I've had about a month with my Google Nexus 7 tablet now, and I thought it might be interesting to share my unbiased opinions. Will Google's latest creation compare favourably to established brands like the trusty old iPad, and how far has Android come since my last review of the Motorola Xoom! Read on and find out...
Unlike other tablets I own the Nexus 7 is a 7" tablet, a form factor I would never have considered if it wasn't for the price. At just £199 for a 16GB model these are almost throw away prices and well worth the risk of investment. After all the tablet boasts some rather impressive specifications for such a low cost device. There is also a cheaper 8Gb model for only £159 but I wouldn't recommend any device this small since the OS is going to eat into the 8Gb.
The dimentions of this device are 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm, making it the ideal tablet to slot into a jacket pocket. In fact the physical size makes it ideal for use as a GPS device where a phone screen is considered too small and a 10" is impractical. The device is also very light weighing in at just 340 grams, only slightly heavier than the Amazon Kindle.
Early impressions were actually quite good as the increased pixel density of this 7" tablet helped make up for the lack of screen real estate and web pages rendered quite well in both portrait and landscape. The screen resolution of 1280x800 pixels gives a 216ppi pixel density and features the same IPS technology found in the iPad. Sat next to the iPad 3 it is difficult to spot the difference between the two displays in terms of pixel density but it is clear the iPad has a much better contrast ratio and brighter display. That said the Nexus screen is plenty good enough.
One thing I'm not so happy about with the Nexus is the form factor being a 16:9 display. Whilst this is great for watching video, it's little or no use for anything else. I personally prefer the 4:3 form factor for general use, especially web browsing.
The Nexus features a quad core Tegra 3 processor, which gives pretty decent benchmark figures and propels the device to the top of the performance charts for Android devices at the time of writing. The Tegra 3 never really lived up to the hype in terms of graphical performance but still delivers some pretty impressive CPU benchmarks. When comparing GPU performance however the Nexus is somewhat behind that of the iPad when measuring Open GL performance.
You do have to stop and wonder why the quad core processors are not performing any better than the dual core as things stand. The Nexus doesn't feel any faster than the iPad, in fact it often feels like it's the iPad that has the quad core. The truth probably lies in the fact that Jelly Bean isn't making full use of all 4 cores at this moment in time.
The Nexus 7 features 1Gb of internal memory which again puts it on par with the iPad. Because of the way Android performs multitasking you really do need the 1Gb of memory in order to keep running programs from getting bogged down. This is especially true if you use animated wallpapers or lots of widgets on your home screens. If you keep the Nexus powered up for any length of time the system does begin to slow down quite considerably so a reboot is highly recommended once in a while.
While the Nexus 7 is a great all rounder it does have issues with connectivity since there is no SD card slot and no HDMI output. The Nexus is currently Wifi only although I believe this is set to change with the rumours of GSM and 32Gb models flying around at the moment.
So, what kind of connectivity does this leave us with... Well it supports the usual WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth devices as expected, and also has an internal GPS, which is something not available on the Wifi only Apple devices (Apple take note!).
One feature that is most welcome if the addition of NFC. It might seem a little limited at the moment, but is most definately a technology which is only going to improve as other manufacturers adopt it as a standard.
Despite Google's claims of around 10 hours sustained usage and 300 hours standby, I've seen nothing like these figures myself. A more realistic figure if you are mainly browsing the web and playing an odd game or two would be 6-7 houts tops, and the standby time is a bit of a joke. If I leave my Nexus overnight in standby mode I regularly see a 20% drain on the battery.
Please bar in mind I don't have an animated wallpaper and do not use any CPU intensive widgets on my desktop.
The Nexus 7 was one of the first Andoid tablets to run Jelly Bean which is a massive impprovement over ealier versions of the OS. If you've read my review on the Motorola Zoom you will see I wasn't too impressed with the speed of the UI, but Google have worked wonders here with the introduction of 'Project Butter'. It is still not as consistantly smooth as the iPad, but it's getting there.
Some say the iPad OS is getting stale and needs a radical revamp, but I believe it was a more mature OS when it was released to the world with the introduction of the iPhone. Google have been playing catchup ever since and needed to make radical changes to deliever the same smoothness and consistancy as iOS.
In my opinion the animated wallpapers and desktop widgets are not a neccesity, as they slow down the OS and eat into the amount of available RAM, leaving less for the OS and running programs. Yes, it's nice to have a little eye candy and I wouldn't object if Apple adds some of these features in future revisions, but it would almost certainly come at the expense of system responsiveness, battery life and smoothness of display.
Using the Nexus 7
The web browsing experience is good for a 7" tablet, but I would still recommend a 10" if you are not sure which form factor to go for. There is no flash support in Jelly Bean, although it is possible to side load this unnoficially Adobe are no longer supporting mobile flash so there seems little point in flogging a dead horse. As web sites become more dependant on newer versions of Flash, the current mobile version will eventually be rendered useless.
The main core of applications supplied with the Nexus such as Email, Schedule and Contacts all works as expected and no complaints there.
The Nexus is probably the best 7" tablet on the market at this moment in time. If you are 100% sure a 10" device is not for you or you are working to a tight budget then this is your best choice for right now.
Will I be moving away from the iPad and joining the ranks of Android fanboys? Well no, not in the near future. Anyone that has had the pleasure of spending time with the iPad isn't going to let go so easily. The quality of software and the eco-system on iOS is hard to match, and Google is still playing catch up here.