When it comes to finding affordable tablets from major brands, now is a great time for consumers. There are many notable choices out there such as the B&N Nook HD, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and – of course – the Asus-built Google Nexus 7. While all three of these certainly have merit, today’s review is going to focus on the Nexus tablet.
Sporting a Tegra 3 processor and essentially a vanilla build of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, is the Nexus 7 all that is cracked up to be? Let’s take a look.
Despite original nay-saying against it, 7-inch tablets have quickly become popular for their lightweight and extremely portable design- the Nexus 7 is no exception here. The Nexus tablet weighs just 12 ounces and has the dimensions of 7.81″ x 4.72″ x 0.41″.
The build quality of the Nexus 7 is very good, especially considering its budget-friendly price. The unit has a Gorilla Glass front and easy-to-grip back joined together by a silver metal frame running around the chasis’ edges. The absence of front buttons and its overall high-quality appearance make it look like no other budget tablet around.
While the front is buttonless, there are some small buttons found on the edges for things like power and volume. Overall, I like the way my Nexus 7 looks- it certainly holds its own against my iPad 2 in the looks department.
Looks are one thing, but it is the hardware that truly makes a tablet. The Google Nexus 7 is powered by a Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Sure, there are devices with 2GB of RAM and even slightly faster processors coming out, but they will cost you several times more than the Nexus 7.
There are two versions of this tablet, the 8GB and the 16GB model. Besides internal storage devices, they are basically the same thing. Storage is one area where I find the Nexus a bit lacking – microSD would be nice. Its not surprising that a Google flagship device would leave this out and considering you’ll never find an iPad with microSD, it’s hard to complain. Still, the expansion of memory would have been a nice extra.
The Nexus 7 also has lots of high-end goodies when it comes to hardware, like GPS, NFC and Bluetooth (though Bluetooth is pretty common in tablets these days). The front-cam is a 1.2MP device, but it is worth noting that there is no rear cam. Another area where the Nexus 7 misses out is HDMI, it would have been nice to have a way to directly hook up to the big screen. If you are looking for a mobile broadband version of the Nexus 7, you will want to get a different tablet. The Nexus 7 doesn’t offer a version with 3G/LTE.
Overall there are a few quirks, like no HDMI, but the hardware is very strong on the Nexus 7. The 7-inch LED-backlit IPS screen is also very good. It features a 1280×800 (216ppi) resolution and even if it isn’t quite as good as the iPad Retina 264ppi- it is very close and much cheaper.
The idea of Nexus devices are to give us solid products that represent the best that Android has to offer without all the extra clutter. With that in mind, there isn’t any extra software loaded on this thing. What you do get is an Android tablet with 4.1 Jelly Bean. With Jelly Bean, the overall performance of the OS is extremely smooth. I also own an ICS-based Acer tablet and will tell you that I can certainly see the difference between the performance of these two devices, even if their hardware isn’t worlds apart.
Another great reason to love Jelly Bean is that it includes Google Now, the somewhat Siri-like program that can guess what you are going to be searching for before you search for it, and have it ready (things like the weather). The more you use the Nexus 7, the more it can predict what information you will need and it will go and fetch it for you.
The only downside to Jelly Bean is the lack of Flash in 4.1. Since Adobe has all-but killed Flash, this isn’t surprising. It might not affect you in that many places, as more sites use alternatives like HTML5. If you really need Flash, there are plenty of 3rd party browsers out there that will allow you to browse Flash content without any problems.
The Nexus 7 is fast, very fast considering the price. As you can see from the Benchmark shot it might not be the “most powerful device in the world”, but it performs quite admirably. It’s also worth noting that there are supposedly ways to overclock the Nexus 7 and make it run circles around an unclocked Nexus 7.
The device is smooth and capable, but is it a massive battery drainer? Actually the 4325 mAh battery was able to hold up with a 8 ½ hour video playback loop without a real issue, pretty close to Google’s claimed 9 hours for video playback. Google also states it can do 10 hours of web browsing, 10 hours of e-book reading and 300 hours of standby time.
The Bottom Line
The Nexus 7 isn’t perfect, but it is pretty damn close. Jelly Bean 4.1 is great, the processor is great and the fact that there is no 3rd party junk pre-loaded is highly appreciated. If you want a relatively capable tablet in a 7-inch form factor, it’s hard to beat this tablet.