by Brian Booher of ModernDay Computers
I have had the Nexus 7 for about 2 weeks now and I will say I am amazed at what this little device can do. To make it short, I like it. There, it’s done!
Oh, you want more information on this? Sure, I can do that. I’ll give my good, bad, and ugly (G.B.U.) review on this for you. First off, lets get into the specs.
The Nexus 7 is Google’s first pure Android tablet. It is made by Asus, who also makes the Transformer Prime. The tablet has a 7 inch screen with a 1280×800 pixel HD display, front facing camera, volume rocking switch, and the ever important power button. It is equipped with a micro-USB port for charging and data transfer. It also comes with the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
Inside is a Tegra-3 quad-core processor made by NVidia. It contains 1 GB of RAM and has 8GB or 16 GB of storage, depending on the model you get. The model I am reviewing with is the 16GB version.
There are other goodies packed into this thing, but I will save those for later, which won’t be long.
Let’s set the record straight right here, this device is not an “iPad-killer”. The biggest competition for the Nexus 7 is the Amazon Kindle Fire, which I also have. This has the ability to blow the current Kindle Fire out of the water, as in the first generation Kindle Fire in case you are reading this sometime in the future.
So enough blabbering on, lets get into the good, bad, and ugly stuff of the Nexus 7.
Well, it’s now later. So I guess you want to know what else is in this box? It has Wifi 802.11 (b/g/n) connectivity, bluetooth, a microphone, GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and NFC (Near Field Communications) for Android Beam.
The screen is only 7 inches long horizontally, like all other electronic screens are measured. The display is 1280×800. The pixel density is 216 ppi (pixels per inch). The best thing is that is it capable of playing HD movies, though it would be in 720p. The 80 more pixels are used for the screen controls, which are persistently shown when using it.
The big attraction that makes the Nexus 7 way better than all the other tablets on the market is that it ships with the most current version of the Android OS. It contains a pure version of Android 4.1, or Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean was announced in mid-June as the update to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Every other tablet on the market has an older version that is usually customized heavily to match the company’s needs. The Amazon Kindle Fire uses a heavily customized version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread that you can’t tell what it is.
Jelly Bean improves upon Ice Cream Sandwich that it is kind of hard to really set them apart. Since I do not have a pure version of Ice Cream Sandwich, I have the T-Mobile version of the Samsung Galaxy S II, I really cannot give point to point differences since Samsung customized Ice Cream Sandwich to work with Touch-wiz interface.
The biggest point that Jelly Bean has that ICS does not is Google Now. Google Now is kind of like Siri that is found on Apple iOS, but not quite the same. You can talk to it to ask for sports scores, weather info, travel information like flights, traffic conditions, and public transit info. It won’t carry on a conversation like what Siri can do, but there are apps in Google Play Store that can do that. If you’re looking for the official Android version of Siri on Google Now, you won’t find it. I like it because all I have to do is name a sports team, in my case the Cincinnati Reds, and it will tell me the score of the most recent game. It does have a voice to go with it too and it sounds more human than what Siri is.
Google Now is great for doing voice searches and it is pretty accurate with how it heard you and transcribed into text. I just did a voice search for “ingredients for portal cake” and it brought up several search results on how to make the cake. “The cake is a lie!” – geek humor right there.
If you say something like a place, like “Eiffel Tower”, it will bring up a map of the location in Paris, France and give you the option to make traveling directions with Google Maps.
Since Google Now is fairly new, there is a lot of room for improvement over time. You might read articles from famous reviewers who will say that it’s crap because it isn’t like Siri since they feel that a product will only be successful if it can beat the competition on day 1. Google Now will be improved over time and I am not in a rush, and neither should you. If you want the Siri experience so badly, then go get an iPhone. To me, Siri is boring compared to what kind of Android apps can do plus more. Siri works in a walled garden, like all other Apple products.
With all the features that is in this device, you might be thinking it would cost a pretty penny, much like what an iPad does. Well, it doesn’t.
The 8GB model costs $199 and the 16GB model costs $249. That is of course before tax and shipping rates are applied. This is the same price point that the Amazon Kindle Fire is at, but the Nexus 7 has a ton more features. With the Nexus 7, you can get the best of both worlds as you can read Kindle Books and use the Amazon Appstore. I installed the Appstore the day I got the Nexus 7 and it works great.
Pure Android Experience
With the Nexus 7, you are getting the pure Android experience that Google has made. This is not a version of Jelly Bean that has been heavily customized by the phone carriers, who like to strip out certain functions to add their own versions and add a bunch of non-removable crapware that can really slow down the system. The biggest advantage is that when there is an update to Jelly Bean, whether it be to fix bugs or to update to the next version, which would be a pastry with the name beginning with K, you will not have the wait that long as compared to carrier versions who have to do the whole process again, which can take several months if you’re lucky that they even want to update your phone. The carriers prefer not to update existing hardware, as they really want you to buy a new phone and extend your contract. I speak of course about the carriers in the U.S., since that’s where I live and have to put up with.
Now I turn to what is bad about the product. These are the topics that can be the make or break decision for some people.
The Nexus 7 has only 1 camera and that is a front facing camera. The camera is only 1.2 MP which is good for video chatting. I tired it on a Google+ hangout and it looks really good. Though it may look good for hangouts, I do not think it would be useful for people who intend to take pictures with it, but there is a problem there too. There is no camera app on the Nexus 7 like you would find on smartphones and other tablets like the iPad. You can get camera apps from the Play Store, but there is no stock camera app to take pictures. To me, I do not make it an issue since I carry my smartphone with me anyways, though it would be nice to have one on the Nexus 7. Maybe in an future update Google might put a camera app on.
Though 16GB of storage does seem a lot, it can be a setback for some, especially for those people who have iPads with 32GB or 64GB of storage available. Though I wouldn’t put my music collection on here, I would make use of the cloud, which is what this device is aiming for.
Do realize that for $250, 16GB of storage is great compared to a 16GB iPad 3 that starts at $500.
The only hardware buttons on the Nexus 7 are the power and volume controls. The home, back, and open apps buttons are software buttons on the screen. So if an app locks up, you may not be able to hit the home button as it is locked up as well. I have not had that problem yet, but it is something to think about.
It is getting harder to find what is bad about the Nexus 7. I guess probably I just haven’t come across more yet.
This section is about features of the Nexus 7 that are not bad, but either they make using the device awkward or something in the software needs improvement.
To put it simply, the Nexus 7 is basically a giant iPod touch, minus iOS, a physical home button, and the shiny aluminum back. If you have an iPod touch, the headphone jack on both devices is on the bottom next to the port for data transfer and charging. It would have been nice to have it on top like what the iPad has since stock Jelly Bean desktop does not use the accelerometer to switch between landscape and portrait mode.
Stock Jelly Bean does not take advantage of the accelerometer to switch between landscape and portait view of the desktop like you can on the iPad. It also is limited to 5 home screens, which do not jump from 1 to 5 or 5 to 1 automatically. In that case you have to scroll through 2-4 to get to the other side. I overcame this problem and installed “Go Launcher”, which allows me to scroll back and forth, make up to 9 home screens, and can view in landscape and portrait modes.
As with other Android devices, there are apps that are incompatible with the Nexus 7. Now it is understandable if an app that works with the phone won’t work since there is no phone function on the Nexus 7, but I am talking about apps that the developers just have not updated to say that it is compatible. Techrepublic and ZDNet, both owned by CBS Interactive, are notoriously known, at least to me, to be “incompatible” with certain Android devices. Luckily I can side load them and they work fine.
The Nexus 7 basically has all the features of an Android smartphone, minus the phone part. So most of the apps should be compatible, it’s mainly the developers who choose what they want their apps to run on.
The Nexus 7 is a WiFi model only. If you think about it, adding 3G/4G capability would only add to the cost of the device, which can be seen in the 3G/4G capable iPad models. I know some people would be willing to pay more for that ability, but then you get into the costs of service and where you can get service and all that other nasty stuff. For basically $200 or $250, you’re getting a good deal. For me, I would just use the tethering function on my phone. Easy as that.
Some people have reported that the back of the Nexus 7 has been coming off. One person investigated and found that the screws that hold the screen shut were not tightened all way, as in just turning the screws a couple times so that they are in the hole, but still have more turns to go. I have not experienced this problem yet and I hope I won’t have to.
The issue that I face is when I am reading stuff on the Nexus 7 in bed with the brightness turned all the way down. I can see when viewing webpages with a lot of whitespace the screen flicker a little bit as if its trying to stay lit. It is not a big issue as I don’t see it during the day as there is a lot more light around me. I’m hoping it is a software issue where a patch can be made to fix the problem.
The Nexus 7 comes equipped with an NFC chip to be able to do data transfer using Android Beam. Basically you take the Nexus 7 and have it touch another Android device that uses Android Beam and you can send webpages, apps, music, etc. to that other device. This technology is also being used for Google Wallet, which is loaded on the Nexus 7. I tried to get it to work with my Galaxy S II and was only partially successful. I think either it was because Samsung uses a slightly different version or else that my phone was rooted that it didn’t work too well. I will say that the Nexus 7 responded very well when it detected my phone, but it was hard to get the phone to send data to the Nexus 7. If I had a Galaxy Nexus, it probably would work better since that is a pure Android phone.
No Micro-SD Slot
Many other Android devices allow you to expand the storage capacity with the addition of a micro-SD memory card that you can move apps to or hold music and movies on. The Nexus 7 has no slot for that as it would impact upon the performance and security of the device. Some developers don’t want their apps put on an SD card and also it can slow the system since the card has to be read for data, which may not take very long, but it might eat up battery power over time. I do not know the official reasons, I am only giving my thoughts on it.
OMG!!! THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END!!! HOW CAN WE SURVIVE WITHOUT FLASH?!?!
Well, in the 2 weeks that I have had it, I haven’t felt the loss. Many of the websites have been converting to HTML5 so it can be accessible on iOS devices. Also Adobe will not be working on mobile Flash anymore, so it’s good that Jelly Bean was built to not worry about it.
Well, that is a big description of the Nexus 7 in the good, bad, and ugly. There are a lot of other features that I probably should point out, but I don’t want to give away all of them, that should be done by you. The Nexus 7 is a very fast, compact, and fun tablet to use. I’ve been using it more than my iPad. The Nexus 7 is a lot nicer to read in bed as it doesn’t weigh as much as an iPad, which I hear from a lot of people as being a problem. I can hold the Nexus 7 solidly with one hand and it won’t come out. It’s also nice to throw into my bag and take it to work or other places.
So if you have an iPad already, I say go out and get this tablet and experience the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for an awesome Android tablet for the first time, go for the Nexus 7. It is priced right and you get a lot of power. While other manufacturers make bigger tablets, the Nexus 7 is currently the only Android tablet with the latest OS version. This way you can keep up to date on new and existing apps that will run on Jelly Bean, unlike the others where they become obsolete so quickly that the number of apps that support the older versions of Android are falling.
This is a good buy. You can find the Nexux 7 at the Google Play Store here.
You can also find the Nexus 7 at several retail stores in your area.
HAVE FUN AND GEEK OUT!!!
Follow me on Google+: Brian Booher