The TechnoBuffalo team was fortunate enough to get our hands on the Google Nexus 7 from Google I/O 2012. I used it all weekend and, quite frankly, it’s a wonderful device. You’re in luck if you’re in the market for an inexpensive tablet; this product is feature rich, low-priced and Google is well positioned to sell lots of units. Check out our review and to see why we highly recommend the Nexus 7.

 

Nexus 7 Hardware Nexus 7 Specs

 The tablet measures in at 7.8-inches x 4.7-inches and is a slender 0.4-inches thick. It weighs 11.9 ounces, which is slightly lighter than the 14.6 ounce Amazon Kindle Fire. The display measures 7-inches and has a 1280 x 800-pixel resolution with 216 pixels-per-inch (ppi). The battery has an advertised capacity of 4,325 mAh or a rated 9 hours of video playback, 10 hours of web browsing/e-reading, or 300 hours of standby. The processor is a highly capable quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 clocked at 1.3Ghz, which also features a 12-core GPU for gaming. There’s also 1GB of RAM onboard. The Nexus 7 has a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat but lacks a rear camera. It comes with Wi-Fi (b/g/n compatible), NFC and Bluetooth, too. The Nexus 7 ships with either 8GB ($199) or 16GB ($249) internal storage, but it lacks a microSD slot for adding additional storage. Let’s take a dive into how all of this hardware stacks up.

 

The tablet measures in at 7.8-inches x 4.7-inches and is a slender 0.4-inches thick. It weighs 11.9 ounces, which is slightly lighter than the 14.6 ounce Amazon Kindle Fire. The display measures 7-inches and has a 1280 x 800-pixel resolution with 216 pixels-per-inch (ppi). The battery has an advertised capacity of 4,325 mAh or a rated 9 hours of video playback, 10 hours of web browsing/e-reading, or 300 hours of standby. The processor is a highly capable quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 clocked at 1.3Ghz, which also features a 12-core GPU for gaming. There’s also 1GB of RAM onboard. The Nexus 7 has a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat but lacks a rear camera. It comes with Wi-Fi (b/g/n compatible), NFC and Bluetooth, too. The Nexus 7 ships with either 8GB ($199) or 16GB ($249) internal storage, but it lacks a microSD slot for adding additional storage. Let’s take a dive into how all of this hardware stacks up.

After playing with the device and using it as my primary tablet over the weekend, I have to say the Nexus 7 looks pretty and is very capable of doing just about everything I expect from a tablet. It is noticeably smaller in size than an iPad or Galaxy Tab. The screen size is exactly the same as an Amazon Kindle Fire at 7-inches.

The tablet feels remarkably comfortable in my hands. The natural curve and soft feel of the back panel, with its dotted-texturing, helped it sit nicely in my hands. In comparison to holding the Kindle Fire, the Nexus 7 felt lighter, less bulky and easier to grasp, making it much more pleasant to use. The speakers are decent and project well enough. The microphones also do a very good job accurately picking up sound and I found this was especially noticeable when using Google Search and Speech to Text.

The screen has a respectable viewing angle, it’s very crisp and text is quite clear. However, the bezel that surrounds the screen is a bit large. I noticed it even more so when the soft keys were in use, during which I lost roughly an inch and a half of display real estate. I wish the display spanned the entirety of the device since the bezels were a bit intrusive. The Nexus 7’s display doesn’t fair well when tested outside under the sun and I found it difficult to read under the sun’s glare.

Video playback, either through viewing the free copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon (from Google Play) or the TechnoBuffalo YouTube channel, delivers as promised: seamless video playback without any lag. That’s likely due to the 1GB of RAM and the speedy quad-core processor.

Speaking of, the NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor is very capable of doing what the tablet is designed for and had no problems handling our Google Search commands, playing videos and running various apps. Everything performed without a hiccup. After taking a trip around the NVIDIA Tegra Zone store, we were able to run a number of Tegra 3-optimized games that ran beautifully. Specifically, we tested Shadowgun (Tegra 3 version) and we felt overall the game ran smoothly, the graphics were crisp, and the game control reaction was quick and responsive. I didn’t notice it, but Sean, our Editor-in-Chief, said there was some slight clipping and thought there were some moments while running when he claims to have noticed slight frame rate issues.

Google Nexus 7 Back

The HD display lends itself as a great video component and displays videos beautifully. I also found it pleasing to look at while reading books and magazines purchased from the Google Play store. The text was crisp on the 1280 x 800 display, but just as important, holding the tablet felt natural and didn’t feel straining on my hands or eyes.

Though NFC adoption has not yet caught on, it seems quite promising and it is a nice feature to have once it is more widely used, especially since is packaged in with the low price of the Nexus 7. We were able to take advantage of this NFC to pair it easily with the Nexus Q in less than a second.

The Nexus 7 would certainly be more attractive if Google and Asus had provided a microSD slot for adding additional storage. Considering this device is focused around media consumption, it seems silly that it’s only available with 8GB or 16GB of storage. Thinking of throwing on a couple of HD movies, a few hours of music and plenty of apps to get you through a long plane ride or road trip? You would go well over the economy 8GB model.

We also would have appreciated the option for a cellular connection offered through a U.S. wireless carrier. Still, we wouldn’t be surprised if 4G LTE-enabled versions are on the way. Obviously we’d expect there to be an additional cost, but it would be nice to have had the option from the get-go.

Google Nexus 7 Contents
… the Nexus 7 looks pretty and is very capable of doing just about everything I expect from a tablet.

 Nexus 7 Software

 Jelly Bean on Nexus 7 is sweet, just like it’s namesake. The UI is similar to what we saw with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but it’s much smoother thanks to Google’s “Project Butter” enhancements. I also haven’t run into any stability issues, which is good considering the operating system is brand new. Take this away: A lot of the optimization Google has done to clean up the OS is definitely noticeable. Our biggest gripe, however, was that the homescreen didn’t support landscape mode when we turned the tablet. This was particularly weird because it’s a feature in Ice Cream Sandwich. Let’s dive into a few of the new features in Jelly Bean.

Google Search responds well and it very rarely misunderstood what we were asking of it. The microphone does a great job of picking up voice and discerning and blocking out background noise. When we asked Google Search what “the weather was like” it handled the quickly and accurately by pinpointing our location and providing a 4 day forecast, including current conditions.

The cards are really neat: Google Now, for example, will take your next appointment and the traffic along the way into consideration and it will then communicate how early you will need to leave to make it in time. Of course if you’re a frequent public transportation user, it will tell you when you’re near a bus or train stop and will alert you when the next bus or train  is arriving.

The Notifications shade is much better than before. It’s cleaner, show’s more detail and allows for deeper interaction. If, for example, you receive an email notification, it the shade will show a preview of the email and allows you to quickly respond to it right from notifications. Other applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, messaging, the phone and more, utilize the updated Notifications shade, too.

Oddly enough, the Nexus 7 doesn’t come with a dedicated camera app, likely because the tablet doesn’t have a rear-facing camera. Still, you can use the front-facing camera by installing a third-party application from the Google Play store. It also activates automatically when a video chat is initiated, but we found that the quality was lackluster compared to the 720p offerings on other tablets out there.

Google Nexus 7 Android Guy 2

Google Currents isn’t a new app, but it is now standard in Jelly Bean. It displays magazines, websites, trending topics and blogs and pulls them into one easy-to-read spot in an offline magazine feel. It’s pretty cool, the user interface is clean and delivers content in a very easy-to-read format. Regardless of where the original content is pulled from, it runs as advertised and it has gotten better with the latest version. You can download it on your Android device today (without Jelly Bean) if you have Froyo (2.2) or higher. But we have to say, it looks significantly more robust on the Nexus 7 compared to a smaller phone’s display.

We’ve been wary of any technology that claims it can take speech and convert it accurately to text. The results are typically buggy and it rarely functions the way it should. In Jelly Bean, voice-to-text has made a lot of headway. We were pleasantly surprised at how accurate the feature was. For example, we were pleased with how it picked up “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” Obviously when it comes to grammar it won’t rectify any issues, but we were blown away for its ability to discern words quickly and accurately (wow).

Google Maps can now be used in offline mode. You can launch the app, pull the area that you want to utilize it in and it saves the region for use when you are away from a Wi-Fi hotspot. It is definitely a nice feature to have and is especially useful when travelling where you don’t have access to decent, inexpensive data. Though you can’t utilize turn-by-turn directions (we tried, it would ask to be connected to a data source), or search for addresses without data, you can pinch and zoom into regions and can even view street level details.

The new YouTube app is miles ahead of what we are used to in older versions of Android. It looks and runs like YouTube on a computer. The user interface is easier to navigate and includes more clearly defined YouTube channel.

 Performance and Battery Life

 Our Quadrant benchmark testing showed the Nexus 7 (scoring 3572) to be one of the better mobile devices tested. It fell below the HTC One X and Asus Transformer Prime in total performance, but CPU performance faired evenly amongst these three devices. That makes sense since all three of these units have the NVIDIA quad-core Tegra 3 processors.

The battery, however, did not live up to advertised specs of 9-to-10 hours of use. Our test unit lasted about 7 hours during rigorous use, which included running video, browsing the web and running various tests.

 

 

Conclusion

 The Nexus 7 is not only a first-class tablet for less than $200, but it’s a great tablet period. It’s certainly the best 7-inch tablet on the market and beats the Amazon Kindle Fire by leaps and bounds from a hardware standpoint. It also holds its own against Apple’s iPad. Sure, it lacks higher storage capacity, a rear camera and a larger display with a sharper resolution, but its entry-level price-point makes it a worthy device (hardware and software, wise) even without those additional features.

The Nexus 7 tablet is a mighty little tablet that packs quite a punch without burning a hole in your wallet. We are confident with the abilities of the Google Nexus 7 and are proud to give this tablet 9 out of 10 and thus deemed an Editor’s Choice.Nexus 7 Review Gallery

Editor's Choice

Rating

9.0
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