Review: Google's Nexus 7 Is A Little Tab BIG ON VALUE
By Tony Ibrahim | Monday | 20/08/2012
Is Google's bargain tablet a real threat to Apple's iPad or more cannon fodder in the tablet war?
As the name suggests, Google's first Nexus tab stands 7 inches and measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm. Those dimensions translate to a tablet that rests comfortably in two hands, or if need be, just one.
The tablet's curved corners have a fair bit to do with this comfort, as does the wonderful leather texture of its back case. It is perforated, uniformly black and subtly features the words 'Nexus' and 'Asus' embossed. This might be an electronic-gizmo, but the build imbues it with the same charm you'd find from a leather notebook.
At the base of the tablet are a MicroUSB and a 3.5mm auxiliary port, while on the right side are the volume and power/lock keys. Other than that, there are no other buttons to be found.
The 7 inch screen dons a 16:9 aspect ratio and has a resolution of 1280x800. Between the high 216 pixels per inch, Corning glass screen and Jelly Bean's animated software, navigating this tablet through a variety of touch gestures results in a sincerely enjoyable experience. It's accurate, eloquent in transitions and a lot of fun to use.
You are what you eat
Inside is Nvidia's popular Tegra 3 processor clocked at 1.3 GHz. It's a quad core arrangement with a fifth solitary core that handles less intensive operations, such as music playback or general standby, and as a result ensures the Nexus 7 can be intensively used for 9 hours before it needs to be recharged. Although we didn't have the opportunity to test standby time, Google's estimates put it at 300 hours.
The processor is joined by 1GB of RAM, and depending on which Nexus you pick, either 8GB or 16GB of internal memory. Unfortunately there is no external memory card slot.
What does Nexus stand for?
If Nexus was a flavour of ice cream, it would be vanilla. It refers to a pure version of Android, one free from carrier add-ons and the masked skin manufacturers apply in an effort to make their software look a little different from everybody else's.
With the software free from add-ons, the experience is generally quicker and less intensive on the battery. It also ensures Nexus products are first-in-line when it comes to getting Android updates, of which most are performed over the air.
In fact, the Nexus 7 is the first Android product to be shipped with the Jelly Bean version of Android. Jelly Bean (4.1) comes with a few tweaks to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0), but most of them are to do with the experience and not functionality.
The sugar hit
The two big draws to Jelly Bean include the addition of Google Now and Google's overhauled search. Google Now is an intuitive piece of software that generates cards detailed with relevant information as you need them. This includes weather forecasts, scheduled appointments, sporting matches, public transport information and places you're near. The software is refined and shows promise in the same way Apple's Siri has, but will prove invaluable as more search options that are relevant from day-to-day are added.
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Google search is very much like Siri, except the software has a better understanding of context. Using it, you get the impression it has benefitted from Google's knowledge graph as it discerns people from landmarks, and links search results to others that are relevant.
Chroming the web
Although Chrome has been available as a beta download, Jelly Bean adopts the full version as the default browser.
On a smartphone, the browser's mobile sensibilities prevent it from resembling its computer counterpart, but on a tablet it feels as though you're using it on a computer. Tabs are large enough to be handled by your fingers and can be easily ordered by holding one of them down.
When conducting a simple 'how many tabs can we open?' test, we encountered something foreign. The browser opened over 50 tabs (we reached 51) and showed no signs of slowing down, whereas we did. It is incredibly powerful and sources this potency by prioritising active tabs, temporarily pausing downloads of those currently not in use.
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Finding the tab you're after when there are 50 open can be a little tricky with Chrome. It relies solely on the tabs for navigationâ€”without offering an overview optionâ€”and cycling through them one by one isn't ideal.
Otherwise Chrome is an incredibly powerful browser that displays webpages in an ideal way for a tablet without compromising their integrity.
It's also cloud friendly and fluent with other devices. User profiles can be instantly loaded and synced across other smartphones, tablets and computers running Chrome. There's even the option of accessing webpages opon in Chrome on your PC directly from the tablet.
The finger-friendly music player invites users to flip through various categories, including playlists, recently played, artists, albums, songs and genres. The transitions are elegant, and even though the tablet's internal memory is nearing capacity, it shows no signs of strain.
The player itself is a divine marriage between a simple to use interface and the custom detail longed by audiophiles. An on board equaliser features many pre-set profiles, and although different frequencies can be manually controlled, the everyday English that once labelled 'bass' from 'treble' would've made it more accessible to the masses.
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The on board loudspeaker is great for notifications, but when it comes to mp3 playback, it could benefit from a little more volume. It's not below par, but for watching flicks its best you pop in headphones as the audio picks up its game, producing sound worthy of its illustrious screen and cultivating a properly immersive experience.
Although Asus has made the bold decision to ditch the rear cam, the Nexus 7 still does have a fantastic gallery. Big tile icons populate the vivid screen, enlarged images benefit from a suit of sharing options and Jelly Bean's seamless animations are enough to leave you smiling.
The familiar photo reel used on other Android tabs has been replaced with a zoom out option. Pinch two fingers together and large thumbnails of your album's pics are generated, and with a slide and a swish the pics are put on show. Swipes up or down will delete them and there's always the safety net of an undo button. This is one section Google has improved, making the most of the bigger screen estate and choosing to involve the user more through interactive gestures.
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Asus and Google have focussed on including features of genuine relevanceâ€”such as the software and processorâ€”and skimped out on luxuries in order to keep the price down. It is fast, easy to use and a value buy, and although it costs half the price of a new iPad, you'd never tell.
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Apr/May 2011 issue
reviews the hot new iPhone attach device, the Zeppelin Air. And we look at what's going on in the tablet space...