Many people have been eagerly waiting for Google to release its first tablet. Manufactured by Asus, the Nexus 7 has finally arrived and it will go on sale later on this month for just $199 for the 8GB version. This is without any doubt the best 7-inch tablet available right now as it manages to combine great hardware specs with the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS, all wrapped around in an appealing design.
Although it adopts a similar black design like most tablets on sale nowadays, it does manage to stand up from the rest of the crowd with its leathery and rubbery back texture which offers a great deal of grip, while the left and right bezels are quite thin when you hold the tablet in portrait mode. Compared to one of its main rivals, the Kindle Fire, the new Nexus 7 is considerably lighter and it looks thinner thanks to the painted silver trim and the beveled bottom.
Viewing the tablet from the front while you hold it in portrait mode, you will notice a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera which sits in the top bezel’s middle. The power/lock button sits toward the top of the right edge, right next to the volume rocker. You will also have access to the microUSB port which sits in the middle of the bottom edge, while lower on the right edge is the headphone jack. The back of the Nexus 7 is home for the 2-inch horizontally-aligned speaker slit. The rest of external features end here since the tablet doesn’t have a rear-facing camera, an HDMI port or a microSD card slot.
This is the first device to get the latest iteration of Google’s operating system, Android 4.1 also known as Jelly Bean. Even though the OS offers just about the same level of customization as previous versions of Android, on this tablet is significantly more focused and controlled. We should mention that the homescreen mode will not rotate to landscape mode anymore, but at least it will rotate in applications. Once you press the Home key, the tablet will automatically switch to portrait mode.
On the bottom of the homescreen you will find several docked icons for some of Google’s services such as Play, Books, Music and Magazines. In addition, you will also find a folder which contains Chrome, Google Plus, Google Maps and Gmail. As you would expect, Chrome is the default web browser on the Nexus 7. The apps button is sitting in the middle of the tray, while if you swipe up from the Home key across the applications button it will redirect you to Google Now which is the company’s predictive personalized helper.
It can display info like local bus schedules, current weather, as well as a list of the restaurants in the nearby vicinity that you might want to go to. This is only useful when you are within the range of an available Wi-Fi connection because otherwise you will not be able to benefit from Google Now. Although the tablet comes with a front-facing camera, it doesn’t actually have an application for it which means that it will be mostly used for Google Plus hangouts.
In order to make it more competitive with the Kindle Fire, Google Play has been updated as it now offers purchasable movies, TV shows, as well as magazines. The average price tag for a TV show season is just about the same as on iTunes, but the ones on the Kindle Fire are considerably lower but we do have to mention the Amazon Prime membership fee.
By default, the TV shows and movies that you buy via Google Play will be streamed on your tablet, but you have the possibility of saving these files on the tablet’s internal memory so that you can view these later on when there won’t be a Wi-Fi connection available.
We should mention that with the launch of Android 4.1, Google has made some improvements as far as the soft keyboard is concerned which means that you should now be able to type faster with fewer mistakes. It still isn’t prefect but compared to previous Android-running tablets it’s a bit better.
Jelly Bean also comes with a new voice recognition application which seems to be inspired from Apple’s Siri. This new feature allows the user to do a web search by using his voice. It’s not as complex as Siri but it’s still able to recognize some phrases and reply with the proper response in a decent amount of time.
Let’s move on to the hardware aspect of the Google Nexus 7 and start by saying that it is powered by the same quad core Tegra 3 chip running at 1.30 GHz which we’ve seen on recent Android-running tablets. It has the same 12-core GPU and comes with 1GB of DDR2 RAM which is a bit of a disappointing since the TF300 from Asus has DDR3 memory. Other goodies include GPS, an accelerometer, gyroscope, Bluetooth, the company’s NFC-based technology Android Beam, and also 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi.
The Google Nexus 7 comes with an IPS screen that is capable of providing wider viewing angles in comparison to the Kindle Fire and it’s also better than what other 10-inch tablets can offer. It has a resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels which makes it one of the best 7-inch displays seen on a tablet. We appreciate that it manages to be very responsive to swipe and touch so you won’t have any issues navigating through the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. As you would expect given its impressive hardware components, the tablet is more than capable of smoothly running 1080p clips.
The sound coming out from that speaker is quite full and loud, plus you won’t notice any distortions even if you turn the volume level all the way up. If you plan on listening to a lot of music on the tablet, you might want to pay an extra $50 to get the larger 16GB version.
Google says that the Nexus 7 by Asus can provide enough battery juice for up to nine hours of high definition video, while tests have shown that it lasts just as much as the aforementioned Kindle Fire.