Seven inch or 10 inch, that is the question. Everyone is aiming to take down the mighty iPad in the tablet wars where bigger may not always be better. Google and ASUS just launched the new 7" Nexus 7 tablet. It's cheap, fast and slick but should it be your next tablet? Can it replace the mighty iPad?
At first glance, the Nexus 7 looks like a giant touchscreen phone. The front is all glass (Corning Gorilla Glass to be specific.) It's about 10.5mm thick. For comparison, the iPhone 4S is 9.3mm thick. In other words, it's thin. The back is a soft plastic splattered with dimples and a few brand names. There is a power button and volume rocker on the right side and a headphone jack and micro USB plug on the bottom. It has a front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera but no rear camera. Think video chatting but don't plan on taking pictures with it. That's about it. It has a simple, clean, sleek look.
The goods are on the inside. ASUS and Google packed the Nexus 7 with power. It runs on a quad-core Tegra 3 1.3Ghz processor, a beautiful 7" 1280x800 HD screen and a battery that will give you 10 hours of web browsing on one charge. Google says that battery life is only knocked down to 9 hours when watching video.
The Nexus 7 runs Google's newest version of Android, 4.1. It's also known by it's code name, Jelly Bean . If you've used Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0) then it'll look familiar. Android keeps getting better and Jelly Bean simply improves upon Android. I don't think it's better or worse than iOS, it's just different. Android proves on the Nexus 7 that it can be used effectively on a tablet.
I do want to mention that Android 4.0 on 10" tablets reformats to a slightly different interface. It's still the same backend but the layout is different for the larger screen. I would like to have that option on the Nexus 7 but instead it's tied to the standard phone layout. This means, if you've used Android 4 on a smartphone, you'll recognize the same layout on the Nexus 7. If you've used an Android 10" tablet (like the Motorola Xoom) the layout will be slightly different.
The software on the Nexus 7 flies! The quad-core processor shines on this thing. In fact, this is the fastest Android device I've ever used. The improvements made in Android 4.1 to make the operating system smoother are evident. Menus slide from one to the next, home screens whip by and everything just seems to click. The awesome HD screen proves to be a perfect match for the newest version of Android.
Google also added " Google Now " to this version of Android. It's Google's answer to Siri . I'd say it's like Siri without the personality. That can be good or bad. It won't give you any smart aleck responses but it will give you the info you're looking for. Sometimes better than Siri, sometimes worse. None the less, it's a useful tool for those who wish to avoid typing.
Overall, the software on the Nexus 7 is exactly what you would expect from Google. It's pure Android and it's the best-I've-ever-seen Android. If you're an iOS lover, don't expect anything different. The Nexus 7 isn't trying to act like an iPad. It's Android, plain and simple.
Nothing is ever perfect. The Nexus 7's power button is too "squishy" for me. I wish it had more click to it. The operating system is locked into the "smartphone" layout of Android when I wish it would use the tablet layout, or at least give me the option. It also doesn't flip the OS sideways when using the Nexus 7 in horizontal mode. This seemed odd to me. Sure, individual apps work just fine in horizontal mode but the OS itself doesn't. Some people will prefer to use the tablet in the wider horizontal mode.
OK, so I've sorted out my complaints but despite those gripes this thing is the best 7" tablet I've ever laid my hands on. It's thin, light and slick. The quad-core processor flies and Google's newest version of Android is easily the best yet. Is it better than the iPad? That's not a fair question. It's the best 7" tablet but Apple doesn't make a 7" tablet. It's a fraction of the price of a new iPad. If you like Android, you'll love the Nexus 7.
When I took the Nexus 7 on a recent trip I was amazed at how convenient the smaller form factor was compared to my 10" iPad. I ended up using the Nexus 7 more than the iPad. Does that make it better? No. It is something to consider though when shopping for a tablet.
At only $199 for the 8GB model and $249 for the 16GB model, the Nexus 7 is a powerhouse tablet at a great price. The lower price opens up the market to an entirely new audience and I think there will be many happy customers. Personally, I can't wait to see a Nexus 10. Then it'll be time to ask the question, is it better than the iPad.