Nexus 7 Review: From Hero to Zero

The 2012 Nexus 7, the old Nexus 7, is riding off into the sunset. After a good year of life, Google has announced a new Nexus 7 that has already replaced the older model on the Google Play Store and will be replacing the original on the shelves of retailers across the country. I’ve owned the old Nexus 7 for a little over a year now, and in the wake of the new model, it’s time to take a look at my Nexus 7 experience after one year.

In June of 2012, Google executives took the stage and announced two products that we already knew were coming. In addition to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the company revealed the Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet that would be sold through the Google Play Store and would be sold for cheap, $199 cheap. I was intrigued, along with thousands of others.

The Nexus 7 will soon be replaced by the new Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 will soon be replaced by the new Nexus 7.

While my experience with the Verizon Galaxy Nexus left a poor taste in my mouth, this tablet had nothing to do with Verizon. It was a cheap, Wi-Fi only tablet, that I felt would fit perfectly into my arsenal of devices which at the time included an iPhone 3GS, Galaxy Nexus and iPad 3. So, like many others, I bought Google’s new 7-inch tablet.

There was no question about which one I was going to get because I knew that 8GB of storage, without a microSD card slot, would be impossible to manage. I planned to outfit my tablet with games, movies and books that would help occupy my time at night and during travel. Several weeks later, my Nexus 7 arrived on my doorstep and I was thrilled.

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Since that day, I’ve been a Nexus 7 owner for better or worse. And with the new Nexus 7 set to arrive on July 30th, it’s time to take a look back at my experience with the Asus-made 2012 Nexus 7 over the past year.

Android 4.1 Era

I had been a strict iPhone owner up until the Samsung Galaxy Nexus’ arrival in December of 2011. However, the allure of the Verizon Galaxy Nexus proved to be too hard to resist and I waltzed into a local Verizon store on launch day and bought one for well over $300, something that I regret to this day.

I bring this up because almost immediately, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus crushed my dreams. While I had hoped for the perfect Nexus experience, I was instead was left with a device that was all hype. I found out later that the Verizon Galaxy Nexus wasn’t actually a Nexus, it just so happened to have the Nexus name.

So when the Nexus 7 was announced, I probably wasn’t as thrilled as I would have been if I hadn’t have picked up the Verizon Galaxy Nexus. Still, to me, it appeared to be the best Android tablet to date and so I gambled, thinking that there was no possible way that the experience could be any worse than the Galaxy Nexus’.

And for the first part of my year with the Nexus 7, it was night and day. The Nexus 7 was a constant companion of mine (and my girlfriend’s) during travel and at night. So, exactly how I planned it.

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Games, books, the web, all of it looked fantastic on the Nexus 7’s display and the quad-core Tegra 3 processor handled Android 4.1, multitasking and gaming like a dream. In fact, there was fairly big stretch where I found myself using my Nexus 7 way more than my iPad 3. Money well spent, I kept telling myself.

And then along came autumn.

Android 4.2 Era

In September, I decided to replace my iPhone 3GS with the iPhone 5, something that kept me in Apple’s ecosystem. Equipped with an iPad 3, iPhone 5 and MacBook Air, I was and still am able to seamlessly move around my devices, something that makes my workflow and life a lot easier.

That said, I continued to use my Nexus 7 and didn’t even flinch when the iPad mini was announced. Yes, it was tempting but without a Retina Display and given how much I liked my Nexus 7, it was a simple decision, holding onto $300 or so dollars.

The horror. The horror.

The horror. The horror.

Around the same time that Apple introduced the iPad mini, Google made some announcements of its own, revealing an HSPA+ Nexus 7 and announcing a Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update. I was elated.

One of the perks of having a Nexus is that updates roll out directly from Google, meaning, that as a Nexus owner, you get them first. As I’ve said, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus isn’t a real Nexus device and thus, it didn’t get Android 4.1 in a speedy manner. But because the Nexus 7 is and was a true Nexus, I would be first to Android 4.2. And I was.

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean roll out in mid-November and for the first few days, I thought it was a huge upgrade over Android 4.1 thanks to the inclusion of handy features like Quick Settings, lock screen widgets and multi-user accounts so that my girlfriend and I could set up our own accounts.

It seemed like my Nexus 7 experience only got better and that my decision to pass on the iPad mini would not come back to haunt me. Turns out, I was dead wrong.

After a few weeks, it was clear that the experience on my Nexus 7 was deteriorating. Whether or not it had to do with Android 4.2, I can’t be sure, but I will say with confidence that after Android 4.2, things went down hill.

While my Nexus 7 didn’t have a host of issues, it did have one debilitating issue that essentially rendered it useless. For reasons that I am still unsure of, my Nexus 7 took hours and hours to charge. Literally, it would take it eight or so hours to charge to 100% where as before, it took far less than that.

It got to the point where I was just sick of waiting and so, I performed a factory reset, something that I really did not want to have to do but ultimately was forced to do. Nothing changed. So slowly but surely, I began to phase the Nexus 7 out of my daily routine, replacing it with a combination of my laptop, iPhone 5 and iPad 3.

In February, I decided to give it another chance. I fired it back up and it crackled to life. Literally, it crackled to life. From the crackling noise it was making, I thought it was going to explode. Adding to that, it decided to randomly reboot after being on for 15-20 seconds. Turns out, there was a fix for my issue and I wiped my hands clean of it that very day.

Sadly, there was and as far as I know, still no fix for the slow battery charging issue. So, once again, the Nexus 7 collected dust on my desk. That is, until recently, when I went to go boot it up so that I could install Android 4.3 Jelly Bean for a test run.

Android 4.3 Era

With an iPad mini 2 with Retina on the way, the Nexus 7 2 is a tough sell.

With an iPad mini 2 with Retina likely on the way, the new Nexus 7 is a tough sell.

The Android 4.3 era on my Nexus 7 unfortunately ended before it even began. That’s because my Nexus 7 refuses to turn on. It’s dead, lifeless, sitting on my desk next to me, a complete transformation from a year ago.

There are rumors out there that suggest that faulty RAM is the reason my Nexus 7 stopped working. Apparently, others have seen the same thing happen to their Nexus 7 after using it for some time.

And thus ended my year with the Nexus 7.

After a year with the Nexus 7, there is a part of me that is glad that I invested that $250 in Google’s 7-inch tablet. It was a great device, when it worked properly. When I think if my time with these Nexus devices, the word that comes to mind is inconsistent. Owning a Nexus device is like riding a roller coaster with a blindfold on. It’s unpredictable.

While I’ve cautioned many buyers about the potential pitfalls of the new Nexus 7, there is no guarantee it will have the same issues as the original. But that risk is still there. And at this point, it’s a risk that I, as a consumer, am unwilling to take. Both of my experiences with Nexus devices have ended in disappointment and it’s hard to think that I will invest in a third (at least beyond the scope of my job) and I get the feeling I’m probably not alone.