At the first look, the Nexus 7 seems like a great tablet. Having vanilla Android updates directly from Google, portable and comfortable ergonomics and an affordable price at $199 makes it a great buy. However, essential flaws like having no camera and a weak tablet ecosystem can make you consider buying an iPad from Apple.
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Owning to the Nexus brand, Google promises that each Nexus device will receive the latest Android software updates and innovations. Generally, having the latest software is a good thing but this may not be necessarily be true for an Android tablet. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is the buggiest piece of Android software I have ever used. It is worse than the 2-year-old HTC Sensation that doesn’t accept phone calls. Essential reading apps like Flipboard crash upon start because Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is not fully supported. This goes for may other apps that don’t yet support the latest version of the Android operating system.
With Android 4.2, Bluetooth functionality is broken, auto-brightness is bugged, and the battery life is disappointing. What’s even worse is that apps like the Clock and the device itself crash for no reason under Android 4.2.0. Thankfully, the Android 4.2.1 update should be available to all Nexus 7 owners as of December so many of the crash-based bugs are fixed.
However, if you are still worried about Android 4.2 bugs and you don’t need the new features, I suggest you not upgrade to Android 4.2 until a more stable version is released.
To learn more about Android 4.2 Jelly Bean bugs, read this article by Android Police:(http://www.androidpolice.com/2012/11/19/android-4-2-gate-here-are-some-of-the-major-issues-plaguing-googles-newest-release/)
Jelly Bean does have its benefits and making the tablet experience buttery smooth is definitely one of them. But besides that, Google Now is the most important new feature that comes with Jelly Bean. Google Now is like Siri except it works better – MUCH better. Google Now answers your questions that are presented in data cards. Just like Siri, you Google recognizes voice input to receive your question but if you find it more socially acceptable to type your question, you are more than welcome to do so. The part that makes this piece of software so powerful and so much better than Siri is its ability to learn about you and how you use your tablet.
Googlw Now can sometimes predict what you are trying to find before you even ask the question. Let’s say you clicked attending to a Facebook event and you are about to drive there, the moment you turn on Google Now, there could be an option to navigate there. Another example that happened is when Google automatically scanned my Gmail account for my booking reference to my plane ticket to Hong Kong. On the morning of my flight, Google Now displayed notifications of my boarding time and allowed me to navigate to the airport with one touch Google Maps navigation. Or on a regular day, you might want to find out what the weather is. Usually, you would search for the weather on Google or open an app but the weather is usually already displayed on a data card so you don’t even have to search for it.
Google Now’s features are amazing and I will demonstrate some of the features in the video below starting at (3:30) and the rest of the video covers Android 4.2 new features:
Other innovations like multi-user support, swipe keyboard and subtle touches to the pull down notifications make the Nexus 7 an even smarter tablet. But tablet app support is much more of an important deciding factor when buying a tablet.
In time, Google will release updates and patch up these bugs. If you have the Nexus 7 and you aren’t experiencing these same bugs, that’s great!
Apps, Apps and APPS!
I can’t criticize the Nexus 7 as a tablet without taking into account of the Android tablet ecosystem. Many apps on the Nexus 7 are just apps are just stretched versions of the phone. For games like Candy Crush Saga or Shadowgun, this is a good thing to comfortably view content on the clear 7 inch display but some apps don’t even properly stretch to the edges of the screen.
The Android tablet market is vast but the dedicated tablet app selection is few and not many of them fully utilize the tablet’s larger display. It is not because there are few tablets to support the ecosystem but the culture behind Android is frugal and cheap. Many Android users don’t ever buy apps so why would a developer want to create apps for frugal customers to pirate. That is why Google decided to hit the market with the Nexus 7, the first real and pure Android tablet.
The Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10 are the first Android tablets to receive Google’s Nexus branding. Although the tablet ecosystem is currently weak, these tablets are designed to pioneer the Android tablet ecosystem. With their price penetration strategy, Google wants to capitalize the growth on Android apps while minimizing profits from hardware sales of the Asus Nexus 7. On the other hand, manufacturers like Asus, LG and Samsung can benefit but having their brand strengthened as their products penetrate the market as Nexus devices.
Google is simply demonstrating that the show has really just begun and the Nexus 7 is leading the pack.
Apps appear to be the Nexus 7′s weak point but its highly competitive price point, performance and build quality are also important factors to the Nexus 7 purchase.
Ergonomics and Build Quality
The Nexus 7 tablet is a reasonably sized tablet. It is easy to hold both in landscape and portrait orientation with one hand. This is shown in the video below and I can easily slip the Nexus 7 tablet in both my jacket pocket or little my camera bag. However, I wouldn’t encourage users to carry the Nexus 7 in a pocket or without a case since its drop test results are quite disappointing.
After seeing the Nexus 7 get destroyed in drop tests, I decided to give the Nexus 7 case despite the tablet’s already-low price.
Due to the 16:9 screen ratio, the Nexus 7 is easier to hold in one hand comfortably when compared to the iPad mini with a 4:3 screen ratio. Talking about the display, the 1280 by 800 pixel display yielding a 216 pixel density is great for video playback. In fact, it is better than the iPad mini that cost even more – the reason why video playback is more enjoyable on the Nexus 7 than the iPad mini is because the iPad mini uses a dated display ratio of 4:3 and yields a lower pixel density at 162 ppi.
Lack of a Rear-facing Camera
The lack of a rear-facing camera may seem insignificant for many but this restricts the tablets’ ability to create media. Tablets are generally designed to be media consumption devices – they are made so that consumers can comfortably browse the web, watch vdieos, read articles, view pictures and play games. This is all media consumption but when it comes to content creation, the Nexus 7 falls short.
Without a keyboard, taking notes can be slow and without a camera, no photos can be taken. You might not take photos of your scenery with your tablet but it would be convenient to do so. With note-taking, a camera is almost essential for mobile multi-media creation. With an integrated camera, photos can be immediately inserted into blogs or notes with EverNote.
And if you are used to scanning QR codes, the Nexus 7 is in tough luck. The choice of having no rear-facing camera cuts cost and also the ability to capture a memory in a photograph.
Another reason why a tablet buyer might want a tablet with a camera is when the consumer doesn’t want a smartphone. Smartphones have worse battery life than generic cellular phones and tablets are generally cheaper than cellphones so a person with a normal phone and a powerful tablet may want a camera to be included to the tablet.
However, if you are one who does not use a tablet camera or think it is unnecessary since you already have a smartphone or a camera, then you just saved yourself some money. With less added costs of a camera, you may have saved $50 in pricing if you didn’t need a camera. My suggestion to Asus is to have a version of the Nexus 7 with a camera and a version without a camera. This way, consumers can have a choice if they want to pay more for a tablet with a camera.
Affordable pricing is definitely a highlight and selling point for the Nexus 7. When comparing the base mode at $199 for 16GB to the iPad mini for $329 or the iPad 4th generation for $499. The Nexus 7 is just a bargain.
For a tablet with mobile data, it is the cheapest on in the mainstream market. At just $299 USD, the Nexus 7 has 32 GB of storage and 3G connectivity. Meanwhile, the iPad mini with cellular data costs $459 for 16GB and the 4th generation iPad costs $629. What I find surprising is that even the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.0 and the 4G LTE version of the BlackBerry Playbook can cost as much as $550 off-the-shelf. Considering that the Nexus 7 is as capable as any of the tablets named above and it is priced lower, it’s not hard to take the Nexus 7 off your wishlist and into your pocket.
The Nexus 7 offers the most value for your $200. At its competitive price point, it can even compete with high performance tablets made by low-cost Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and Oppo. It is not perfect but if it can serve your media needs that ranges from web browsing to reading books to watching movies, by all means buy this tablet.
If you decide to buy one, you can buy one from your typical electronics store like BestBuy or online on Google’s Play Store. Even though it may appear cheaper to buy it online, shipping might cost you more than the difference in the price from buying the device from a brick and mortar store. Making warranty claims and returns are also more convenient when buying the device in person so take this into account when buying your tablet.
This is the least important factor when choosing a mainstream tablet or high-end smartphone. Android fanboys rave about the fastest raw processing power, the quad-cores the GPUs but what it all comes down to is optimization. Does the software, or operating system give out good instructions for the machine to operate efficiently?
Almost all new mainstream devices like the iPad and the Galaxy Tabs have great performance and there is very little to differentiate them from each other. All of them will be able to handle email, web browsing and video playback very smoothly. The Nexus 7 is no different. The Nexus 7 can pretty much handle whatever you throw at it as long as the software or application itself supports the hardware.
With a 1.2 GHz quad-core Tegra 3 processor made by Nvidia and 1 GB of RAM, the Nexus 7 is reasonably fast tablet; but due to poor software support for quad-core processors, the tablet has its hiccups and lag. This is simply a problem with the programming and software and there isn’t much you can do about it. This tablet will motivate developers to fix this problem as it is becoming increasingly popular so expect the software to get better and better. For optimized apps like Shadowgun, the Nexus 7 produces superb graphics, performance and speed by fully utilizing the quad-core CPU paired with the 12-core GPU.
The battery life is also an important factor when considering a tablet but it is just disappointing while using Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The device is not only slow to charge but it also drains battery quickly if networks like 3G and WiFi are left on. Even when the device is on standby, the 4325 mAh Li-Ion battery still drains quickly. The battery drain happens when the Nexus 7 Currents app constantly checks for network-based updates even when it is set to periodic checks so I suggest restrict background downloads. What this could mean is that the latest operating system has great new features to add but bugs come bundled along with the update.
The Nexus 7 made by Asus is the first of many things and it should be treated like so. It is the first Android tablet to be promoted by Google and the tight official partnership with Asus is new. And the extremely competitive pricing for the Nexus 7 at $199 has forced tablet manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and Sony to work hard to drive down prices to compete with the Nexus 7.
Overall, the Nexus 7 is a very good tablet and it’s $199 price point makes it sound like a steal. Especially if you don’t think having a camera on the tablet is necessary, the savings are yours to keep!
However, what you pay for is what you get – you won’t have the privilege of Apple’s powerful ecosystem filled with quality tablet apps or a rear-facing camera.
If you are looking for an affordable tablet with reasonable performance, this could be your buy. But if you demand numerous high-quality tablet apps for media consumption, I suggest you consider the iPad mini. You might find yourself in a bit less stress. If you are looking for a tablet with powerful note-taking capabilities, I suggest you take a look at the Windows 8 and Android tablet-laptop hybrids made by Asus. Keyboards make text-based note-taking quick while the camera and touchscreen make sketches and image integration easy.
— Nathan Lee (@RealLEENow) January 3, 2013