A Weekend With the Google Nexus 7
Here’s the short version: the Google Nexus 7 is a high-quality tablet that runs the most current version of Android and sells for a bargain price. Before I get to the long version, I wanted to share my perspective going into my weekend with Google’s first “Nexus” tablet. I love both Android and iOS. At the moment, my primary phone is a Galaxy Nexus and my primary tablet is an iPad 2012. I use, enjoy, and appreciate Android and iOS for different reasons. Now here are some random observations (not a review) from three days with the Google Nexus 7.
Build Quality: Asus has been making quality mobile electronics for decades, so it was no surprise that the Nexus 7′s build quality is superior. While I wouldn’t put it in the same league as what Apple offers, the construction and materials are pretty close. The metal frame feels rigid. The reinforced Corning glass feels smooth and sturdy. The plastic back is dimpled, which gives it a nice grip and a leathery feel. Compared to the Amazon Kindle Fire and the smaller Samsung Galaxy Tab models, the Nexus 7 is a cut above.
Jelly Bean: While many people are going gaga over the hardware, the software is what grabbed me. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) was a major step for the OS in terms usability and aesthetics. Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) adds a lot of refinement. Thanks to some vsync and buffering wizardry called “Project Butter”, the OS feels smoother and the native Google Apps (Gmail, Phone, Calendar, etc.) are slickly animated. The Roboto font has been slightly altered and looks better than ever. The already outstanding notification system has gotten more powerful. Here’s the full Jelly Bean changelog if you want all the details. In short, this is the best Android has ever been.
Performance: The Nexus 7 is powered by Nvidia’s KAI platform, which is the company’s mass market Tegra 3 offering. This quad-core chip is clocked at 1.2GHz and accompanied by 1GB of RAM. The tablet handled everything I threw at it: 720p video, 3D games, etc. There are more powerful variants of the Tegra 3 available, but the one found in the Nexus 7 strikes a good balance between performance and battery life. Compared to top-of-the-line full-sized tablets, the Nexus 7 is a step behind the iPad 2012 and the Asus Transformer TF700. It doesn’t offer cutting-edge performance, but it’s close to the top.
Size and Weight: After using Apple iPads daily over the last couple of years, the relatively small Nexus 7 felt unusual to me on day one. I’ve handled small tablets before, but never for more than an hour. After a brief adjustment period, I came to love the size of the Nexus 7. The portability is fantastic and it’s great for almost everything I enjoy doing on tablets (more on that in the media section). The size and weight make it ideal for practically any situation. Whereas the iPad 2012 feels a bit cumbersome after an hour or so in bed, the Nexus 7 never felt uncomfortable. Naturally, a lot of this depends on your personal preferences and if you’re a giant. For reference, check out the photo above of the Nexus 7 sandwiched by an iPad 2012 and a Galaxy Nexus.
Screen: Due to its low price, I was expecting a mediocre screen on the Nexus 7. That was a mistake. The 1,280 x 800 IPS display on this tablet is bright and beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised by the screen’s high quality. I prefer the true colors of IPS LCD over the exaggerated colors many AMOLED screens produce. That said, there are a lot of people — like RPadholic smartguy — the prefer AMOLED offerings. No matter your preference, I think you’ll be impressed by the Nexus 7′s screen.
Gaming: As a huge fan of portable gaming, I was quite pleased with how the Nexus 7 served as a portable console. All the games I tried on the tablet performed well; at a glance, Dark Meadow, Riptide GP, Super Stickman Golf, Fruit Ninja, and Eve of the Genesis loked as good on the Nexus 7 as they did on the iPad 2012. Of course some of those games have specific Tegra 3 optimizations. In general, the seven-inch size is fantastic for games; you get a ton of screen real estate and none of the unwieldiness certain videogame genres bring to full-sized tablets. Your mileage may vary depending on the size of your hands (again, giants) and your personal preferences.
Media: For movies, music, TV, Internet video, web browsing, etc., the Nexus 7 is a great tablet. Where it falls short is with digital magazines and comic books. They just don’t read as well on a tablet this size. The text and images are simply too small. As a comic-book nerd, this is obviously a tremendous issue. Using the outstanding Comics by Comixology, I read a dozen or so comic books on the Nexus 7 and was unsatisfied with the experience. Comics and magazines are flat-out better on larger tablets.
Initial Conclusion: After using it for a weekend, I’m hugely impressed with the Nexus 7. It beats the pants off of the similarly priced Kindle Fire and offers nearly as much tablet computing as the iPad 2012 for less than half the price. It’s a powerful and well-built product that’s relatively inexpensive. That said, it’s not going to replace my iPad 2012 any time soon. I love comics too much and iOS still has the better software selection. However, as someone that uses a lot of Google products, I’ll be using this tablet quite a bit. Oddly enough, the Nexus 7 has me feeling unsatisfied with my Galaxy Nexus. For numerous reasons (IPS display, build quality), Google’s tablet has me wishing for a Google phone made by Asus.
I’m going to write more about the Nexus 7 after spending more time with it. For now, please let me know if you have any questions about the Google Nexus 7 by Asus.