The Nexus 7 is Google's first tablet computer, and after a month of hard use I thought it about time to share my thoughts and comparisons with my older Motorola Xoom and my iPad 3.
Click here to read the review.
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.
If you have an iPad or iPhone, and looking for a fun way to make music then this software is for you. Aurora is a pattern based sequencer modelled on the Yamaha Tenori-On that we all know and love.
Checkout the video here.
If you have an iPad, and looking for a fun way to make music then this software is for you. Aurora is a pattern based sequencer modelled on the Yamaha Tenori-On that we all know and love. The features are pretty comprehensive so if you are a seasoned musician there is a tremendous amount of tweakability at your fingertips.
Checkout this video of the iPad version.
At long last I've managed to get my hands on one of those magical mystical devices...
So was it worth the wait, and are their any pitfalls to importing a US iPad into the UK?
Click here to find out!
I'm one of those unfortunate individuals that live in the UK, and as such have been pretty envious of those early adopters over in the US. I've spent the last 3 months singing the praises of the iPad without actually laying my hands on one!. I could see the potential, if only Apple paid the same attention to detail as they did with the iPhone. I've had mates practically ridiculing me because they simply don't see the need for such a device, saying that it is just an inferior netbook! So were my (short sighted) friends right, or were my instincts correct?
Before I begin the review I want to point out that I've spent the past 20 years programming hand held devices, and I'm not easily impressed. People are quick to point out the shortcomings of the iPad, when they should be focusing on what Apple has managed to achieve with this device. Who would have thought that the release of the iPhone back in 2007 would have taken the mobile phone market by the short and curlys, sending all manufacturers back to the drawing board?
Lets face it, this constant striving for higher DPI screens, open platforms coupled with unregulated hardware design has albeit brought the downfall of Windows Mobile devices. This resulted in new hardware that was not backward compatible, and developers like myself having to create many versions of my software because there were so many incrarnations of Windows mobile. Thankfully this is not a criticism anyone will level at Apple. Practically all iPhone applications are now compatible with the iPad, and from what I've heard the next generation of iPhone too.
So back to the iPad...
Well I simply couldn't wait for the UK release date, so I purchased a US import. My timing couldn't have been better since the UK release date has been put back a month till the 29th May. The only drawback with importing an iPad is that you need to purchase a seperate UK to US power adapter. Since I already had an iPhone 3GS, I simply used my existing mains adapter which seems to work fine. Apparently the iPad comes with an 1 year international warrenty which is still valid in the UK.
Another minor problem is that the iPad AppStore is not currently up and running, so it is not possible to download iBooks or iPad software from the UK App Store. There is however a workaround, which involves you signing up for a US iTunes account. This allows you to download the iBooks application (which is not pre-installed) and install other free applications. Although the UK store isn't up and running, most paid iPad apps can be found by searching the UK App Store from iTunes. These can be purchased and downloaded to the iPad in the usual manner.
The first thing you notice about the iPad when you press the power button is the quality of the screen. The iPad has a backlit IPS screen which is probably better than your desktop monitor. The contrast ratio, brightness and viewing angles are all very good, which makes you start to wonder how long that batter is going to last? The iPad is also very quick to boot, around twice the speed of the iPhone 3GS. This is one major advantage over a netbook which can take a couple of minutes to boot and be useable. The screen resolution is also better than most netbooks too at 1024x768 pixels.
So how long does that battery last? Well a lot longer than you think! I've had my iPhone three days, and used it continuously over this period with only a single charge. I've read many tests claiming more that 11 hours watching video, which is considerably more than Apple's quoted 10 hours.
So what about speed? Again you will be surprised as you would need a very substantial desktop PC to keep up with this device. I estimate about 2-2.5 times faster than an iPhone 3GS, which was double the speed of the 3G model. There is no noticable lag when navigating the main applications, with all animations being extremely smooth. It is quite amazing how a 1GHz processor can achieve this, which leads me to believe there is a great deal of hardware acceleration going on here.
Video playback at 720p, both downloaded movies and YouTube work absolutely fine, try doing that on your netbook! I haven't tried 1080p as it makes no sense on this size of screen. Viewing pictures again was very smooth, and the picture frame feature is the best I've seen. However, because the iPad doesn't have a camera you need to either sync your pictures via iTunes, or purchase the camera connector kit in order to get your photos onto the device.
I've read several comments about the iPad being a big iPod Touch, or not having a real operating system. What people need to remember here is that the iPod OS is essentially Mac OS with a touch screen layer bolted on, so these claims don't hold water. At some point I can see these two operating systems merge, especially if Apple decide to release a Mac Tablet running OSX.
Again people jump on the bandwagon and say the iPad doesn't multitask! This is of course "rubbish" as the OS has always multitasked, however support for third part apps had limited multitasking. This was a conscious decision by Apple to ensure programs didn't hog memory, and ran as smoothly as possible without fighting for CPU, thus externding battery life. If you've owned either Windows Mobile or Google Andoid devices, you will be more than aware of what a task manager is and how to suspend tasks, especially when your device slows to a crawl. Multitasking is a good thing, but not all tasks need to multitask, and Apple will address this problem in the next OS release.
Anyone that has owned an iPhone will be familiar with the main suite of applications, although all have been revamped to accomadate the larger screens. The YouTube , Contacts, Calendar and Mail applications are a huge step forward here, and a joy to use. The music application 'iPod' however is a big let down for me. I simply don't like the layout (which is more like iTunes on the desktop) and miss the cover flow view of your albums. This is an area which Apple need to address in subsequent releases.
The iPad like the iPhone doesn't have Adobe Flash support, and whilst this is annoying to say the least, it's not a deal breaker for me. Yes I would like to see the device support flash, but I think most content providers will eventually provide an HTML 5.0 alternative.
I've had chance to try a number of third party applications now, although I've not been able to try Apples Pages, KeyNote or Numbers due to them not yet being available to UK customers. In the main there are some exceptional applications out there already, which is quite amazing 2 weeks after release.
Here is a list of my favourite applications in no particular order.
01) Cogs HD (puzzle game).
02) N.O.V.A. (first person perspective shooter).
03) Need For Speed Shift (racing game).
04) Asphalt 5 HD (racing game).
05) Labyrinth HD (puzzle game).
06) GoodReader for iPad (transfer and view files from your PC).
07) File Browser for iPad (access SAMBA shares).
08) Sketchbook Pro (art/drawing program).
09) IMDb for iPad (internet movie database).
10) iBooks (book reader application).
So, the 50 million dollar question, should you buy an iPad? Well, I personally have absolutely no regrets, in fact I've now got a Samsung netbook which I'm probably never going to use. Obviously this is a personal decision, but if you spend most of your time surfing, sending emails, looking at YouTube and a few social networking sites then this is ideal for you. If you are a gamer then this knocks the socks of a Nintendo DS or Sony PSP. Whilst games like Need for Speed and N.O.V.A. really show off the potential of this device, I'm sure this is only the tip of the iceberg! The future is looking pretty rosie for Apple at the moment, and the iPad is set to become another runaway success.