Back on the 27th June Google announced they were adding a new device to the Nexus line up, this time a tablet, called the Google Nexus 7 which is built for Google by Asus and was set to be the epitome of an Android tablet experience.
Historically when Google release a new Nexus device, it is the first device to run a new version of the operating system, such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus which was the first device to run Android v4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and this time when Google wanted to release its newest version of the OS, 4.1 Jelly Bean, they decided a phone wouldn’t suffice, a tablet was in order.
Now it goes without saying really that when a new Google device launches, pre-orders and sales are always strong and the Google Nexus 7 stood up to the test too, with Google halting UK sales for the 16GB version online to begin with and stores selling out as well. Because of this I had to wait a little while to get hold of one. Since the boss didn’t get a unit to review and return, I thought I’d just go out and personally get one, so I opted for the 16GB variant, my view on internal memory is go big or go home!
Prices really are affordable. Asus were tasked to build to a budget when manufacturing the Nexus 7, something Google would not budge on as they wanted this device to not only be kickass but at a cost anyone could afford, and what a sweet price bracket they have dropped the tablet into. The 8GB variant is £159 direct from Google and the 16GB variant is £199 and just to add an extra incentive, when you first sign into your Google account (gmail) on the Nexus 7 you’ll get £15 of Google Play Credit to spend in the Google Play store on apps, books or movies, as well as a copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon on Google Movies, a nice little kick back to save precious memory on the device itself if going for the 8GB. At the time of publishing if you log into one or more gmail account on the Nexus 7, that account also gets the £15 credit. This additional account does need to also be in your name, not a mates, sadly.
On the topic of variants, the Google Nexus 7 comes in two forms, an 8GB and a 16GB version. Now 8GB doesn’t seem a lot but this is for a clever reason on Google’s part. They are trying to promote their Books, Movies and Music options which store your content on the cloud and not on the device itself, rendering the large memory redundant, however not all of us want to have our content on the cloud which requires an internet connection to play, so the larger memory option proves beneficial.
The device itself looks great. it is really thin and light, and makes my Motorola Xoom feel like a brick, though this is due to the Google Nexus 7 having a 7” screen, much smaller than the Xoom’s 10.1” screen, and the Xoom having a metal build over the Nexus 7’s plastic build. That said the build quality is exceptional and feels so nice in the hand, with bevelled edges and the patterned back panel which reduces finger marks and has a nice non slip feel to it. The Google Nexus 7 weighs in at 340g which is a nice weight for the tablet. It’s heavy enough to confirm to you the strong build quality, but not so strong it would be uncomfy to use for long periods.
The screen is a real joy to look at. It is a 7″ 1280×800 HD display (216 ppi) back-lit IPS display with scratch-resistant Corning glass meaning it handles videos and apps with high-level graphics really well. There have been a few issues appearing with some devices where the Corning glass screen comes away from the device, but I have not found this with my unit. Don’t worry though as this is covered under warranty, so just follow the procedure to return if you find an issue with yours, when you get one.
Briefly touching on the packaging the box isn’t much to talk about, it is not much bigger than the tablet itself, upon removing the sleeve and lifting the lid off it uncovers the tablet in all its glory. I couldn’t help but be reminded of unboxing an Apple iPhone 4S, the Google Nexus 7 takes an awfully similar approach to boxing and displaying. I hope Apple didn’t take a patent out on packaging too, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had. The contents of the box aren’t much to write home about, being just the tablet, USB lead and power plug. There’s no cover, screen protector or fancy gifts it is very basic but then to get the price down to its juicy number there had to be some cutbacks. I was slightly disappointed to not see a set of headphones included, though this isn’t something any tablets come with, I just personally feel it would have added to the portability of the unit.
The Google Nexus 7 is a feature rich little beauty. I’ve already touched on the screen resolution and quality and the light weight of the device. Deep down in the belly of the tablet are a set of lovely features which make the spec list sing and scares off rivals such as the Amazon Kindle Fire stateside and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 over here in the UK. Powering the device and keeping it ticking over sweetly is a quad-core Tegra 3 chipset clocked at 1.3GHz courtesy of the good guys over at Nvidia and a battery life of “all day” according to Google, or 10 hours playback in reality, of course depending on how bright you like the screen and how many graphic-heavy apps or games you are running but do expect the 10 hours on video playback to be near capable. Tried and tested, and in glorious 720p it is great to watch films on.
Of course this excellent battery life and powerful CPU are only achieved thanks to Google’s newest version of the Android operating system, Jelly Bean, and the clever trickery they have done with this OS adding in some really clever features, and Project Butter.
Project Butter is Google’s attempt to quash lag time when using a device. It’s main advantage is it lets the CPU and graphics run parallel instead of interfere with each other and now all runs at 60 frames per second letting everything run faster and smoother now, which can be perceived both in reality and thought. Without getting too technical, it also pre-renders pages and menus for you, and learns where you will touch the screen next after the first touch. So if you hit a certain part of the screen, Android will know the most likely place you will next hit the screen next. It does this as when you touch the screen, it has to send a signal to the processor to action your command, whereas if it knows where you’ll touch, it’s already sideloaded that command to it doesn’t have to load it. All this makes the user experience great, and everything run so much smoother. Google’s attack on lagginess has really paid off. The Nexus 7 runs as smooth as butter.
A lot of people have already questioned why the Google Nexus 7 doesn’t have a rear-facing camera and it’s simple really, it’s a tablet not a camera. For one, it is cumbersome to use a tablet to photo, even a nice small light one like this, but second to put the camera unit in is costly, and so to keep the tablet at this sweet price point, some corners had to be cut, although I do feel even if it was a higher price bracket Google would leave it out, as it’s not needed. I see tourists in London taking photos of Big Ben with an iPad and it just looks awkward. The Google Nexus 7 does has a front-facing camera for your video calling on Skype or other app, and is a good quality being a 1.2mp snapper, though again I don’t feel it’s massively needed, video calling isn’t a widely popular way to communicate.
Another new feature to Android v4.1 (now v4.1.1) is Google Now. Google Now gets you just the right information, just when it is needed. For instance, if your device is synced with all your other Google services, such as Calendar and Maps etc, it will show you a card telling you your appointment is at 10am at “this address” and also how far away you are and how long it will take to get there. A Weather card always appears, which you can swipe to dismiss. With Google’s new voice search function, you can simply ask it a question like “How tall is the Eiffel Tower?” and it will respond “The Eiffel Tower is 324m tall”. It also remembers your routine, so if you travel to the office at a certain time each day, it will give you a card with your travel details each day when you need it, before you leave. It works beautifully well, and is arguably better working than Siri at performing many tasks.
In summary the Google Nexus 7 is a cracking little device, and I personally feel it offers up the best Android tablet experience I’ve used to date, even more appealing than the Asus Transformer Prime I’ve played with, but this knocks the spots off all rivals as it’s tech spec under the hood is rich, and comes at such a pleasant price.
Yes there are a few niggles with the device, like it’s plastic build quality and that some users have found the Corning glass to come away from the device, but the latter hasn’t affected many users and the fact the build quality is exceptional makes the use of plastic no bad thing. Some people have to gain more of a sense of reality when it comes to just how much of a device can be made at a £159 price tag, for the 8GB variant.
Memory sizes may snag a few people. I personally also have the 16GB Motorola Xoom with a 32GB memory card and very rarely have I ever used the card, so the 16GB Nexus 7 suits me fine, however I do feel I could manage quite comfortably with the 8GB, if I made more effort to use Google’s Play services, such as Movies and Music which store everything on the cloud and so frees up space on the internal memory. One little disappointment is the lack of a memory card slot, however as mentioned this is with Google trying to steer customers subtly towards their cloud services. I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to adjust, I can’t remember the last time I saved Excel or Word docs anymore, in favour of Google Drive where a project or blog can be picked up on any device.
For the money this is the perfect device for people of all ages, be it for a child’s Christmas present or Grandad’s first tablet. The £159 price tag for the 8GB on Google is very reasonable, as with the included £15 Google Play Credit, and £199 for the 16GB also. I don’t feel the extra £40 justifies the memory increase, as there is no other benefit the units are otherwise identical, and with hindsight I would probably have opted for the 8GB. Most retailers other than Google only offer the 16GB and for £199.99 but you may find they can ship it quicker than Google themselves. I have used Currys in the past and never had an issue with the delivery times.
I am 100% sure if/when you get your hands on one you will enjoy the Google Nexus 7 and will forget I even mentioned the gripes I had with it, as the more I use it I do.