OK, the mobile beat is in full throb with the release of a new Android tablet: The Nexus 7. My new toy. What’s so special about this one? Bottom line:
- NEXUS: It’s the first Nexus tablet that Google has produced. Nexus devices contain a pure version of Android with no customized user interfaces. This means quick system updates, since less testing is necessary.
- JELLY BEAN: It’s the first device with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean builds on Ice Cream Sandwich with considerable performance and feature improvements.
- 7-INCH: The 7-inch diagonal screen size is becoming quite popular for its portability and decent screen size for things just too small to be practical on a phone. And it will fit in pockets and glove boxes (trust me).
- QUAD-CORE: The Nvidia Tegra 3, 1.2 ghz quad-core processor is a powerhouse.
- HD Screen: The 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, IPS, screen is very sharp and vibrant. On a 7-inch display, it has an impressive 216 pixels per inch (ppi).
- CONSTRUCTION: Google designed, and Asus manufactured this to premium quality standards. Corning Glass display and a grippy back don’t disappoint.
- PRICE: $199 (8gb), $249 (16gb). Premium quality at a Kindle Fire price. Nice.
If you take the quality of a premium tablet and give it the advantages of a purposed tablet like the Kindle Fire, but without limitations on where to shop or what to buy, and price it really low, you get the Nexus 7. This is the closest thing to a no-compromise tablet that I’ve seen. Compared to the Kindle Fire, it is better made (thinner and lighter, faster, quad-core processor, higher resolution IPS display) and adds a front facing camera for video chat or hangouts. It has a grippy, almost rubberized-feeling back that is most appreciated after handling slippery tablets. Performance? It is killer fast. Browsing with the default Chrome browser pulls web pages up in a blink. You can also thank the 1.2 ghz tegra 3 quad-core processor in concert with the silky smooth Android Jelly Bean operating system.
Google says it is designed for the Google Play Store, and they give you a default home screen that is the Play Store. So, you can go right into buying apps, movies, books, magazines, etc. if you want. Or, you can go to anyone’s site and do what you want. Play is there as a convenience, not a constraint. And Google throws in some magazines, a book, and a game, and a $25 store credit. Nice.
Jelly Bean deserves special mention here. Although Google just makes it a point release (4.1 vs 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich), it is a massive update. Google put a team together to wage war on lagginess. They called it “Project Butter.” They took a close look at what caused lag in previous versions and instituted better buffering, timing, and predictive measures to smooth out the screen motions while maintaining (and even boosting) Android’s speed. They really nailed the performance aspect. But, Jelly Bean also adds some really awesome features that improve the user experience. One new feature is called “Google Now.” You swipe up to activate it and it will note your location and time and take into account all of your habits, preferences, likes, dislikes, etc. and anticipate the information you want to see even before you ask for it. Info like the weather at your location. Telling you if there’s a traffic jam on your normal route to work, and suggesting an alternate route. Noticing you are near a restaurant that serves your favorite dish and telling you about it. Telling you when you have an appointment and taking into account how long it will take to get there and which is the best route to take. Just a really cool feature. Also, Google puts Voice Search in Jelly Bean where there’s a Siri-like voice that answers your questions. You ask questions in a conversational way, and it answers you quickly, accurately and in a voice that actually sounds human. There’s an Enhanced Notification Panel that, after you pull down the notification list, you can expand some of the notifications (if they’re expandable) to see more text. These notifications are now actionable as well, so you can “like” a Facebook post or share a picture, etc. right there in the notification panel without having to first launch the application. So cool! All notifications can be swiped away with a flick of the finger one by one, or all at once with a single tap on a button at the top of the list.
As mentioned previously, the default browser in Jelly Bean is Chrome. It is really fast and always displays the address bar at the top along with a refresh button. One really useful feature of Chrome is that, when the text is small on the screen, and you tap close to two adjacent links, Chrome instantly zooms the two links large, so you can easily tap the one you want. Oh so cool! One really nauseating thing about Chrome is that it is the first default Android browser that is not compatible with flash. I know my IOS friends differ with me on this, but my firm attitude is that any web content viewable on the desktop should be view-able on mobile devices. And right now, there is content I want to see, but I can’t with mobile Chrome because the content is flash-only. But, Adobe will not support flash on new browsers, operating systems or chipsets. Upside is that some sites that have flash-only content provide apps that let you view the content on non-flash browsers. An example of this is the recently-released “The Verge” app. I love that “90 seconds on The Verge” daily video.
The Nexus 7 is thin and light and grippy, so it is comfortable to hold in one hand while swiping with the other for hours while reading or browsing. Try that with a 10-inch Tab or iPad and your arm will get sore. Also, the 7-inch size is ideal for taking to club meetings and taking notes. It’s also far easier to take to a restaurant and lay on the table without taking up the whole area like the larger tablets do. It will fit into a jacket pocket or, for the ladies, in a hand bag pretty easily. It even fits in my shorts pocket and my car’s glove box.
- 8gb and 16gb versions with no micro-sd storage expansion.
- No vibrating source for keyboard haptic feedback.
- No rear-facing camera, just a front one, and no default camera app.
- Wi-Fi Only
Now, it appears Google was surprised that the $199 (8gb) version wasn’t the hot seller of the two. The $249 (16gb) version has literally sold out nearly everywhere, and Google has had to stop selling it on the Play Store until manufacturing catches up with demand. Those who thought there was a race to the bottom in price, think again. With no expandable storage, the 16gb version is wildly popular (double the memory for just $50 more). Although there is no haptic feedback (vibration), notifications still are heard audibly, and notification symbols are displayed in the usual places. It doesn’t break my heart that there is no rear camera. Frankly, I think it looks silly to hold up a tablet to take a picture, especially if you have a perfectly fine camera phone (or even a genuine camera). Wi-Fi only has ups and downs. The ups are that it’s cheaper, uses less battery, thinner and lighter, no service contracts, and no waiting on Carriers to test system updates before they push out. The down-side is that I need to enable my mobile Wi-Fi hotspot on my phone to serve a Wi-Fi signal to the Nexus 7 if I’m somewhere that doesn’t have Wi-Fi.
My personal experience with my Nexus 7 over the past few days has me loving the size and shape. I can literally hold it in one hand with my fingers wrapping around both sides. The 16:10 aspect ratio allows this. You wouldn’t be able to hold a 7-inch tablet this way if it had a more squarish 4:3 ratio screen. And the size is so much more convenient to sit down anywhere and not hog the whole space like the larger tablets do. I also love how fast this thing opens web pages. And the Voice Search is just cool. Ask it anything you want, and it gives you a quick and accurate answer, sometimes by talking back to you in a real human-sounding voice. So far it’s lasting about 15 hours in fairly heavy use before I get the 15% charge warning. And it takes about 2 hrs 45 min to charge. One convenient thing I also noticed is that it fits quite nicely in the phone stand notch of my Galaxy Nexus’ spare battery charger. Cool! This tablet is absolutely perfect for reading books or doing late night browsing in bed before going to sleep. I think I’ll keep her. 🙂
The Nexus 7 is a ground-breaking device. Speed, smoothness, quality at an affordable price. I’m such a freak about the mobile beat, I usually don’t fret about price (I paid $600 for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 last year). So, the Nexus 7 is just that good on the merits. The low price is just icing on the cake. I won’t refuse a highly-desirable tablet just ’cause it’s inexpensive. 🙂 In comparison, the lowest priced iPad is the 16gb wi-fi only version of the iPad 2, which costs $399. The lowest priced 3rd generation iPad is $499 (fully double the price of the $249 16gb Nexus 7). I’m sure the low price of the Nexus 7 will evoke multiple purchases by people, perhaps as gifts. It’s a brilliant stroke by Google to put something this nice in the hands of people (especially newcomers to the tablet world) who will certainly be delighted and may remain loyal to the Android ecosystem. I got the 16gb version. Boys and their toys… I’ll be giddy for awhile. 😀
And one more thing… As if to mask the hoopla surrounding this exciting new product, a chorus of rumors of future competitors to the Nexus 7 is filling the blogosphere. But whatever else the future products are, they’re not here. The Nexus 7 is right here. Right now… And it rocks.
Further reading on the Nexus 7:
PC Magazine: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2406552,00.asp
The Verge (Video Review): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPLpHev1YnQ