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

  • 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.

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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.

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.

google-nexus-7-review 6

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.

Nexus 7 Gallery

 

  

Comments

  1. ReVeLaTeD says

    Wow. It’s like you were just fighting to find advantages over iPad. As if it were a struggle.

    “…the iPad is a more robust tablet that replaces some users’ laptops thanks to its relatively large display and evolved ecosystem.”

    For what, editing docs? Android can do that.
    Remoting to computers? Android can do that.
    Playing games? Android can do that too.

    There is NOTHING the iPad can do that an Android tablet cannot. Display has nothing to do with productivity and if anything the “ecosystem” limits options in the workplace. Most notably, the iPad cannot natively support an Active Directory setup where Android can.

    “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.”

    This makes no sense. If you’re talking about a regular sized laptop then you’re going to get “a bit bulky” no matter what you add.

    “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.”

    Again, this applies to anything you are carrying. This is not a valid argument for or against a tablet.

    “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.”

    iPad lacks storage and a MicroSD slot. You’re contradicting yourself here.

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

    Totally subjective statement that has no basis in anything. “better” is defined by the individual. Rate each tablet on their factual features.

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

    Translated: Browsers mean more than content. Really? And this directly contradicts your earlier argument about an “evolved ecosystem”. Pick one dude – either you want an ecosystem and it’s an advantage or you don’t want one in which case the iPad fails. You can’t have it both ways.

    “Couple this with the better build quality and the Nexus 7 is clearly a better choice for users.”

    Better build quality? Because it’s thinner? In a rough-and-tumble situation I bet the Kindle Fire would survive a lot longer than the Nexus.

    “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.”

    Wow.

    - Kindle Fire is lower priced.
    - Kindle Fire comes with a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime.
    - Kindle Fire is readily available and accessible.
    - Kindle Fire does not have display retention issues.

    Kindle Fire has its issues but come on.

    Your entire article is full of subjective, emotional statements with no credibility whatsoever. It’s obvious you favor the iPad, why bother writing about the Nexus?

  2. jonathan11 says

    This is one of the most hair-splitting reviews I’ve read on the Nexus 7 and it’s clear the writer is an Apple shill.

    “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.”

    Yeah, like the iPad which costs 2x that of the Nexus 7 for the most basic 16gb, has a Micro SD card.

  3. Syn says

    I have them all. Galaxy fascinate phone, Kindle Fire, and iPad 3. For me it’s the software, and most of it is better on iOS. There are some notable software on android that makes me Go wow, it’s not crap and it’s a big improvement from two years ago when nearly everything was crap.

    I don’t get though why people get so angry over these reviews. It’s all about Perferences. What’s crap to me, is great to others. No point in getting mad over it.

    • ReVeLaTeD says

      “I don’t get though why people get so angry over these reviews. It’s all about Perferences. ”

      Preferences, you mean.

      IN any event a review is NOT about preferences. A review is about facts. For example…

      “The Nexus 7 is a smaller form factor which may appeal to some or be a dealbreaker to others. There are consumers who have wanted this size, thus the rampant rumors about Apple building a smaller iPad. Additionally, the rectangular shape and larger bezels in landscape mode are clear proof that Google wants this to be a media consumption device above all else. This doesn’t negate the value of the 10 inch form factor, which may be more ideal for reading and working with remote sessions.”

      With that statement I didn’t put down or overpraise either device. I stated facts and spoke in possibilities (may appeal, may be more ideal) in instances where the statement has no basis in fact but is strongly evidenced elsewhere. You can feel free to Google search that paragraph, you won’t find it on any other site. I wrote it just now off the top of my head and based on what I read here.

      When sharing preferences it goes like this:

      “I should state for the record that after using the Nexus 7, I still found myself preferring the iPad for….. When attempting to do the same tasks on the Nexus 7, my experience was that…. For example…”

      There, you give a preference so your reader knows WHY you prefer whichever device and what specific things you did to test on both. It’s not about better or worse. It’s what the individual prefers. A reviewer must write so that it’s left up to the individual. We don’t care what he thinks is “better”. We do care about what his experience was, without bias. Saying things can’t be done that clearly can shows that bias…means he didn’t even try and he’s flat out lying.

      • MCatz says

        Since when are reviews solely about facts? They ALWAYS have opinion and preferences mixed in. That is why people need to read a lot of reviews before spending $.

        If you don’t care what he thinks why are you so upset?

        • ReVeLaTeD says

          What part of “when sharing preferences it goes like this” did you not bother to read?

          Share preferences by stating that YOU personally prefer something. Not that it’s “better” than something else.

  4. Raj says

    Comparison should not be biased, Ex: kindle, nexus, ipad none of them have sd card slot, except nexus has options as 8GB and 16GB (for extra $50) and Ipad has 16GB,32GB($100),64GB($200) options.

  5. John says

    ReVeLaTeD has a point, thank you for your review of the review some of your points eluded my BS detection system.

    In our home my daughters iPod touch and her original iPad live happily with my Galaxy S2 and Viewsonic G-tablet, the G tablet is having charging issues and Viewsonic has been less than stellar in it’s support I recommend staying away from Viewsonic.

  6. Litho says

    Somewhat biased review, me thinks.

    I have a Retina iPad, and it’s great. The Nexus 7 can’t touch it in terms of screen PPI, though it’s own 217 ppi is already quite good. One area Android loses out to iOS is audio latency (at least prior to 4.01), so the iPad still has a range of audio production apps that Android equivalents can’t touch.

    Other than that, I think the Nexus 7 wins in almost all other areas. Batter life is close from my limited use (2 days since it arrived), build quality is great and I actually prefer the matte rubbery back to the iPad’s aluminium, and there’s just so much more flexibility with the OS. I can already see myself using this way more than the iPad for suff like reading and browsing, and maybe even gaming (Shadowgun on a 7″ is perfect, and the Nvidia Tegra has better effects).

    First time I tried Android was Gingerbread, and it honestly sucked (some HTC phone, can’t remember model), but this Nexus 7 and Jellybean absolutely rawks!!

  7. JN says

    Thanks to its size, it seems to be much more easy to bring it everywhere than an iPad, I think it had a chance to seduce customers who want something different.

  8. Patrick says

    can the same things as an iPad, but to less than half the price. iPad is so overrated. I got an ASUS Transformer Pad 300 & (with 32 GB & a keydock) it costed me the same as a 16 GB iPad 3 without 3G, why should i even consider that? Because a useless retina display – the eye can’t tell the difference? or because it’s Apple? I even got specs that the iPad hasn’t: micro SD card, mini HDMI, SD card, 16 hours battery (twice as much as the iPad) and only 4 hours of charging time compared to the iPad’s 10 hours.

    I am very satisfied with my tablet & i can use it for school creating word , excel & ppt documents. I can connect to my laptop with THD splashtop, read books & other stuff. Ipad isn’t better than anything else, just because it’s more expensive & because it’s Apple.

  9. KurtT says

    I don’t think loading my Amazon apps through the Amazon store was a turn off at all. Had zero problems with it on any level whatsoever. I was very surprised to see that making the review. If that issue concerns you, dismiss it. Absolutely not an issue at all.

  10. Ryan says

    Just picked one up yesterday and I love this thing. I am a Communications tech and I just wanted to be more organized in my daily activity. Our Company’s software is accessible online and I can tether the Nexus 7 to my phone for internet access. Really handy to whip this tablet out and do service orders rather that drag my laptop out in my work van (Ford Connect) which is really short on room, LOL. So far this thing has been amazing. I can’t really compare it to iAnything because I have been Android from the start. Oops, I forgot about my 4th Gen Ipod that is used for only my alarm clock… And everyone saying the memory isn’t expandable hasn’t done their research. A jump Drive, a Host Mode USB Cable, and the Nexus Media Importer app and your good to go..

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