Nexus 7 Review

01/08/2012

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Google bringing out a tablet to add to their Nexus line was a move which was expected but no one had any clue how much demand the tablet would create. It sold out across the UK when it first launched. Google though have taken a completely different approach, launching a tablet which is 7 inches in screen size and priced so competitively that it embarrasses the competition. Inevitably the Nexus 7 will be compared to the iPad but we need to get one thing straight here, they’re completely differently priced and their screen sizes are very different too. The Nexus should not be compared to the iPad, it should be compared to tablets around the same price point. However I still might compare it to the iPad here and there because the Nexus 7 does actually do some things better than the iPad.

Pros:

  • Very cheap
  • Well built for the price
  • Straight from Google which means regular and up to date software

Cons:

  • No MicroSD card slot

You might be wondering why there is only one con listed. The reason for this is that I’m listing things relative to the price. Having things like an aluminium frame or a rear facing camera I feel should only be considered for premium tablets which are above £250.


Specs

Like I always say, specs are only half the story. It’s all about the cohesion of the specs and software to make the all round experience.

  • 7-inch 1280×800 HD display, IPS, Scratch-Resistant Corning Glass
  • Front facing 1.2MP camera
  • 4325mAh battery, which Google says should provide 9 hours of HD video playback, 10 hours of web browsing, 10 hours of e-reading or 300 hours of standby
  • 340 grams
  • 8GB or 16GB variations (I’ve got the 8GB version here)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • Quad-core Tegra 3 processor
  • 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, Gyroscope
  • Android 4.1 Jellybean

Design

Amazing. I think that’s an adequate enough word to describe the design and hardware of the Nexus 7 for its unbelievably cheap price of £159. Google and ASUS teamed up together to make this tablet, and ASUS are already known for their very well-built and attractive hardware. There is literally no other tablet out there which even comes close in terms of design and hardware. Google absolutely wipes the floor compared to other manufacturers.

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The front of the tablet is of course covered all in glass. The glass is not Gorilla Glass but it is made by Corning, the people who make Gorilla Glass. It’s scratch resistant and tougher than your average tablet screen, I should know, I’ve already dropped it face flat on concrete (whoops).

The frame around the device may look like aluminium but unfortunately it’s just plastic with a silver paint job over it. Disappointing but to be expected.

The back is very unique. Unlike most other tablets and phones, it uses a finish which is very slightly rubbery. It’s absolutely brilliant in terms of grip and makes me feel safe knowing it won’t just slip out of my hand. On the back you also get the speaker grill that is very wide which also means a large speaker. From watching movies and listening to music it is adequate for personal enjoyment and doesn’t sound tinny, there is quite a bit of depth too. It’ll no way fill up the room with sound though, and I think you’d be better off using a good pair of headphones.

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Around the rest of the devices you get the standard sleep/wake button, volume buttons, microUSB port, 3.5mm headphone jack and the front facing camera.

The tablet is also pretty lightweight however it doesn’t feel light to the point where it feels cheap. It’s very solidly built and is tough. It isn’t thin though, not as thin as some other tablets but it definitely isn’t fat either. You get the sense there is a lot packed into the frame. When other people get hold of my Nexus 7 they instantly they think it’s expensive, around £400 a more. They were always shocked to find out it was only £159. With the average high-end smartphone being around £500+ here in the UK, £159 is nothing.


Display

The Nexus 7 has a 7-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280×800. The screen is amazing considering the price. It’s not “retina” quality but that doesn’t bother me at all. The pixel density is good enough for anyones eyes and text still looks very crisp.

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With it being essentially a HD display you can watch 720p content in all its glory. If you pre-ordered the tablet like I did, you will have got a HD copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. This was a great way to utilise that HD display and it didn’t disappoint. I could comfortably watch the film on there and it looked absolutely stunning. This display seems to be perfect for watching movies on and with the portability this tablet provides, you can watch films anywhere.

I also noticed with cheap tablets that the sensitivity of displays is usually crap. This is not the case with the Nexus 7. I was actually very surprised at how sensitive the screen is and how it can pick up the slightest touch. It’s on par with high-end devices like the iPad, iPhone and HTC One X.

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Colours are very nicely saturated, not too saturated like some Samsung displays. Blacks are very deep and whites are very white.

I do love how the display when the tablet is in sleep or off, is nearly the same colour as the bezel. It’s sometimes difficult to tell where the screen ends. Little things like this make the tablet look super sleek.


Performance & Battery

With this Nexus 7 running the latest version of Android, having a quad-core CPU and 1GB of RAM it is blazingly fast. With this being a tablet made by Google and ASUS together, they’ve blended software and hardware properly, making it very well-built inside and out.

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With Android 4.1 Jellybean now having, what Google call, ‘Project Butter’, everything is now silky smooth. This was the main problem people had with Android before. Animations and general use of the software just wasn’t as smooth as its competitors like iOS and Windows Phone 7. Google have now made everything a lot smoother, adding more frames in animations and using a display which can output those animations at the required frame rate. This means things like from unlocking the tablet to launching an app now have smoother animations.

What is limiting though is the storage. With there being only 8GB and 16GB versions and no MicroSD card slot, storage space is limited. I can completely understand why Google did this though. If they were to add things like a MicroSD card slot and higher storage capacities, it would bring up the cost of the tablet considerably. So we wouldn’t be able to have it for the cheap price of £159. This is also why they left things out like a rear-facing camera. Who takes pictures with their tablets anyway?

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Battery life with the Nexus 7 is brilliant. It’s nothing to shout about but it does keep up with competitors like the iPad. Google say you’ll get 9 hours of HD video playback from one charge. That’s more than enough for a day and let’s be honest, no way are you going to be using a tablet for 9-10 hours straight. So it’s more than capable to last you at least a day or two.

I wanted to test the NFC on the device but there wasn’t really anything to test it with. Especially because NFC hasn’t been widely adopted yet. It is nice to see Google are thinking ahead though.


Software

I won’t go through the software much because you can find enough in-depth analysis over it on the web. However Android 4.1 Jellybean isn’t really an update which completely transforms Android. It’s taken Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and refined it, which is a more than welcome update.

As I mentioned earlier, Google have implemented something they call ‘Project Butter’ which is supposed to make everything smoother and snappier. And it does a great job of that.

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There are no really major updates except from the addition of Google Now. This is Google’s version of voice search taken to a new level. If you really want to see what it can do, check out this video here.

Android 4.1 Jellybean is an absolutely amazing mobile OS and I personally think is the best all around mobile OS out there.


Overall

The big question is whether the Nexus 7 is worth buying or not. It definitely is worth every penny and should really be worth more.

It was an impulse buy for me because it was so darn cheap. I don’t regret it. A 7-inch tablet seems to be just right. With over a year of using of the iPad I now realise the iPad is kind of too big to carry around all the time. I can easily around my Nexus 7 wherever and it even fits in most of jeans pockets, even if it does look I’ve got a huge bulge in my pocket.

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With it being light and half the size of an iPad it’s a lot easier to hold. It’s one of those tablets that feels great when on the go. Also with it being very sturdy and having a scratch resistant screen it can be chucked around a bit without any serious damage.

This tablet isn’t just good for £159, it’s one of the best tablets out there all together.

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