Google‘s Nexus 7 is all the rage. The tablet is so popular that Google ran out of stock and the orders are on halt for a while. The tablet is getting praise even from staunch Apple fans like MG Seigler. The most notable praise came from none other than the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, who is a great critic and seems to have a hold of what a user wants.
I pre-ordered my 16 GB model and received it a few days ago. The web was already flooded with Nexus 7 reviews, so I waited to see what I would think of the tablet after one week’s usage. Since I already own the famous Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Nexus , Nexus S and Kindle, I was curious to see which will become my favorite tablet after a week of usage, so here are my findings. This is less of a review and more of my experience with Nexus 7.
The Hardware; Form-factor
When I got the box of Nexus 7 I was a bit concerned about the small size of Nexus 7 as compared to my 10.1 inch Galaxy Tab. When I opened the box and held the tablet in my hands, I felt a bond. There was a feeling (the feeling you get when you see something and know that’s right for you), that this is what I wanted. My later usage with the tablet justified that feeling. Somehow everything was in place – the size, weight and performance.
Nexus 7 has a very good balance, it rests nicely on your four fingers with the center of gravity on the tip of your fingers, so the tablet will stay – hang on your fingers even if you don’t hold it. That’s not true with a bigger device like the iPad or my 10.1 inch tablet. This balance eliminated the pain that one would feel holding a bigger tablet in one hand for longer period.
The non-slippery back surface gives you the grip and confidence that you won’t drop the tablet.
In the last six days I noticed that I barely touched my Galaxy Tab 10.1 and instead carried around the Nexus 7. Not because it was a new device, but because it was easier to carry and felt comfortable in my hands.
Nexus 7 packs great hardware at the price of $200. The tablet comes with one front-facing camera for video chats and hangouts. I don’t see any point of a second camera on a tablet. I think it’s a great idea to drop the second camera and keep the price low. I don’t remember ever taking a picture or video from my 10.1-inch tab. I can’t help but laugh when I see some idiots taking I picture from their iPads. It’s more like wanting a second camera on the lid of the laptop so that you can use it to take pictures. I think Google has done a decent job by committing unnecessary hardware to keep the prices low.
However there is no compromise with needed hardware. Nexus 7 is equipped with NFC chip, GPS chip, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer so you can use it for various applications and services.
The tablet also has a non-documented feature which supports a smart cover. Which means a cover can be used to wake up the tablet and put it to sleep.
The screen is sharp and bright enough to read outside. The inbuilt speakers are good and loud enough. It has a micro USB port and uses the same cable used in Galaxy Nexus so I don’t have to carry different cables for different devices.
7 Inch: Too Small?
At 1 feet distance a 7 inch screen gives me as much fun and excitement as get from my 50-inch 3D TV from 10 feet distance. I used to watch movies on my 10.1 tablet during travel. I have not had any opportunity to travel so I can’t comment on that experience yet. But I can clearly see I will be packing my Nexus 7 in my backpack.
I wish there was more space or SD card support on the Nexus 7. But I can easily cram 8-9 movies on the tablet and music can sit on my Galaxy Nexus so I am good. That will give me enough movies to watch for the 8 hour flights from Brussels to Washington.
Nexus 7 introduced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean to the world, which is an amazing operating system, far ahead of Apple’s iOS in terms of features and polish. Apple is now resorting to their stupid software/process patents to cripple Android which they continue to steal Android features and introduce into their own iOS.
Google News shows that Apple’s Siri is nothing more than a useless toy. There have been numerous comparisons online which shows Siri is no where close to Google Now when it comes to deliver right results. With Jelly Bean Apple has lost it mobile OS superiority and left to litigate and catch up with Android.
Google Maps are now offline so you can save a region and access it when you are not near a wifi point (Nexus 7 doesn’t have 3G). So, Nexus 7 doubles up as your companion for hiking and biking as you can keep track of where you are on the map.
With Jelly Bean we also get Google Chrome, so I am now able to check websites in their native mode. I can now open my Google Docs documents in the desktop mode and get all the features that I would get on a traditional desktop, so it doubles up as my writing tool.
I do have an Amazon wireless keyboard which pairs nicely with the tablet and turns it into a composing device. I am waiting for LibreOffice for Android and once it arrives I will be using the tablet more for my stories and fiction. At the moment you can either use free Google Docs or paid QuickOffice (which is now owned by Google) to create documents.
Glitches: Home Screen Problem
One extremely annoying problem that I noticed in Nexus 7 was the fixed home screen. There is no way to auto-rotate the home screen. If you have the tablet in landscape mode, and are using an app like YouTube or movies and you have to get out, it switches back to portrait mode and you must either turn the tablet again or just try to manage it weirdly. Google must release a patch to this problem. It seems like the home screen of the tablet behaves like a smartphone. However, there is an easy workaround, thanks to Jason Palrow. You can install Apex Launcher and manage the home screen with Apex instead of Android and you will get the functionality of auto-rotating the home/system screens.
Nexus 7 has great integration with all major social networking sites such as Google+. You can install any service you like such as Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox or Google Drive and it will be available across services.
Perfect eBook Reader
I love reading ebooks (DRM-Free) on Nexus 7 because the device has the perfect weight and balance to be held in one hand for longer periods. It’s 16:9 aspect ratio is appropriate for watching videos and films. Since you have Amazon.com, Nook and Google Books, Magazines available for Android, there is no dearth of great content.
Better than Amazon Tablet?
I am a huge fan of Amazon but that love ends where Kindle starts. It’s a very restricted platform. Kindle is not a general purpose Android tablet, it’s a “portal device” to consume content from Amazon.com. The problem worsens when Amazon.com blocks access to Google Play.
So, with Android I can choose any device I want and yet have access to all content that I bought from Google Play, that’s not true with Amazon Kindle. You are locked inside Amazon Kindle devices.
At the same time while I can get my content from any provider- Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Google on Nexus 7, that’s not true with Kindle Fire. My options start and end with Kindle Store.
So, you miss out great apps available on Google Play. Even if Amazon Kindle Fire is based on open Android, it is a closed system. So, if you are planning to buy a 7-inch tablet, I will not recommend Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Instead I will heavily recommend Nexus 7. I will change my opinion about Kindle Fire the day Amazon allows access to Google Play.
Nexus 7 has broken the negative image that 7 inch tablets held. That image is partly due to cheap, Chinese tablets which gave the worst tablet experience one can get. Initial and massively failed attempts by Dell with its “Streak” was another reason behind this image.
The reception Nexus 7 has received will change the tablet market forever. Google has created a new category of affordable tablets which are easy to carry around yet offer the expected tablet experience.
So, Kudos to folks at Google for executing it so well. Order your Nexus 7, if you have not done yet.