Review: Google Nexus 7

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Last month Google announced the Nexus 7 tablet a 7 inch tablet built for Google by Asus, as well as it running the latest version of Android Jelly Bean (4.1) the table comes in at £159 undercutting most of competing tablets. The 7 inch tablet runs at 1280×800 HD display (216 ppi), is wifi only, 8GB or 16GB versions, Quad-core Tegra 3 processor, NFC, front facing camera and Bluetooth.

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In the box as well as the Nexus 7 you get a USB charger with micro usb cable and the Nexus comes with about 20% battery charge.

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The Nexus comes pre-registered with your Google account only needing your password to get started, once your signed in it downloads all your apps you have previously downloaded from Google Play which is nice but I would prefer to pick which apps I want to install as I tend to download lots of apps to try them out.

The Nexus feels very nice to hold and has a nice soft plastic back, it seems well made with a mico-usb and headphone port on the bottom and an on/off switch and volume rocker on the side. The screen is very bright and clear and works great for web browsing and video playback.

Android 4.1 (code named Jelly Bean) works well on the Nexus, I have been using a Samsung Galaxy Note for some time and prefer the native Android UI over Samsung’s TouchWiz launcher. It does suffer from the problem of battery drain. Just as my Galaxy Note does apps can drain the battery without you noticing and you end up with a dead tablet, yesterday I found it was the Facebook app but I have seen others as well.

One new feature of Jelly Bean is Google Now which looks impressive, I like the idea of having pre-emptive notifications. I haven’t seen it in action yet but it supposed to warn you about automatically traffic delays on your route to work and have weather warnings etc. I am looking forward to seeing this in action.

I have really enjoyed using the Nexus 7, the Chrome browser works very well and I love how you can sync up pages with other instance of Chrome running on other machines. Other apps that I use frequently like  Flipboard, Twitter, Facebook all work really well as does video playback from the built in video player and streaming services like Netflix.

The Nexus comes with Play Music and Play Movies apps which are pretty good media players, in the past I have used 3rd party media apps and have never found them as good as the native apps on iOS but these apps are very useable. The quad core process is pretty snappy, the UI is very smooth and games seem to work very well, Angry Birds worked very well.

Anyone I have shown the tablet to asks how it compares to the iPad and while the price difference makes it an unfair comparison (£199 for the 16GB Nexus 7 and £400 for the 16GB iPad) it’s inevitable that they are put side by side. Obviously the iPad has a bigger screen but when it comes to general use the Nexus 7 comes across very well. Web browsing is very good, as I said before I really like the Chrome browser and in my very un-scientific testing I found web pages loaded up quicker than the iPad.

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The screen size is ideal for book reading, Google Books and Amazon’s Kindle apps work very well and the tablet makes a great eBook reader.

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One area where I know the Nexus will not be able to complete is over battery life, where as the iPad seems last days the Nexus 7 seems to be about a day. Google say he battery lasts for 8 hours use and my experience is that it last about a day with occasional use where as the iPad last about 5 days with occasional use, plus on the iPad you don’t have the app battery drain issue.

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For applications like photo editing and video editing the iPad is very good (with iMovie and iPhoto) but I can’t see my doing that on the Nexus 7. The device is much more about content consumption than creation and its a good store front for Google Play. There is only a front facing camera (1.2M) for use with Google Chat and Skype and I don’t think I would like to type out a blog post but for most peoples needs the Nexus 7 will be ideal. There are also Accelerometer, GPS, Magnetometer and Gyroscope, the GPS chip will be handy with Google’s offline maps for navigation.

Overall I really like the Nexus 7, the 7 inch screen is very usable and can fit in my jeans pocket so I could really get use to the form factor. As there are more and more Android tablet apps being developed Google may have a serious rival to the iPad and especially at the low price point. For many people the Nexus 7 will be a good enough device to make it a viable alternative to the iPad and certainly a rival to Amazon’s Kindle Fire. I can’t see Microsoft’s Surface being at the same price point so I think Google have the potential for a big seller with the Nexus 7.

So while it certainly not as polished and full featured as the iPad it impressive for the price point and better than the some of the other 7 inch Android tablets around and I would recommend it to someone wanting a cheap tablet.

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