8 Reasons to Buy the Nexus 7 & a Few Reasons Not to

Could the Nexus 7 be Google’s first successful hardware product?

Nexus 7Updated 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. Jelly Bean AndroidThe 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.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.

Final Score:

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?

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18 Responses to 8 Reasons to Buy the Nexus 7 & a Few Reasons Not to

  1. simuloid says:

    Hi, Ray. You mentioned that connecting to MyFi or a phone mobile hotspot was an option, but I have seen reports that Jellybean (and ICS for that matter) network stacks don’t support connecting to Ad-hoc connections, which many of the phone solutions are.

    Have you tried connecting your Nexus 7 to a mobile hotspot? Thanks!

    • Ray says:

      The Verizon MiFi (and the FoxFi app on Android) both appear as an AP router (vice ad hoc or peer-to-peer) to connecting devices. Yes, I do this all the time without any problem. I may drop the MiFi since I can now use the FoxFi app on my Android phone. The only problem is that the phone (on SraightTalk) uses the SLOOOW ATT H+ network (abt 1Mb) rather than the Verizon LTE network (consistent 7Mb, or better).

  2. Debbie says:

    Hey Ray,

    The WiFi connection has my Nexus 7 turns off by itself three to four times a day. Two other people in my house have nexuses and they do not have this problem. Can you help me?

    • Ray says:

      Most likely one of the apps that you are using – and the others are not – is causing the wifi to turn off. This is common with battery saving apps and some others.
      Compare apps with your friend. Uninstall all the apps that your friend does not have, reboot and see if your device works properly. If so, add ONE app at a time (most important first) and give each app sufficient time to determine whether it is the one that is shutting down the wifi. After you are satisfied, try another ONE app until you find the one that is causing the problem. Then, uninstall it (again), and continue with the rest of your original (uninstalled) apps.

  3. Jon says:

    Ear phone jack is also non functioning on mine and I’ll return it today.

    Just wondering what I’ll really use the nexus 7 for compared to my lg optimus 3d phone which at least gets the net anywhere. I’m no book reader.
    Note-SWYPE (beta) works on the nexus 7 and makes typing a breeze.

  4. Just watched Rays youTube of opening the Nexus 7. I want to add that the Google Earth app is really impressive as Ray starts to show in the youTube movie. If you go to a big city or other areas that have high resolution images you will be really impressed. Seeing that the GPS is seamlessly integrated into Earth as well as Latitude makes this a really fun tablet.

    I do have problems with the audio jack (not working at all). Does anyone else have this problem?

  5. Ray, I received my Nexus 7 yesterday and so far am impressed. A couple of things people should know about it:

    1. This latest version of Android (Jellybean) uses a pull down menu to gain access to the full menu. The menu bar is at the top and you pull it down much like pulling down a shade. This is where you enable auto-rotation which is disabled at first.

    Otherwise operation is similar to ICS with the multiple home screens, etc. The initial home screen shows the contents of “My Library” and they give you a few free items/books to start off with. At the bottom of this initial screen are icons to launch a few apps with the center one being the link to all the other apps. You can then drag these apps to the home screen or screens to the right or left. One of the nicer icons at the bottom is the Google Group (for lack of a better description) that given you a submenu to Chrome, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Earth, Talk, Currents, People, Gallery, and Calendar.

    2. The GPS works well when I used Google Latitude. I hope there are more apps that use it as well.

    3. I installed Skype and tested it once. It seemed to work OK but the volume was low even though I had it set to max. The person on the other side could hear me and see me fine. The video of the person I was watching was OK, not great, but acceptable

    4. In addition to the USB micro port (for power and computer connections) and the headphone jack there is a four pin connector on the left side below the microphone. There is no description as to what this is for but the four connection points are contacts, not pins. There is also a volume control and, of course, the power/sleep switch.

    5. The display looks great. The size and weight are similar to the Nook except it is a bit shorter in height.

    6. One concern I have is that I can feel some heat coming from the back through the case I bought with it. This may be normal but I never felt it with the Nook Color or the gTab.

    If anyone has any specific questions I will try to answer them while Ray waits for his to show up.

    • Correction/clarification: In #6 above, what I feel is slight warmth on the back side. It’s not really hot and probably nothing to worry about.

    • Ray Waldo says:

      Nice review Steve!
      2. The GPS works very well. Even inside! The vocal turn-by-turn navigation is excellent.
      3. The most likely reason that incoming video was poor was the camera on the other end.
      4. I am pretty certain that the “four pins” is the magnetic sensor. If you place a magnet on the front near that point, it will turn the N7 on and off. I purchased the “Roo” cover for the N7 and it turns the device on/off when you open/close the cover.

      I got my N7 on Tuesday evening. I had it rooted within hours. I have been testing and I have already done a couple videos on YouTube.

      • First problem found with Nexus 7: I have found a problem with the tablet and will need to call Google to get it resolved. The phone jack for earphones does not work. Plugging in a standard earphone jack will not turn off the speaker nor will it send the audio signal to the earphones. I’ve tried this with two different earphones and jacks. No dice. Anyone else have this problem?

        • Ray Waldo says:

          Try to push the plug in a bit further. I noticed that I had to press very hard to get it fully inserted. But it works fine.
          BTW, apparently the jack is output only – no mic connection.

          • Pushing all the way in does not work. There is a “slushy” feel when I plug it in compared to the audio port on the Nook Color and my laptop. I called Google Play and they may send me a new unit. This really is a hardware malfunction.

          • Ray Waldo says:

            Sorry to hear that. It reflects badly on all of the NEW devices that Asus’ build / QC is not up to par. I hope that yours is just a very isolated incident. And, I hope you can get a satisfactory resolution soon.

    • bootcampii says:

      Seen the proposed Asus Nexus 7 docking station and those 4 pins will be used to power/charge the 7 in landscape mode. Not in the US yet, but will be getting one when the are.

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