A lot of products come out each week — we don't highlight all of them, but all of them make it into The Verge Database. In Spec Sheet, a weekly series, we survey the latest product entries to keep track of the state of the art.
Google's lineup of Play edition devices doubled in size this week with the addition of LG's G Pad 8.3 tablet and Sony's Z Ultra smartphone. That may make it sound like there aren't all that many options in the Play Store, but when you add in Google's own Nexus line, there's now a good number of choices for those interested in a stock Android phone or tablet. We're checking out Google's expanded lineup of Play Store devices to see what the best option is.
An iPad mini-sized competitor for Google Play
The G Pad 8.3 might be the perfect addition to Google Play's tablet lineup. Google makes its own 7-inch and 10-inch tablets, but it hasn't yet matched the iPad mini's popular size of close to 8-inches wide. With the G Pad 8.3, it now has just such a match. It's a little bit bigger all around, but at .33-inches thick, LG's tablet isn't really all that much bigger than the iPad mini.
While the G Pad 8.3 is an obvious option for those interested in an Android alternative to the iPad mini, choosing the best of the stock Android tablets is a bit trickier. The Nexus 10 is your only choice if you really want a large display, but it's growing increasingly dated on the inside. At this point, you might want to look outside of Google's tablets or hope for an updated model if you just have to have a large tablet.
That makes the real difficulty come when choosing between the Nexus 7 and the G Pad 8.3. While the Nexus 7 is far less expensive — $229 to the G Pad 8.3's $349.99 — it's also a bit less powerful at its core. The Nexus 7 is running on a Snapdragon S4 Pro, while the G Pad 8.3 has a Snapdragon 600, a newer processor that includes performance improvements pretty much across the board.
Whether those improvements are necessary might depend on your usage though. In our testing, the Nexus 7 ran quite well despite its older processor. If you see yourself playing a lot of games, the G Pad 8.3 certainly holds an advantage, but if you're looking for the best value, the Nexus 7 seems to hold up.
Deciding between Google Play edition phones and the Nexus 5 is a lot like deciding between the Nexus 7 and G Pad 8.3: the price difference makes it hard not to go with a Nexus. The Nexus 5 is around $250 to $300 less expensive than the Play edition phones in the US, making choosing anything else a pretty deliberate decision.
For better or worse, the Z Ultra is defined by size
So how does the new Z Ultra Play edition stand up to just the Play edition devices? Pretty well, but it'll depend what you're looking for. Compared to the Galaxy S4 and HTC One Play editions, the Z Ultra is notably thinner at just .26-inches. But the Z Ultra clearly isn't for everyone — it has a 6.44-inch display, which makes it downright huge. And at 7-inches tall and over 3.5-inches wide, it's not the most pocketable phone either.
Inside all that extra space, Sony includes the best processor of the bunch, a Snapdragon 800. Unfortunately though, while the Z Ultra has a 1080p display, it'll be far less crisp than those on the Galaxy S4 and HTC One Play editions, which also have 1080p displays but across smaller displays, both closer to 5 inches.
The Z Ultra stands out in the Play store as much as it stands out in just about any other store: it's pretty much impossible to overlook how big it is. Sony's advantage here is that it's the only oversized smartphone in the Play Store. Elsewhere, Sony has to contend with the likes of the Galaxy Note 3 and the HTC One Max — neither a competitor you can ignore. But for stock Android enthusiasts looking for a large phone, the Play store leaves only one option. Fortunately, it's not a bad one when it comes to specs.
There were a handful of other products added to the database this week:
- Qualcomm's Toq smartwatch is now in our database and on the market — you can read our review right here
- Audio-Technica released a series of new earbuds, which you can see alongside over 40 of its other headphones in the database
- HP released the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1, a laptop that includes a trackpad that trades in clicking for pressure sensitivity