Introduction, Design and Connectivity
Finally, a great Android tablet.
All of my past tablet reviews have come to a similar conclusion – buy the iPad. Unless you have a particular, specific use for your tablet which Apple’s walled garden does not support there is little reason to go with anything else. The problem is a combination of both hardware and software. Cupertino’s closed approach, which develops both in-house, has provided better products so far.
If you can’t beat them, you can always sell to a somewhat different market. And so we have the Google Nexus 7. There are three things about this tablet that has made many geeks very interested – it has a Tegra 3 processor, it runs Android 4.1 and it starts at $200 for the 8GB version.
This is, in fact, the production version of the $249 Tegra 3 tablet that we all ooo-ed and ahh-ed over during CES 2012. Google hasn’t paid much lip-service to ASUS, but the company’s logo is on the back of the tablet. I have no complaints about this partnership. ASUS has made the best Android tablets for some time, so going with them is an obvious choice.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks and look at the specifications of this device.
Everything looks excellent here. I’d like to draw particular attention to the display, which has a resolution of 1280×800. When crammed into a 7-inch form factor this translates to 216 pixels per inch, which is not so far away from the iPad 3’s 264 ppi. Display quality is among a tablet’s most important features, so it’s good to see that Google has taken it seriously.
With that said, one of my biggest beefs with previous Android tablets has been Android itself. It always has had a bit of jerkiness to it on tablets I’ve tested – bugged apps, weird multi-tasking and a general lack of responsiveness. Android on the Nexus 7 is supposed to fix those problems, but I’ve heard that refrain before. Let’s find out if Google’s new tablet can sing a different tune.
Design And Connectivity
Designing a tablet that looks different from other slabs of plastic, metal and silicon is difficult, but Google has added some flair to the Nexus 7. The normal glossy black front is bordered on all sides by silver trim. I’m not sure if the trim is metal or plastic, but whatever the material is, it looks great and feels solid.
Flipping the Nexus 7 over introduces users to a rubberized back panel that appears inspired by a pair of gym shorts. I wouldn’t call it attractive because, uh, it isn’t. Functional, though – it is that. The rubber coat provides the user’s hands with a good grip. This is the sort of ugly-but-useful feature that Apple never refuses to place on its products.
Build quality is solid. Most tablets feel tightly built because so much hardware is crammed into a thin space, but the Nexus 7 is certainly in a league above the Kindle Fire, this tablet’s most obvious competitor. I’m extremely impressed by the lack of noticeable panel gaps. ASUS has screwed this tablet together with precision.
The Nexus, like most Android tablets, has an aspect ratio of 16:9. This is exaggerated further by the bezel of the tablet, which is very thin along the sides (as held in portrait orientation) yet extremely thick along the bottom and top. This makes the tablet easy to palm when held in portrait, but a bit too wide when held in landscape (still, it’s easier to use than a 10-inch tablet). Google has positioned the tablet’s power and volume buttons well out the user’s grip, so they are unlikely to be hit accidentally.
One area where Google has cut corners to meet its price target is connectivity. A quick sweep around the edges of the Nexus reveals there are only two ports, a micro-USB 2.0 that is also used for charging and a headphone jack. The Nexus has Bluetooth and wireless b/g/n/a support as well. This means no HDMI-out, which could be a disappointment for those who thought they might use the Nexus to stream video to a television.