Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Nexus 7

Well, here it is. Google’s first foray into the tablet market using their own Nexus branding. After the success of the Galaxy Nexus smart phone it was inevitable that the search giant would dip it’s hand in to the Tablet market too. Especially given that most Android tablets have not really measured up to the success of Apple's iPad. So can the 7” tablet square up to Apple’s behemoth? Can the Nexus 7 carry on the Nexus lines success in to the Tablet market? Can the quality of the Nexus line be maintained now given that this Nexus device is made by Asus and not Samsung? Read on.


Design
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for beautiful design. I relayed the issues this has caused for me in the past in previous reviews (HTC sensation…I’m looking at you). So I tend to approach gadgets and gizmos that I like the design of, with some unease. That’s the feeling I had upon first opening up my Nexus 7’s box, unease, because it’s a looker. It’s not so much the front of the device that’s appealing to me, it’s pretty plain, which is fine, I enjoy minimalism over brash design nine times out of ten. The real trump card in the design for me is the back of the device. The Nexus 7 has a soft touch, dimpled material that both looks and feels superb. I actually remind’s me of golfing gloves, and as silly as that sounds it actually gives the Nexus 7 a really nice touch and feel when being used.

In a previous review I expressed my distaste for plastic that has been made to look like metal. The Nexus 7 does unfortunately sport one of these plastic strips around the outside. But it doesn’t bother me as much on the Nexus 7 as it did on the Galaxy S3. It doesn’t appear as glaringly obvious as it did on Samsung’s flagship and it has a sturdier feel to it.

The volume rocker sits on the side next to the power button and is in keeping with the minimalist design. They actually sit a little further back on the device rather than being mounted directly on to the side. It’s a nice touch that means they don’t break the fluidity of the devices design. In fact, looking straight on they’re not even visible.

All in all, this really is a great looking device.

Hardware
The Nexus 7 sports a quad-core Tegra 3 CPU with 1GB of RAM and a choice of 8GB or 16GB internal storage, this means it packs a punch in the hardware stakes due to it’s Tegra CPU and ram. It also sports other features such as Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer There is a 1.2 mega pixel camera mounted on the front but a lack of back facing camera. This basically means that the camera will barely be used unless you’re a heavy Skype or Google+ hangouts user.

The display is a 1280x800 LCD screen. Text and pictures are pretty clear and the display is for the most part great. Though it must be said that the quality is not up to the same standard as Apple’s retina displays. However on a 7” screen it’s perfectly serviceable. One thing that I have noticed in my time with the Nexus 7 is a small flickering of the screen that appears when using apps/internet sites that have a lot of white or light colours whilst I’m in an area with low light. I’ve had a look around the Interwebs and it appears to be a relatively rare issue with the backlight on some models. But I still thought it worth mentioning in case others run in to the issue.

Some may miss the lack of 3G support and at times I was one of them. But given the relatively low price of even the higher storage model it’s something I can live without, I do however, have a phone I can use on the go and there’s also the option for tethering. 

Battery life is actually pretty good, though charging to full took a fair amount of time. Obviously battery life is effected when say, watching movie or gaming. But generally battery life was really good.

Software
The Nexus 7 runs the latest version of Android, called Jelly Bean. Google’s last version of Android was Ice-Cream Sandwich. It was a massive improvement over previous iterations and Bean really fine-tunes a lot of what was already great about it.

One of the new additions to the software is Google Now, which for me is the most important addition in this Android release. Google Now may at first seem like a Siri clone, and whilst it does have similar functions to Apple's PA software, Google Now goes a lot deeper. The software recognizes repeated actions that you perform on a day-to-day basis. This includes search queries and calendar appointments. But most interesting for me was it picking up on locations I frequent a lot, places like work, my own house, my local pub. This means that it can learn for example, your commute to work and advise you on your route and inform you of any delays. It’s a really great piece of software. I also like the fact that the voice sounds a lot more human in Google Now. When asking Siri for weather advice I often feel as though HAL 9000 is answering me.

There’s much more I could say about Jelly Bean, too much in fact. The next review I’ll be doing is actually a full Jelly Bean review. So far, this is a really great piece of software to use on a daily basis, Androids come a long way, so far in fact, that IOS should be worried.


Conclusion
What can I say? It’s pretty obvious I love this thing. But do I need it if I already own a phone with a 4” plus screen? Maybe not. 

If I were to go out and buy an Android tablet would I buy this one? Yes, hands down a thousand times yes. 

There really is no other Android tablet right now that is in the same league for this low price. Does it measure up to the iPad? I think it does (though obviously not in screen size and camera capabilities). But the Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean at this low price is sure to steer some away from the iPad and that’s pretty much all Google wants. It’s no secret that Google are selling the Nexus 7 at cost price meaning they make no money off tablets sold. This is purely an exercise in getting people to use their ecosystem which is where Google makes it’s real money, and boy is this a hell of an exercise.

8.5/10

Review by Makoto


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