Could the Nexus 7 be Google’s first successful hardware product?
Updated 11 Nov 2012: After 5 months of use, I have gone through this article and updated a few things to reflect REAL use.
I am even more convinced that this is THE device to own! I take it with me almost everywhere I go. I would be lost without it. It serves as my PDA Calendar (and every other PDA function), Book Reader, E-mail access, Internet Browser, On-the-go Computer, Music Player, Photo Albums, and even as an extension of my Cell Phone!
Don’t leave home without it!!
Nexus 7 Problems? Some of Google’s products have been dismal failures. (Think Google Wave or Buzz.) But Google has also produced some products that have become defacto standards by which other similar products are measured (Google Search, GMail, & Android come to mind). Unfortunately, some of Google’s most maligned failures have been hardware products. Before the Nexus 7,, Google had not been able to claim a single successful hardware product launch. Although some brick & mortar stores “jumped the gun” and released a few of the devices prior to Google shipping them to those who pre-ordered, the launch of the Nexus 7 seems to have been an absolute success!
Google TV is a great product that (conceptually) still offers promise two years after Logitech stopped building it and renounced Google over the failed launch.
The Nexus One is one of only a few phones released in the USA that have not been locked to a particular mobile carrier. The phone was potentially a game changer that would open up the market and allow us to buy any phone we want and then shop for the best service.
Whatever the reasons such products failed, I commend Google for their attempts at real innovation!
That said, I am excited that I was one of the first wave to receive the Nexus 7! I preordered it a couple days after it was announced in June. Like hoards of other early adopters, I read everything I could find to learn more about the device. Even before it arrived, I felt qualified to do some analysis. But I have now used it for several days and I find it AMAZING!
So, why should anyone buy the Nexus 7?
- It is a Google tablet. Google is the source of the most popular mobile operating system in the USA. (As of June Android held 52% of the market vs. Apple’s iOS at 34%.) With the Nexus 7 (N7), users will receive the latest version of Android (Jelly Bean) on hardware built (by Asus) to showcase the very best features of Android. Even before the tablet was officially launched, Google had already updated the OS to Android 4.1.1. (The update is pushed OTA to the N7 soon after you register it with your GMail account.) Contrary to the market “norm” (where carriers and manufacturers have little incentive to update the OS on their products), you can expect Google to continue to push updates to its Nexus devices as soon as the updates are released.
- The tablet is a performance powerhouse. The N7 uses the NVIDIA Tegra 3 with four processors on board. The quad-processors run at 1.15GHz or scale back to a single processor running at 1.3GHz. The benchmarks that I have seen show the N7 besting all available tablets today (iPad & Transformer series included) in almost every category. In real use, the N7 does not stall or lag when performing any of its tasks. It seems to work just as well with several apps running as it does with a single app. I am not a “gamer” but I have tried some of the racer type games and the fluid level of control and display will draw you into the game quickly!
- It has more additional hardware than other 7″ tablets. prior to the N7, the magnetic “smart cover” was only available on the iPad and only Samsung offered a 7″ tablet with a GPS built in. The Kindle Fire does not have a camera, microphone, or bluetooth. The Nook Tablet does not have a camera or bluetooth. All of these are built into the Nexus. (The N7 has is a 1.2MP front-facing camera.) Also, there is a long list of sensors which are not generally available on similar priced tablets: G-Sensor, Light Sensor, Gyroscope, E-compass, GPS, NFC, Hall Sensor are all sensors that I don’t really know too much about. 😉 Finally, the 4325 mAh battery should provide you with 10 hours of web browsing or ebook reading, 9 hours of HD video playback, or 300 hours of standby. That is pretty amazing! My real-life use does not support such claims but the battery on my N7 does hold a charge well and I can use it – with GPS, WiFi, and bright display for several hours before it gets to 1/2 charge.
- The N7 has Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) which is Android perfected. Beyond the normal Google application integration (sync) & Google Now (both listed below), Jelly Bean (JB) features include the new “Buttery” interface, It is smooth and fast. The N7 with JB does not lag like previous versions of Android often do. Voice transcription has been improved. Not only can you do voice dialing or voice search, etc, now, you can speak and have JB transcribe your voice into an email or other document and expect it to be accurate. The default browser is Google’s own Chrome. I have been using Chrome on my desktop for a long time and I cannot imagine switching. Now, I have that same power available on my tablet – with the added capability of voice search on top! New notifications, new home screen capabilities, an improved (onscreen) keyboard, the Maps application with “Make available offline”, NFC-enabled Bluetooth pairing, Android Beam, and “Face Unlock” round out the features of Jelly Bean.
- The Nexus has Google Now. Although it is somewhat similar, this is not a “Siri wanabe”. It is a feature of Jelly Bean that personalizes Google Search to automatically provide answers BEFORE you ask them. It learns from your routine use of the device (searches you perform, when & where you ask, etc) and combines that with your current location, time, etc to provide the information relative to your present situation. Think about walking up to a train station and have your device tell you when the next train will arrive. Or, automatically showing you the weather forecast when you walk out your door. It will keep track of your flight schedule or sports teams and give you updates as they occur. (I will have more when I have used it more.)
- The N7 will synchronize perfectly with all the other products on your Google account. This does not make it to the top of most feature lists since it is not a “whiz-bang” new thing that is unique to the N7. However, it is important since it deals with the most common uses of your devices. Mail, calendar, music, pictures, documents, etc can be managed on the Web (cloud) and synchronized with your desktop and most other devices. I don’t store very much on my Android devices any more – but when I want them they SEEM to be stored on each device – they are (almost instantly) available anywhere that I have an Internet connection.
- The display and size are perfect. First, I really like the 7″ form factor. I have been using the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet, and the Nook Color for over a year now and I like the size much better than the 10″ Android or iPad (both of which are nearly twice the size & weight). You can carry 7″ devices in a (large) pocket, purse, or in a small folder/binder. It fits nicely in your hand. In portrait mode, it is the right size to thumb type. Or, if you prefer to touch-type, just turn it to landscape. Second, the 16×9 aspect ratio (in landscape mode) just makes everything appear larger and more natural than it does on a similar size using the 4×3 ratio. (Think about how your HD TV [16×9] compares to a similar sized standard definition TV [4×3].) With 16×9, you have a choice of whether to maximize vertically or horizontally. In landscape mode, web pages display the full width (as if you were using a desktop) and still have a readable font size. If you are reading a book or magazine, the portrait mode replicates the paper version. Games generally look best in landscape. Finally, the 1280×800 backlit IPS display is beautiful! (See this article for a description of some more common screen types.) it is crisp, bright, viewable from almost any angle, the colors are true, and it does not consume a lot of battery life. Plus Google made the screen with scratch-resistant Corning glass on top.
- The price: At $199 for the 8GB version, or $249 for the 16GB version, this tablet is about 1/2 the price of other devices with similar specs (but generally have a larger screen than the Nexus 7). This device is priced almost exactly the same as the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet but its features and specifications just blow those devices out of the water. The iPad is WAY more expensive but, in only a few areas are any of its features & specs better than the Nexus.
Nexus 7 Problems?
Truthfully, I don’t find very many reasons NOT to get a N7 if you are in the market for a tablet. Still there are some shortcomings:
- No removable storage. This was almost a deal-breaker for me. Even though I do not store a lot of stuff on the device, just being able to extend the space – if I decided to – is important. Also, the SDCard slot is an entry point for rooting (the easiest way to root the Nook Tablet). But in the end, I realized that 16GB (or for $50 less, 8GB) is plenty of space for on-device storage. Your mileage may vary but if you absolutely MUST have more space, USB OTG is supported and can provide a fast connection to external storage.
- No 3G/4G network connection. I have seen some people that thought this was the consummate error on Google’s part – especially considering the limited on-device storage space. True, WiFi is NOT available everywhere but it is getting much more common. And, think about where you will most likely use such a device – at home, or at a coffee shop, in a book store or library, or maybe at a friend’s home. Most (if not all) of these places WILL have WiFi. And, if they do not, you can use your phone (or MiFi) to provide data access to your tablet. If you have not signed up for your carrier’s “tethering” plan, almost all Android phones are potential WiFi hot spots even if you do not add it to the carrier’s (already excessive) charges (See this article for an example.) Personally, I see “WiFi only” as a feature, rather than a problem – you do not have to pay the carrier extra – or sign a long term contract!
- Some other minor shortcomings. There is no HDMI output but media sharing can be done via WiFi.
The home screen is locked in portrait mode but this can be changed with a few small hacks. The home screen now works in either landscape or portrait mode.
Compared to everything else on the market (at any price), this tablet rates 9 out of 10 stars (the iPad MIGHT beat it out in some areas.) If you only compared to other similar priced devices it would rate a 12 stars out of 10. For real value, I rate this tablet 10 out of 10. There are some minor issues and design choices with which I disagree – but overall, it is about the best there is in tablet computing.
Note: Google has provided a Nexus 7 guidebook on the Play Store.
As always, we value your opinion. Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
What tablet devices do you have or have you used? What do you like about them? What features do they lack?
What appeals to you about the Nexus? Will you be getting one? Why or why not?