Google Nexus 7 — I’m impressed
The simple sleeve with a splash of colour covers a snazzy black box that telegraphs what you find inside..a simple black slab of scratch resistant Corning glass..not Gorilla glass so it might be worthwhile to invest in a screen protector. The lens of the front facing 1.2MP camera is centered at the top and the screen is set off by a silver border.
The back is textured plastic that looks and feels a bit like leather..it feels good in the hand. You will notice aside from the ASUS and Google logos the speaker grill is the only other feature of the back panel. No rear facing camera..obviously to keep the price down. Frankly I have never seen the need for a back camera on a tablet especially since most are pretty crummy anyway. On the bottom you will find a micro-USB port and a standard headset jack. Power and volume controls are on the right hand side.
After powering up the Nexus 7 the setup took less than a minute..Once I connected to my WiFi network I found my Google username was already linked to the device and all ity took was my password and I was ready to enjoy the niceness that is Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The home screen looked really nice on the 1280 x 800 IPS display..at 216ppi pixel density although I found the standard brightness a bit low so I jacked it up a bit..I guess I will pay in battery life. The rest of the specs are also pretty impressive..Tegra 3 quad-core SoC, 1GB RAM, NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi N, USB and 8GB/16GB of storage. There is no external storage which is why I paid $50 extra for $2.50 worth of extra memory to get the 16Gb version..The 8Gb version comes with less than 6Gb of available storage..that can disappear pretty fast if you start adding books, music and videos.
Jelly Bean is impressive..the look isn’t all that different than stock Ice Cream Sandwich but performance is impressive..The major changes are in the underlying code, part of Google’s drive to make Android slicker and more enjoyable. From the beginning, Android devices have suffered from spotty performance and lag – an unfortunate side-effect of the sheer amount of work the OS has to do with multitasking apps and background tasks in Android. Jelly Bean solves this issue by placing additional load on the CPU whenever your finger touches the screen..sort of giving it a head start on what comes next. Navigation and scrolling speeds are vastly improved, rivalling iOS in terms of smoothness. Apps also load faster, and switching between running programs is near-instantaneous. Naturally, some of this is due to the fast Tegra 3 chipset. One oversight..the home screen will not rotate to landscape..fortunately there is already a workaround..a $2.99 app..Ultimate Rotation Control at the Play Store
Then there is Google’s answer to Apple’s Siri: Google Now. It essentially replaces the standard search function of Android, and allows you to browse the web for all kinds of content – using either text or speech. For example, voicing the question “Show me pictures of dogs” will bring up an entire page – correctly formatted as attractive thumbnail. “How old is Stephen Harper?” gives you his age and birth date – all spoken in perfect English.
Google Now has other tricks up it’s electronic sleeve. For example, if you have a meeting booked in your Google calendar which has an address attached to it, Google Now flashes up a card on the day of the appointment which shows the estimated journey time to that destination – it even warns you if traffic is looking heavy, allowing you time to seek out an alternative route.
Google Now monitors your web activity and searches to provide context-sensitive information; look up sports scores on a regular basis and Google Now will automatically display cards which show the latest scores for your favourite team. The more you use the web, the more Google Now learns about what kind of information you need at your fingertips. A bit creepy at first but kind of handy once you get used to it. Google Now will also send emails..but it seems to want to use Google Mail even though another client is set up as default..I couldn’t figure out how to make it use my default email account. Google Now also can’t control device functions such as opening apps as as well as Siri or third party assistants such as Vlingo.
While it is not perfect the Google Nexus 7 is clearly the best 7″ tablet you can buy. The Asus quality is there..it is fast, smooth and versatile to use and is the perfect size for those who want a portable tablet or a colour eReader. You can’t beat the price $209.99 for the 8Gb version and 259.99 for the 16Gb model(both are $10 less in the US). I chose and recommend the 16Gb version even though the $50 premium is a bit of a rip-off. The 16Gb model is currently sold out at the Google Play store, Staples and Best Buy..As of noon today July 25 there may be a few at some Future Shop outlets. The 8Gb model(available only at the Play Store) ships in 3 to 5 days.