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Review: Google's Nexus 7 will make you finally want an Android tablet

Written by Andre Yoskowitz (Google+) @ 18 Jul 2012 1:57 User comments (23)

Review: Google's Nexus 7 will make you finally want an Android tablet After months of speculation and rumor, Google unveiled its Nexus 7 tablet last month at their annual I/O event.
Rightfully so, the tablet has received serious notice, as it will be the first true Android experience tablet, one not marred by any third-party UI or OEM-branded apps.

Additionally, the tablet comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the first device to receive it, and it certainly shows in the performance.

Read on for the rest of our review on this excellent new entry to the tablet market.

Specs and Design




The Nexus 7 is built by Asus, who is known to have strong designs and powerful internals, and it certainly shows here.

Google's first tablet has is powered by a quad-core Tegra 3 SoC, has 1GB RAM and comes with 8GB or 16GB internal storage, depending on the model. Additionally, the tablet has a large 4325 mAh battery and built-in NFC, GPS, gyroscope, a mic and a 1.2MP front-facing camera.

Just as importantly, the tablet is thin and light, coming in at 0.41-inches thick and 0.74 pounds. The device is not as thin as the latest iPad (0.37-inch) but it is lighter than its biggest competitor in the 7-inch market, by a long shot, beating the Kindle's 0.9 pounds.

On the design end, the tablet looks and feels excellent. The screen has its main black glossy bezel, but the tablet has a gray ring around it that looks like metal but is really plastic. The back cover has a design that can only be described as "fake leather" but it is soft, comfortable and gives you a great grip on the tablet. It is also very hard to accumulate fingerprints and smudges, which is always a good thing.

There are little ports on the Nexus 7. In fact, outside of the microUSB for powering the device, the only other inputs you'll find are the audio jack and the small pogo plugs for connecting the tablet to a dock.

Of course, there is room for improvement. The bezel could have easily been shrunk down on the top and bottom of the tablet to give some more real estate to the actual display. Not a deal breaker by any means, but could have been done. Additionally, this may be a personal preference but having the power button and volume rocker on the same side of the tablet (right side in this case) is a major annoyance to me as it leads to more accidental presses than would ever be an issue otherwise. Once again, these are little things, and not deal breakers.



Display




The Nexus 7's 7-inch LCD display has a 1280x800 resolution and Gorilla Glass to protect from scratches. The HD display is also 216 ppi, not quite the 326 ppi of the Retina Display iPad, but in all honesty, it doesn't even matter. All text and images I looked at were sharp and completely clear of blur.

HD movies (like Transformers) looked fantastic and detailed, and Netflix HD films looked almost as good.

There were zero touch issues, and the tablet was as responsive to touch as any tablet I've ever tried, including the iPad.

Magazines and books looked great, as well, with vivid colors.



Performance and Battery Life



Performance on the Nexus 7, even after installing apps, was incredible. The Tegra 3, Nvidia's quad-core SoC, is fast, but that's not even where the N7 shines.

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is far and away the most responsive and smoothest Android experience yet. Having used Android since 1.1, I can say there have always been response issues, on both smartphones and tablets, but they are non-existent on the Nexus 7.

Gaming saw consistent framerates, especially games built for Tegra chips like ShadowGun. There was no lag here, either. Multitasking, even with multiple apps going at the same time, gave no issues at all nor did it lead to sluggishness.

On the battery side, with low-moderate use, I was able to get almost 10 hours, which is great for a tablet and should be the standard. More heavy use, including watching videos or playing games, (while keeping web pages in the background) brought that number down to 5-7 hours, which were still good, but of course depended on the usage.

Camera



The Nexus 7 does not have a rear camera and features a 1.2MP front-side camera. The camera is pretty useless for picture taking (unless you like feature phone quality) but works well enough for Google+ Hangouts and video chatting. Nothing special here, but it is certainly and upgrade from the Kindle Fire, which had no cameras and no mic.

Software




Being a vanilla Google device, the Nexus 7 is deeply integrated with Google's ecosystem of books, music, movies, magazines and apps.

With Jelly Bean, this integration is finally something to be proud of. To be blunt, Gingerbread sucked, Honeycomb was a beta of things to come and Ice Cream Sandwich finally got it right. Jelly Bean just improves on ICS and the latest is the first time that Android feels like a complete mobile operating system, one that can compete with iOS in that respect, especially on tablets.

Google pre-installed their whole suite of apps; Maps, Google+, Gmail, Currents, Talk, Earth, YouTube, Calender, Music, and Google Play and conveniently placed them in folders, which were welcome additions to Ice Cream Sandwich last year.

Wallet is pre-installed, as well, giving users a chance to use the built-in NFC to make payments. Wallet, like other mobile payments, is still in its infancy, but is slowly but surely becoming a standard for the industry.

As a widget on the home screen (removable of course), Google shows your library front and center. Magazines, books you are currently reading, movies you are currently watching and music you recently downloaded or listened to are right there for you if you ever want to go back to where you left off. It is a useful widget, for sure. Jelly Bean also brings a much-improved notification bar, with sharing integration for Gmail, Email, Dropbox, Twitter, etc. and better access to the settings. The new bar makes it easier to see multiple notifications, and is a significant improvement, even from ICS.

On the downside, while ever-improving, the Google Play Store and integration of the ecosystem still lacks when compared to iOS and Amazon. Amazon has a huge advantage by offering their Prime service and its accompanying free video service. Apple has deals with everyone, everywhere, which gives it an advantage, as well.

Furthermore, app compatibility is a problem for the Nexus 7, also. There are quite a few apps that aren't supported by Jelly Bean, at all, and quite a few others that are not optimized for a tablet, let alone a tablet with 720p resolution. This has always been one of the biggest problems with Android tablets, and while it is improving, it is still an issue.



Google Now



Last but certainly not least, is the addition of Google's natural search engine, Google Now. You can ask Google Now questions, as you would Siri or S-Voice, and it will give responses.

More importantly, however, is how Google Now "learns" the more you use it. By spending most of your time sleeping in one place, or working at one, Now assumes where home and work are. The service offered me the bus and train schedules for the buses and trains I use most often here in NY, seeing that I search for them often. Weather moves with you, as does traffic reports, sports scores and flight information. It will also read back calender events, help you translate and show nearby "interesting places." Now will certainly be getting more use from me into the future.



Final Thoughts



Google has come a long way since the start of Android, and the Nexus 7 (but more importantly Android Jelly Bean), is a huge step forward for the operating system.

The Nexus 7 is the first Android tablet that works as completely as the iPad does. Until Jelly Bean, Android (and especially Android tablets) have always seemed like a "work in progress," with no time frame for it being completed. The latest offering is certainly getting close, if not totally there just yet.

Asus has put together a stylish tablet, one that does not feel cheap, and incorporates powerful hardware. Now that the software is up to the challenge, Android and Google have finally presented themselves to the tablet market.

Oh, and did we forget to mention it only costs $200?


Specs 9/10
Design 8.5/10
Display 8.5/10
Battery Life 9/10
Performance 9.5/10
Software 9/10
Ecosystem 9/10

Total: 8.9/10



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23 user comments

118.7.2012 8:09

If they incorporate SD card storage in a future model, it will be the Android tablet for me!

218.7.2012 10:36
markacker
Unverified new user

Aweosme destailed review of the Nexus, mines already ordered. It seems like the tablet is doing pretty well in sales!

318.7.2012 10:37

SD card slot on the 8GB model (don't include the card) and either a 5 or an 8 MP cam on the back for $299 and I'm getting one.



LIES!!!! I'm getting one anyway :p


XXYYQQOO!!! Yeah WELCOME TO JAMROCK

418.7.2012 11:06

I already wanted an android tablet when they first came out. I got one last year running honeycomb and it was already great. It didn't seem like a beta to me at all. I actually didn't notice that much of a difference in usability when I upgraded it to ICS. It looks prettier and it still works great like it did before.

Also, gingerbread didn't suck at all. It was a great OS and a lot of people are sill using it. If you mean that it sucked on tablets, well of course it did, it wasn't meant for tablets.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 18 Jul 2012 @ 11:08

518.7.2012 11:49

It's got a really nice spec - except no micro SD slot & no HDMI out.
Which would have cost pennies to include at manufacture but whose absense shows us exactly how Google want to push this unit & their money-grabbing cloud cr@p.

This one is made by Asus.
They are going to be making & launching their own distinct branded version (with SD card slot & HDMI) after the Nexus launch stuff is over.

I'd wait.
Not only is better coming but I'd say there was better available now with much better value.
It's a tablet, not a video processor.

8gb - or even 16gb.
Just what is the point of that HD screen if loading 1 or 2 decent HD encodes takes up all that memory capacity?

I did fancy an Android tablet (thanks to my phone as much as anything) so I got an Ainol Novo Aurora 2 for well under 1/2 what the 16gb Nexus cost.
I just couldn't see the point of spending more - and after the 0705 firmware update the Aurora 2 is a very nice inexpensive unit to have about the place.
Even it has a micro SD slot (able to use the new 64gb Sandisc micro cards) and an HDMI out.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 18 Jul 2012 @ 11:55

618.7.2012 12:06

I agree, no sdcard and no hdmi are deal breakers. My Acer Iconia A500 can read 500gb external drives, and make no mistake the file transfer rate is much higher than even sdcards. I will probably upgrade to either the Asus Infinity or the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, this tablet is for the common person and not the extreme user. They went half ass, I want to load up my music and movies how I want, this caters to the Apple crowd too much. But at that price point it will sell to the mainstream.

718.7.2012 12:08
jiminy2
Unverified new user

It doesn't have gorilla glass, but rather a cheaper alternative

818.7.2012 12:34

Been a happy owner of a Transformer for about 6 months now, I see no reason not to own another Asus (sans the issues everybody else has already mentioned).

Like Interestx said, maybe waiting for Asus' next offering will garner the benefits of what's missing in this particular device. I'm not a fan of 'cloud' anything, but for the technologically 'simplistic' out there, Google's offer might just be what 'they' are looking for.

Like a lot of your guys, I want a lot more meat on my sandwich.


918.7.2012 12:49
Ahmazinskm
Unverified new user

Originally posted by jiminy2:
It doesn't have gorilla glass, but rather a cheaper alternative
It's still corning, so it's not cheap. It's okay that you don't like it, but don't lie

1018.7.2012 14:14

Originally posted by harhumph:
I agree, no sdcard and no hdmi are deal breakers. My Acer Iconia A500 can read 500gb external drives, and make no mistake the file transfer rate is much higher than even sdcards.
I agree.
If I'm away from home the 2 x 2.5" USB driven hard drives are a real plus (and I'm sure the Nexus can work with these) but for sheer everyday convenience you can't beat being able to use micro cards.
Especially as SD XC gets into its stride re transfer speeds.

I can imagine with a big push & the Google brand these tablets will sell ok but they just lack 2 things I consider essential.

....and at the end of the day it's a 7" tablet, as impressive as the spec is I'd say they got to the point of covering all or if not almost all tablet bases, for the vast majority, when they got to 1gb of RAM, dual core CPUs, Dual core GPUs & ICS O/S.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 18 Jul 2012 @ 14:15

1118.7.2012 15:26

You guys do make valid points, but I think Google was going with make this thing as beastly as possible while still maintaining an affordable price point. You can tell they want almost any one to be able o buy this tablet that works and is powerful, without spending a large amount of money. All those extras you want will add on to the cost. They already sell tablets that can do the things you want but they are very expensive. Most people want tablets to browse the web on while sitting on the couch or play games on. This tablet suits those needs very well and this is the crowd this tablet from Google is aiming at. If you are however doing a laptop replacement then this will probably not suit your needs.

1218.7.2012 15:31

Unfortunately there are some build quality issues. I received my tablet yesterday and found the left hand side of the screen was "squishy", meaning there was some give to the screen and an audible sticking noise where the glue had not adhered/cured completely to the screen. This seems to be a common issue as the thread on xda site shows. It also seems to be the left hand side consitently (when held in prtrait mode).
---Chikn

1318.7.2012 17:34

As I understand it it fully supports USB OTG (on the go)
You can use a $2 dongle and connect many USB devices, including an SD card reader or simple thumb drive.
I also believe there is a standard that allows the USB port to connect to an HDMI device. It has to support the standard and I don't remember what that is.

I'm seriously thinking of getting one myself.


Oh, Im sorry... Did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?

1418.7.2012 23:25

Got mine yesterday and "Love it" it's very fast and great colorful screen crisp and detailed. This it a true Android Tablet. Got the 16gb Nexus and for good reason you figure in the basic installed stuff and there's 3-4 gig so take my word the extra 50 bucks is worth it. Right now you get 25 bucks from Google so that a nice bonus to spend on apps and books ect. The only thing is Jelly Bean 4.1.1 does not support Adobe flash but there are work around and using another browser like Dolphin and manually installing flash it works like a charm..problem solved. I give it 4.75 stars..because it would be nice to have a SD card storage.

1520.7.2012 10:37

Wi-fi hard drive as an alternative. Not good for video

1620.7.2012 13:13

An SD card would be super asset, but call me old fashioned. I cannot fathom ever wanting or needing an HDMI connection. What for? For sharing video? There are lots of better ways!

1720.7.2012 14:11

you gave too much credit to Apple like so many do. What drove me away from Apple was I had to sync with iTune for music and video. Apple, you're kidding me! What about plug the device to any PC and I can manipulate any files? That's Android. Another big thing is text re-flow. What a joke on Safari when you zoom in and out, the text doesn't re-wrap. I have to pan left and right to read? That's ridiculous. But so many Apple fanboys focus on how smooth screen transition on iOS is as if it increases productivity and functionality. Big deal. The 2 things I mentioned are big functions that bring great convenience and capability. I'm not saying Android is better. But I don't want to hear iOS is better either. What matters to you drives what you get. Saying Android is Work In Progress is lame because iOS will be too when you have to put it like that

1820.7.2012 16:03

They didn't mention how much money Google is losing on each unite to get into the market.
But at least it will kill what ever chance the MS Slate had.

1920.7.2012 16:14

I am interested in one of these but really until they add a card slot, I can't imagine buying one. To me there is just no excuse these days not to include the extra storage options. I would rather have no camera than no card slot.

2020.7.2012 18:38

Originally posted by Ahmazinskm:
Originally posted by jiminy2:
It doesn't have gorilla glass, but rather a cheaper alternative
It's still corning, so it's not cheap. It's okay that you don't like it, but don't lie
There is a $20 price point difference so the corning glass is cheaper then the gorilla glass as far as costs go. As far as the specs on the impact survival test go the gorilla glass is .026% better then the corning. all this is available online you just have to do your research.

2121.7.2012 0:44

There is one more issue with these units for those that might want it for taking pictures, there is no rear camera which is really dumb and awkward to use as a camera.

The title of this article is poor, why wouldn't I want a Android? I'm surely not buying an iCrapple. :)

2221.7.2012 9:19

Originally posted by robertmro:
They didn't mention how much money Google is losing on each unite to get into the market.
You don't really believe that nonsense do you?
That's like saying Ford lose money on their mass-production cars.....so long as you only count the 1st thousand off the line.

They cost these things on the basis of several thousand made.....and you can bet they make money not lose it.


Originally posted by connectr:
I cannot fathom ever wanting or needing an HDMI connection. What for? For sharing video? There are lots of better ways!
How about playing content on your HD TV?
(oh and don't get me started on the ton of restrictions Youtube has for playing so much of its stuff on a TV)

That's another stupid part of the SD slot thing & this tablet being gimped.
The tablet form is very handy for portability but you can't go round to friends and family & see pics or video you took (say on your digi camera) from a card reader (not unless you also have a full size to mini USB adapter) or its micro SD card.

I'm still trying to work out why anyone would want the 8gb version of this too....about half is taken up with the usual o/s & Google stuff youre going to have, so 4gbs?
Really?
Even @ 16gbs that's a heck of a chunk gone.

Yes you can use the mini USB slot but carrying adapters to hang a stack of stuff off the side is a half-assed solution to what ought to have been an elegant consumer-friendly no-brainer.
The thing is, from the way HTC is moving and now this I think consumers ought to be kicking up a stink about these moves, not just blithely acccepting them.
You know it can only get worse if we don't, surely?
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 21 Jul 2012 @ 9:27

2321.7.2012 17:22

Originally posted by robertmro:
They didn't mention how much money Google is losing on each unite to get into the market.
But at least it will kill what ever chance the MS Slate had.
Remind me how this affects performance or why the consumer should care?

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