Nexus 7 Review: The 7″ Tablet to Beat

The Google Nexus 7 is the best Android tablet I’ve used so far. This 7″-tablet isn’t going to topple the iPad from atop its tablet throne, but there’s a lot of value in the $199 device and it’s much more portable than the iPad. The Nexus 7 is a solid device, paired with the best Android version to date.

ASUS,a company that sells its own PCs and tablets, manufactures the Google Nexus 7 . Google’s flagship Nexus brand highlights the future of Android phones and now, for the first time, tablets. Google’s partnered with various manufacturers to produce Nexus devices, which are generally the first to receive Android updates and are free of clutter, such as carrier-installed apps and manufacturers’ themes. Many Android users, including myself, prefer the ‘vanilla’ Android experience.

The Nexus 7 tablet is not an iPad killer, but the combination of portability, an affordable $199 price and the Google ecosystem deliver a compelling experience.

Pros

  • Solid Hardware
  • Affordable
  • Portable
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Cons

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  • No rear-facing camera
  • Limited Accessories
  • Limited Tablet-specific Apps
  • Limited Storage Capacity
Google Nexus 7 review

The Google Nexus ups the ante for 7-inch tablets.

Google Nexus 7 | $199 to $249

Nexus 7 Review Guide
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Design

The Google Nexus 7 tablet immediately draws comparisons to the Kindle Fire. Despite sharing the same screen size and basic looks, the Nexus 7 build quality is much nicer than the Kindle Fire. The Nexus 7’s soft, textured back makes it very comfortable to hold.

Users with large hands will be able to hold the Nexus 7 with one hand. The Nexus 7 is about half the weight of the iPad, which makes it easier to hold for long periods of reading or watching movies.

Googel Nexus 7 back

The white back of the Google Nexus 7 review unit. Retail models feature black backs.

The Nexus 7 charges and connects to computers with a standard Micro USB port. There is a 4-pin dock connection on one side, but we may never see a compatible docking station in the United States.

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Unfortunately,  there is no MicroSD card slot for adding more storage. Google’s also left out 3G and 4G radios, which means WiFi is the only way to get online. That’s not a problem for some users, but it is a non-starter for those who prefer always-on connectivity.

Nexus 7 Display

The included 720P HD display in the Nexus 7 tablet is a wise choice. It’s crisp and clear, but presumably more affordable than the pricier screen found in Samsung’s and Apple’s tablets. The display is better than the Kindle Fire’s.

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The Google Nexus 7 features a 720P display.

The Nexus 7 features a 7-inch display with a 1280×800 resolution and a pixel density of 216. The display is quite bright and offers wide viewing angles. It is glossy, which means it’s tough to read outdoors unless you crank up the brightness and stay in the shade.

Nexus 7 Performance

The Nexus 7 features a 1.3Ghz Tegra 3 Quad core processor and 1GB of RAM, much like the Toshiba Excite 7.7 we reviewed recently, which is more than twice as expensive. After installing a software update the Galaxy Nexus runs incredibly smooth, thanks in part to the Jelly Bean refinements.

The Tegra 3 processor delivers the power needed to play graphically intense games with better visuals than you’ll find on non-Tegra tablets. Check out the video below to see what the difference looks like.

The Nexus 7 performance isn’t just for gaming. Streaming movies from the Google Play store and using the new Google Now service.

Nexus 7 Battery Life

The Nexus 7 lasts around 7 hours on a charge. That’s less than the iPad, but still respectable for a small 7-inch tablet. Your battery mileage will vary greatly depending on your usage scenario. The display consumers much more juice than any other component, so the easiest way to maximize battery life is to dim the display.

Like the iPad, the Nexus 7 charges slowly. After an hour on the charger the battery only increased 10-15%. The Nexus 7 is also picky when it comes to power sources. It charged fine when using the included AC adapter and when attached to my MacBook Pro, but didn’t charge when using a universal AC adapter that puts out enough juice to charge up to two iPads at a time.  The Nexus 7 didn’t show the charging symbol when I plugged it into my car’s USB charger, which is rated at 2.1 amps. My guess is that the Nexus 7 is charging at a slower rate, just as the iPad does when paired with charging devices that aren’t optimized for it.

Software and Apps

The Nexus 7 runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the latest version of their popular Android operating system. Jelly Bean is by far the best version of Android, but there are still quirks and Android 4.1 lacks the polish of iOS.

Users that live in the Google ecosystem, using Gmail, Google+, Google Talk and other Google services will feel right at home on the Nexus 7.

Android 4.1 on the Nexus 7 brings the same three button design found on Ice Cream Sandwich, but they are now centered on the bottom of the device.

Notifications are now accessed through a pull down at the top f the display, much like on Android phones. Select apps like Gmail support expanded notifications that show more of the message.

Google Now is the most noticeable part of Android 4.1, offering cards of information gleaned from searches, location and users habits as well as voice searches and actions similar to Siri. Check out some of what Google Now can do in the video below.

Google Now is more useful than Siri, delivering not only the information I ask for, but the ability to do more with it. For example, when asking Google Now how many Gigabyte are in a Terabyte, the service include sa calculator to see how many Gigabytes are in a specific number of Terabytes.

Google Now TB to GB

Google Now is more useful than Siri.

App selection remains a problem for the Google Nexus 7 tablet. While the overall selection of Android apps has increased, many apps are not optimized for the tablet, and others simply will not install.

Nexus 7 tablet apps

Not all apps are compatible with the Nexus 7 tablet.

For example, the Amazon Mobile app is not compatible with the Nexus 7 tablet, and it’s not alone. We’ve seen this issue with several other Android devices, so this isn’t a complete surprise, but it is still maddening. You can install Amazon’s apps via the Amazon Android store, but the unnecessary steps are a turn off.

The cheapest Nexus 7 only comes with just 8GB of storage, but just  5.9GB is available, with the remainder dedicated to the operating system and other pre-installed software. This is about enough for one or two HD movies after users install apps on the Nexus 7. Small storage works for some users when paired with streaming movies, TV and music services, but without 4G there are many places where users can’t count on connectivity. Definitely opt for the 16GB Nexus 7 if movies are in the plans.

The Nexus 7 includes GPS which pairs up with Google Map’s offline mode for offline reference and navigation. Users can store up to 80MB per region, which is enough to capture most of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Nexus 7 vs iPad

It’s impossible to review any tablet without comparing it to the iPad. Simply put, the iPad and Nexus 7 are in two different leagues. While both can be used for consuming media, checking email and browsing the web, the iPad is a more robust tablet that replaces some users’ laptops thanks to its relatively large display and evolved ecosystem.

Nexus 7 vs iPad

The Nexus 7 vs. the iPad.

The Nexus 7 isn’t going to replace anyone’s Mac or PC, but it may be able to stand in for an iPad depending on your usage scenario. For example, the Nexus 7 is a good option if you’re the kind of user that always lugs around a laptop. Things can get a bit bulky when stuffing an iPad into a laptop bag. Carrying around an iPad is even less appealing if you already have a thin and light laptop, such as a MacBook Air or an Ultrabook, which are designed to lighten your load.

The Nexus 7 isn’t going to replace a laptop in the same way an iPad can. The smaller screen and lack of storage, or a Micro SD card slot, limit what users can store on the device.

Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire

The Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire share looks and a price, but the Nexus 7 is a much better tablet.

Kindle Fire (left) vs Nexus 7 (right)

While the Kindle Fire is perfect for consumption, it can’t compete with the Chrome Browser and Gmail app on the Nexus 7.

Couple this with the better build quality and the Nexus 7 is clearly a better choice for users. The only reason users might choose the Kindle Fire over the Nexus 7 is if they are heavily invested in Amazon movies and TV shows.

Is the Nexus 7 Worth It?

The Nexus 7 is an excellent value and you’d be hard pressed to find another $200 gadget of better value.

If you buy the Nexus 7 expecting gnu iPad you’ll be disappointed, but $200 out the door is a great price for a mobile device with no monthly service fees or contracts to worry about.

People who already have an Android phone will get the most value out of the Nexus 7 because apps, games and movies will work on both devices.

Plan on subscribing to a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu Plus or through your cable operator rather than purchasing a lot of movies to store locally.

Google made the Nexus 7 attractive enough to invite users to try Android, so why not take advantage of it.

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