual-core TI OMAP 4470 processor. In general usage, both tablets perform well and offer fast performance. Where Tegra 3 gives the Nexus the advantage is games. There are several graphically intense games made to work with Tegra 3 that won’t run as well on the Kobo Arc. When it comes to more casual games like Fruit Ninja, Temple Run 2, and Angry Birds, there’s little difference between them. Video performance on both is on a par, even when watching HD clips.

Both tablets have 1.2-megapixel front-facing cameras and no rear camera. Both are good enough for video chats, though neither camera is impressive.

Connectivity: Nexus 7

The Kobo Arc’s roots as a paired down tablet in the vein of the Nook HD shows in this category the most. Other than Wi-Fi, the Arc has no other wireless radios. No Bluetooth, no GPS, no NFC, no mobile data. Depending on how you use the tablet, the absence of some of these radios won’t make much of a difference. The lack of Bluetooth is surprising given that the Arc does make a decent multimedia machine.

If you want more connectivity options, the Nexus 7 is for you. It does have Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC in addition to Wi-Fi. Some models also include mobile data connections to 3G and HSPA+ networks.

Both tablets have micro USB ports for charging or connecting to a computer.

Battery Life: Tie

kobo arc back

Both Google and Kobo claim 9 – 10 hours of battery life for their respective tablets. In reality, we’ve been able to get 8 – 9 hours out of each with mixed use. Both the Nexus and the Arc are good at sipping power when in standby.

Winner: Nexus 7 (but Kobo Arc still rocks)

If pure Android is important to you, then the Nexus 7 is the obvious choice. Likewise if gaming is your thing and you want the most powerful processor that works with the best titles.

If neither of those aspects are that important, the Kobo Arc has manifest charms, mainly in interface. Despite the lack of many radios, the Arc is a compelling alternative to the Nexus.

Which of these 7-inch, $200 tablets appeals more to you?

Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Mobile

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.
Gaming

Get creative and collect 15 coins with our Fortnite overtime challenges guide

The first Fortnite overtime challenges are now available. Use our guide to help you collect the hidden coins in the featured Creative mode islands and get closer to that free season eight battle pass.
Computing

Windows 7 is still immensely popular. Is it really better than Windows 10?

With the end of support of Windows 7 approaching, have you been holding off on upgrading to Windows 10? In this guide, we give look at some of the biggest differences between the most popular operating systems.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for February 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases to keep your titanic phone safe

The new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a gorgeous device, with one of the best dual-lens cameras we've ever seen. Keep your titanic device safe and scratch-free with the best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Fitbit Versa smartwatches for Presidents’ Day

Amazon is offering a solid $30 discount on this great fitness tracking smartwatch right now. So if you're looking for a wearable that can help you track steps, sleep, and activity, now is a great time to pick one up for less.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!