The Google Nexus 7, manufactured by Asus in conjunction with Google, is the first time an Android tablet has met my true expectations. It’s still not right for me, and I’m not ditching my iPad anytime soon, but this is a huge leap forward for what were previously a group of mediocre, uncompetitive tablets.
Before the Nexus 7, we saw the Samsung Galaxy 7.7 and 10.1, the 7.7 being underpowered, slow, and really quite average, and the 10.1 looking so much like the iPad it’s been banned in many countries around the world. Both of these did not have the fluidity and polish of the iPad. The Kindle Fire came later, and was reasonable for the low price point, but came without access to many apps, and was also underpowered. Alsongside these were tablets like the Prime, and Xoom, which also never excited me in any way. Now, everything changes.
But first, let us realise that the Nexus 7 is a content consumption device. It’s not made to compete directly with the iPad (although it will). The iPad is fully functional, is a place to create and consume content, and is all round the best tablet out there thanks to it’s array of apps, which aid mostly content creation. However, if you want something for watching films, web browsing, and navigation, with information consumption tools the Nexus 7 is perfect.
The design is nice, 7 inches is the right size for what it is made for. It is clear lots of thought has gone into the way this device looks and feels, with accurately measured bezels, rounded corners and a texture which makes the device a joy to hold, apparently. And this thing is powerful. The Tegra 3 processor inside surpasses Apple’s A5X is many ways, and is suited to the android platform. This is a high end mobile chip, and being available in a $199 astonishes me. It powers a good, high density screen, that, why not as crisp and stunning as the new iPad, is good for the tablet.
Next, is software. Finally, this is the first Android tablet to make use of Google ‘Project Butter’ as part of Android Jelly Bean (4.1). You may have used Android tablets in the past, and found swiping around sluggish, scrolling slow, and the experience was likely far off that of the iPad. Now, Google have smoothed out the OS, to make it run better on all latest generation devices.
Nexus 7 also comes with Google Now, which uses your search data to create a personal view of all the information you need to know for your day. Once you open this view, you see directions to work or home, whether, sports scores, and anything else you are interested in. A nice addition, for those needing fast bursts of information.
However, we come to the downfall of this tablet. It may be the best offering Android has yet, but thanks to extreme fragmentation within the ecosystem, it’s left with a measly set of tablet apps. Most phone apps adapt to the size of the screen they are loaded on, which leads to troubling user experiences, expecially on tablets. This comes from the fact that developers are forced to create apps for so many screen sizes, they can’t be bothered to change their UI for each and every one, unlike with iOS development, where there are 2 (soon to be 3) screen sizes, and 4 scaled resolutions. Developing for iOS is therefore far, far easier. Android is left with scaled up phone apps on tablets which don’t compete. And they array of apps made specifically for bigger screens is poor.
So the Nexus 7 is great hardware, and has good software. However, if you are in the need for creation tools (note taking, photo editing, music production, video editing), as well as consumption then the iPad is the way to go. If you want to watch films, check emails browse the web, in a small and light, more portable package, then buy the Nexus 7 now. For $199, you cannot go wrong.