Google Nexus 7 tablet review : What’s a Kindle Fire?

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While it wasn’t much of a surprise when Google announced its very own 7 inch tablet at the I/O conference for only $200, we’re still more than excited to see such a combination of power and software at such a great price point. The collaboration with Asus proved to be a great partnership and we finally have a 7 inch Android tablet that not only can challenge Amazon’s Kindle Fire, but to squash it in its path without breaking a sweat. All that said, Google chose to leave some features out to help keep costs down, and may turn off some potential buyers. In this review, we’ll go through to good and the bad with the Nexus 7 and see if it should be the next tablet for you .

The Good
  • Easily the most powerful Android tablet for the price
  • Jelly Bean takes the Android OS to new heights
The Bad
  • Missing rear camera and HDMI port may be a turn off to some
  • Android's tablet application selection still needs to catch up

Hardware

By now, you probably know all about the Nexus 7's hardware, but we'll give a refresher to the uninformed.

The Google Nexus 7 is a powerful tablet that bests even some ten inch devices out in the market today. That said, Google didn't set out to make the most powerful tablet in all the land, and you'll find that in some areas, the Nexus 7 is lacking. Google's mission was to make a powerful, yet affordable tablet, and that's exactly what it did.

While Google could have easily teamed up with Samsung again to make a Nexus tablet, we're glad to see that the search giant went with Asus. The company shipped one of the most popular Android tablets, the Transformer, and its successor the Transformer Prime, so we we're not surprised to see Asus next to Google in this venture.

The face of the Nexus 7 comes clean, with only the 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera on the top of the display disrupting the front of the device. On the right you’ll find the power/lock button, with the volume rocker below it. The left side is void of buttons, but has 4 pogo pins for what we would imagine is for an unannounced dock or something of the sort. This side, along with the top right side (with the back facing to you) also have microphones for noise cancellation. The top of the device is clean, save for the aforementioned microphone, and the bottom hosts the micro-USB port for charging and the 3.5 mm headphone jack.

The rear of the device lacks a high-res camera, which is perfectly fine by me. There’s never been an instance that I – number one: have only had a tablet on me and no smartphone, and – number 2: immediately reached for a tablet over my phone to take a picture. Sure, it can be a selling point on a tablet, but if you consider the lens on your smartphone for just a second,  you might begin to see just how unnecessary a 5-8 megapixel camera is on a tablet. Because of this and to keep costs down, Google left it out, leaving us with relatively clean back panel.

Inside the Nexus 7 is the stupid-fast NVIDIA Tegra quad-core processor, which will handle any game or other rich media content you throw at it with ease. Tagging along is 1GB of RAM, 8 or 16GB of internal storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, gyroscope, GPS, and just about anything else you’d expect to see in a high-end smartphone or tablet today.

The real highlight of the Nexus 7 is the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core CPU. The blazing-fast processor make the lack of a rear-facing camera and other missing ports forgivable. Mobile technology moves fast, but a $200 tablet rocking a Tegra 3 won't feel old or be leaving your side anytime soon.

Design

Design-wise, the Nexus 7 is definitely easy on the eyes - especially the white version Google I/O attendees received. It's nothing too special, or over designed, but just right. It's a 7 inch slab, so there's only so much you can really do.

It's beveled edges make the tablet look thinner than it is and it results in a nice in-hand feel. This is something Amazon should have though about when designing the boxy Kindle Fire.

The back panel of the tablet is definitely interesting. The material used isn't quite soft-touch but is smooth to the touch, which offers up a nice grip onto surfaces. The back panel is also covered with tiny indentions that give off a perforated look and provide a subtle texture.

Another notable "feature" about the Nexus 7 is just how light it is, coming in at 340 grams (11.99 ounces) , which is the equivalent of about 2.5 Galaxy Nexus handsets. The Nexus 7 is easy to handle and won't get too heavy in the hand with prolonged use.

Build Quality

In our time with the Nexus 7, the build quality of the device seems quite solid. In the beginning, the back panel seemed questionable, but that was mostly due to the overall lightness of the device. We do know that some sort of protective glass from Corning is covering the 7 inch display, but the name Gorilla Glass won't be found anywhere.

Just like most Samsung Android devices, the lightness of the Nexus 7 may make it seem like it's made of cheap materials, which isn't the case. The Nexus 7 should prove to be a pretty sturdy tablet, and if you're really concerned, you can wait out for the upcoming covers that Asus recently revealed.

Software

Shipping with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the Nexus 7 has a lot going for it as far as new enhancements to the operating system is concerned. It's not the biggest update we've seen for Android, but that's because Jelly Bean builds off of Ice Cream Sandwich, which has been the most dramatic update to the operating system we've seen to date.

One thorn in the Nexus 7's side is the selection of tablet optimized applications. While a majority of applications in the Google Play store should run just fine on the tablet, it's clear that this is still an issue that needs to be worked on.

To get more information on the Jelly Bean experience, be sure to head over our Android 4.1 highlights review.

Web Browser, Multimedia And Camera

Web Browser

The Nexus 7 is currently the only Android device that ships with Google Chrome as the default browser. Chrome is officially out of beta and provides a slick web browsing experience that many people will enjoy. That said, Chrome doesn't support Adobe Flash and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean never will get support, so that might be a let down to some.

Flash on mobile devices may have never received the proper attention to make it a great experience but it's still better than nothing. HTML5 may be the future, but it still has a long time before it becomes as ubiquitous as Flash ever was.

Chrome is a pretty great experience on a tablet but my one peeve about the browser is that I do wish it kept a similar layout as it does for phones. Of course, Google wants the browser to mimic that of the desktop version, but I find the tabs at the top of the page get cluttered and aren't big enough to comfortably tap on with a finger. This is a minor complaint, as it's pretty much the most solid mobile browsing experience you can find.

Multimedia

Google is pushing the Nexus 7 media capabilities through Google Play like never before. After signing into your Google account for the initial setup, you'll find you homescreen is covered in Google Play widgets for recommendations. The Google Play Store now offers up TV Shows and Magazines, which is a very welcomed addition. While Google is trying to become the one-stop shop for consuming media on Android devices, there are plenty more outlets for you to choose from.

You can also use the Nexus 7 as a way to control a Nexus Q if you have one, along  with Google TV.

Camera

The Nexus 7 lacks a rear-facing camera, so you won't find the camera application inside the application drawer. The 1.2 megapixel camera will do fine for video chat but we'd refrain from using it as anything else. That said, if you want a dedicated application for the measly camera on the your Nexus 7, you can find one on the Google Play store.

Call Quality And Battery Life

Battery life on the Nexus 7 is pretty great. It should definitely serve up the 9 hours of HD video play back that Google promises, and more with other tasks. With moderate to light use, the Nexus 7 should easily last up to a week on a single charge. That said, with the crazy powerful Tegra 3 running the show, you're probably going to be playing a lot of games with this tablet, and even then it fares quite well.

The Final Take

So, the Google tablet has arrived. Almost every rumor that we heard concerning the tablet has come true in the specifications area. We're left with a powerful and affordable tablet. Instead of giving our final opinion just yet, we're going to break it down and tell you what the Nexus 7 is and isn't.

What It Isn't

The Nexus 7 is no iPad killer, nor does it even need to be. Google's tablet is going for a market that Amazon has proved is there, and both companies have even caught Apple's attention with the race to the bottom. Unless someone saw a real benefit from owning two Nexus 7 tablets, we have our doubts that Google's latest offering would sway someone who is on a mission to grab an iPad. That said, even if a 7 inch iPad is announced in the near future, you can bet your ass it won't be $200.

What It Is

Not only is the Nexus 7 the absolute best Android tablet available on the market for the price, it's also one of the best tablets on the market in general. Rarely can that be said. Yes, some specifications were sacrificed to achieve the price point and retaining the power under the hood, but we'd say it's a good trade off.

There are three things that stand out about the Nexus 7, and that's the fact that it's a Nexus device that will get updates faster than any other Android tablet around, the fact that it has the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, and it's price point. The combination of the latter two will likely find their way into more Android tablets going forward, but there will only be one Nexus tablet, which is enough to get some attention.

In short, Google killed the Amazon Fire, plain and simple. Not only is the Nexus 7 significantly more powerful in terms of processing power, it offers up the latest and full Android experience, uninhibited by Amazon's crap UI on the Fire. Basically, if you have $200 to burn, getting Amazon's tablet offering right now would essentially be equivalent of setting your money on Fire, so to speak.

With the rock solid CPU, great price, and the latest version of Android under it's belt, it's really hard to go wrong with the Nexus 7.

 

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  • http://twitter.com/just_guillermo ?Guillermo?

    love the review

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.l.harrison.7 James L. Harrison

    The elephant in the room that you try so hard to ignore is the lack of a micro SD port.  With some smart phones sporting 64 GB capability on this score what could it have cost???  I won’t be putting all my content on the cloud; anyway I won’t always have WiFi available.  Despite so many good features for me that is a total deal killer [as in no, thanks].  Yes, I suppose it will sell millions; but in a few months [at the most] when similar devices come out supporting micro SD storage then it will be relegated to the shelf or dustbin.

    • Anonymous

      You make a fair point, but the elephant(s) in the room that you try so hard to ignore is the price and that it’s a Nexus.  That means that even if a Tegra 3 packing 7″ tablet does come out in a few months, it’s going to be more expensive, and it won’t run pure Android, and get updates as soon as Google releases them.  So you will be spending more for something that is going to run an out of date OS in months.  Everyone keeps saying they don’t have wifi available where they want to use it.  That’s what phones are for, either use your phone or tether your tablet to it.  Why anyone would spend so much more on a tablet that has one extra chip in it, then spend even more on something they’re already paying for (mobile data) makes no sense to me.

    • Daedwards81

      I don’t see why people are making such a big deal out of the lack of sd card slot. iPad has never had that option, yet no one seems to bitch about that

  • Jf Rubon

    Hi Blake,
    you forgot to speak about the most important thing, which is also the most costly element of a tablet, and the one with which you interact the most: the touchscreen !!!
    How did you feel with reading on this screen, why about the colors rendering, what about the responsiveness to your fingers ? These are very important factors, those that Apple has worked out much wit the iPad.

  • http://www.first2list.com/ jaymin martyn

    Thank you so much for your useful reviews. As per the pictures style and Design point of you Google Nexus 7 tablet is good but I not personally used so not able to give any comments on functionality but looking nice.

  • Gridlock Manifesto

    Most people read more than one review, and the problem with
    the screens coming apart means people will read a review about that Blake.  You had me at Nexus, until you mentioned “no
    flash.”  I HAVE to have flash for so many
    of my favorite websites, but I am glad though that my Dish Remote Access app
    doesn’t require flash to watch TV.  I use
    the app on my iPad and Galaxy tab currently, and would consider buying this for
    the smaller size and give the Galaxy to my daughter.  That way I can keep the “7” in my pocket and
    watch more TV on the go.  My Dish
    co-worker has a Fire, which doesn’t work with my Dish Remote Access app, and
    now he’s sorry.  With the help of my
    Sling Adapter at home, I watch either live or my DVR recordings, which also
    means that co-worker is constantly borrowing my tablet at the office.
     

  • Sam Adams

    The show stopper for me with the Nexus 7 was its limit 16gb. I would like to put my music library on it so I don’t have to buy another (#!% ipod), but my library won’t fit in 16gb. I am really fed up with ipods that cost more than Android tablets, but there is still no choice for music. BTW, I ride the train and go many other places where there is no access to high speed internet, but that seems to escape Google’s imagination.

  • http://twitter.com/gadgetandpccom1 GadgetAndPc.Com

    nice one but it’s storage is not enough perhaps

  • Karla

    Karla
    I just took my 2nd Nexsis back to the store. The first one would not use the update features of a rotating screen or enlarging your screen using your fingers. It also ran really slow. The second one just flat out crashed. Everything else worked great. Got up to use it and you can’t get it to turn on. Absolutey dead as a door nail. Think I am going to wait for a while and see what happens. The Nexsis sounds great. Just not the ones I got.

  • T

    No way! Why oh why would they introduce a great tablet like this, and then ditch the microSD slot and 3G? It’s like we’re going backwards. I would be willing to pay $250+ if it had those two features. Sorry but 16GB won’t even hold 1/3 of my MP3s, let alone HD movies. And with no 3G support, we’ll have to stick to places with wifi? Thanks but no thanks.

  • T

    iPad isn’t limited to 16GB. You have an option of 16, 32 and 64 GB. So it just doesn’t cut it.

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