Review: Google Nexus 7 Tablet

So my Nexus 7 tablet arrived last Friday, and now I’ve had a few days to play with it here are my thoughts.

My ‘daily driver’ is an iPhone4S but I’ve used Android handsets before, trying phones like the HTC One S, Galaxy Nexus, Xperia Arc and even tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Linx N700.

But this is something different, the first Google branded ‘reference’ tablet. And its got the looks, specs and price to make you sit up and take notice.

Google announced the Nexus7 at Google I/O with availability in mid July with 2 options, an 8GB priced at £159 and a 16GB priced at £199. The price included £15 Google Play store credit and a free copy of the movie Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon – the only copy of a movie you can currently own in the UK.

Nexus7 Hardware

The specs of the Nexus7 are:

  • Quad-core Tegra 3 processor
  • 7” IPS 1280×800 display
  • 1.2MP front facing camera
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, GPS and NFC
  • 4325 mAh (Up to 8 hours of active use)
  • 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm
  • Android 4.1 (JellyBean)

The 7” form factor is great, its very portable and more ‘sling in a bag’ than my iPad which I love, but it’s too big to stick in a coat pocket for example. The iPad is more of a working device, wheras I got the Nexus7 to consume media more easily. Watching YouTube, Netflix of movies from my home NAS is more comfortable on a slightly smaller device.

I chose the 16GB model as I want to be able to take a greater amount of content on the go with me.

nexus7 soft grip back casingGoogle partnered with Asus to manufacture the Nexus 7 and it feels solid and well made.

There is a nice rubberised soft grip back to the tablet, which together with the nice curved edges and light weight (340g) make it really easy to hold.

The word nexus is embossed into the back, and is a nice branding touch.

There are very few physical interactions on the Nexus7, the top and left side are completely free of any buttons, the bottom has the microUSB connector which doubles as the charging and data port, the 3.5mm headset jack and the speaker grill.

The right side has a small button at the top for power on/off and slightly below that a volume up/down rocker.

With the advent of Android 4 ICS soft buttons that’s all Google decided were needed for physical ones! The bottom of the display area holds the soft buttons for Back, Home and Menu.

nexus7 volume and power keys

There is no camera App present limiting you to using the camera for Google Talk video chats only but Apps like Instagram and Skype are being updated to take advantage of the camera right now.

The whole point of a Google Tablet is that it receives Android OS updates immediately, free from any carrier or other delay to gratification, and as such the Nexus7 runs the latest available version, Android 4.1 – Jellybean.

Android 4.1 – JellyBean

A key feature JellyBean was the butter effect, improving the UI experience, making everything smooth, eliminating delays, making everything respond in near instant fashion.

For my part, its completely worked. The experience is flawless, switching between Apps, scrolling lengthy contact lists (I have approx 700 – not the most but certainly but more than any of my friends) zooming in and out of webpages all happened instantaneously with not a hint of lag.

Another new feature is Google Now which provides you with intelligent, customisable notifications.

It works better on the Galaxy Nexus with its always on data, but even on the tablet, it can update its weather info based on where you are now, detail upcoming meetings, and even telling you if a traffic delay on your route is likely to impact timings. I expect to see a lot more coming from Google Now.

From the Google Site:

It tells you today’s weather before you start your day, how much traffic to expect before you leave for work, when the next train will arrive as you’re standing on the platform, or your favorite team’s score while they’re playing.

And the best part? All of this happens automatically. Cards appear throughout the day at the moment you need them.

Google Play is the new storefront, selling books, music and movies. Content in the UK isn’t as widespread as in the US yet, but hopefully that will change as Google strikes more licensing deals.

Anything you’ve previously purchased is available, as is the free copy of Transformers 3, and the default homescreen widgets will highlight content available to you such as books you’re in the middle of reading or have recently purchased.

nexus7 homescreen

Browsing the Google Play Store itself is a pleasant experience, you can delve straight into Apps, Movies or Books (and Music when it eventually arrives here) or search across all sections if you prefer.

nexus7 google play store

Chrome web browser is fast and smooth, and of course will now sync with your Chrome desktop browser, allowing you to access open tabs on your desktop, and keeping access to saved passwords for sites in sync.

The browser is fast and smooth and the high resolution screen makes everything crisp and easy to read even on the smaller 7” screen.

nexus7 web browser portrait

For more details on Android 4.1 Jellybean check out the promotional video below:

 

The battery life on the Nexus7 is great, its everything the iPad2 had, and sadly what the New iPad doesn’t. Charging is quick, and it will go a full day with frequent use for emails, browsing etc. and end up with about 60-70% remaining. I don’t need to remember to charge it overnight, it will make a second day no problem.

The battery is rated at 4325 mAh with up to 8 hours “active use” but unless that use is solid video streaming over WiFi my experience is that it will do much better than 8 hours.

I’ll update as I watch more Netflix content on the Nexus7 but so far I’m extremely pleased with the performance.

In Summary

There is no doubt that the Nexus7 is a great tablet. It has a great hardware spec, and has been assembled to give a quality feel. Android 4.1 gives a great user experience, but these alone might not set it apart from the various other Android tablets available. Its the price that’s the key.

Google is clearly making the bare minimum of profit on these things, if any at all, in an effort to get as many as possible into the hands of consumers and show them how good an up to date Android tablet can be.

I’m sure they are as frustrated by the state of Android fragmentation as those that have to put up with it. The Nexus7 is a statement to the other manufacturers that says – give users a great experience at a good price and they will buy it. Given the buzz on the internet, and the rate at which pre-orders and initial stock are being bought, they could well be right.

Written By: Rob Gordon

This post was written by Rob Gordon, an IT geek, gadget lover and blogger. Rob has been using the internets since 1994 when the only streaming video was that coffee pot in Cambridge (rip).... Follow Rob on Twitter - @robgordon - about.me/robgordonuk