The rumor that a $199 Nexus tablet from Asus was spot on. Named Nexus 7, Google announced the new 7-inc tablet which runs Android version 4.1 Jelly Bean in the first day of Google I/O 2012. So what does the Nexus 7 have under its sleeve?
I wish I could have played with one myself but alas I’m on the other side of the globe from San Francisco. My opinions will then be based upon multiple sources and my experience with similar devices when it comes to size and materials involved. As for the software, I will also refer to my sources and to my experience to Ice Cream Sandwich which it appears to be most similar to.
Update! Oh my! How could I have forgotten about the promotional video!? Anyway, I’ve added it above!
The device looks simple – something I really like about it. It is remarkably light at 340g – lighter than the original Galaxy Tab and the Kindle Fire. The front is all glass (I can’t confirm if it’s a version of Gorilla Glass though). A 1.2 megapixel front-camera peeks at the center of the top bezel. The device is rimmed with something that looks like textured metal although it might be plastic given the price of the device – can’t tell from photos and videos alone – while the back is made of lovely dimpled rubber.
Many say that the rubber back has a feel of leather which could be nice as long as it doesn’t smell like processed skin (some might like it that way though). The rubber back appears comfortable to hold, durable and would eliminate slipping – something I experienced to some degree with my Galaxy Tab and to an extreme degree with my heavier iPad 2. More on the back, a large Nexus branding is engraved at the top while a smaller Asus label can be found at the bottom near a sticker that bears the FCC logo and other information. It is also worth noting that you won’t see a rear camera on this slate – not a bad thing to lose since taking pictures with a tablet even of this small size is awkward and looks stupid anyway.
Buttons are sparse. You’ll find the power and the volume buttons at the right side of the device. There seem to be no other buttons elsewhere. Ports are the same. The micro USB port and the 3.5mm standard headphone jack can be found at the bottom edge. I really like the fact that they used a micro USB port as it’s pretty much the charger connector used by the majority of devices nowadays. It’s one of my gripes with the Galaxy Tab and iPad which uses proprietary ports forcing me to bring along an extra charger. I’m also pleased about the headphone jack being at the same side as the USB port. Finally there are some pogo pins at the left edge which could be a docking connector for charging and data.
Just looking at the exterior of the device we can tell that the Nexus 7 is so much bang for buck!
Performance and what makes it tick
Nvidia has been teasing about sub-$200 quad-core tablets based on their Kai platform for quite a while now and it seems the Asus Nexus 7 is the first of the bunch to be announced. That said, the Nexus 7 is a quad-core device with a Tegra 3 and 1GB of RAM in its heart. For the given price it’s not bad. Not bad at all.
The battery is rated at 4,325mAh and it performs quite well at almost 10 hours with the tablet connected to WiFi and a video playing on an infinite loop which is quite impressive beating many bigger and more expensive tablets.
As mentioned earlier, the Nexus 7 display is similar to the original Galaxy Tab’s 7-inch screen but the latter has a paltry 600 x 1024 display resolution compared to the Nexus 7’s 1280 x 800 HD screen. The tablet’s resolution seems adequate for a device of this size and should make reading texts from websites and ebooks, or watching HD videos much more enjoyable. Additionally, the display is an IPS panel with great viewing angles and rated with 400 nits of brightness. It definitely has a great display considering the price of the tablet.
Audio playback is provided by a speaker slit located at near the bottom at the rear. This one I wish I really had a chance to test myself but obviously that isn’t possible. Well, apparently it is loud enough to fill a hotel room but you’re better of with your headphones if you’re after quality at those levels. Fortunately, the sound doesn’t seem to be unpleasant at normal levels.
The Nexus 7 will come in two versions 8GB and 16GB. Sadly there’s no option for expandable storage as the device has no microSD slot – a move that might have been done to drop the price so low. I would go for a 16GB device as 8GB is too inadequate for me as per my experience with my HTC 7 Mozart (a Windows Phone if you will). I’m also used to managing my Galaxy Tab’s 16GB of storage so it’s not going to much of an adjustment to me – the Galaxy Tab has a microSD slot though.
I really hope they included a microSD slot else provided even more capacity options like 32GB and 64GB for those who want to push a lot of their media into their devices.
$199 will give you the 8GB version while adding $50 more will net you the 16GB.
The slate supports 802.11 b/g/n at 2.4GHz which is pretty much the norm nowadays. There are no 3G/4G version apparently and we’re unsure if they will come in the future. Bluetooth is also on-board and it also has NFC which means it can transfer items and files through Android Beam.
The Nexus 7 is the first device shown to run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean is in incremental update to Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0) and it kinda looks and feels like ICS but with improvements with speed (eliminating lag seem to be one of Google’s main goals on this update) with Project Butter, a new predictive keyboard, homescreen tweaks (widgets are now easier to place on the homescreen! Yay!), a magazine subscription service known as Play Magazine, Google Now which most would refer to as Google’s version of Siri, offline voice dictation, Google Chrome as the new default browser, and offline maps. All in all, Google seems to be going into the right direction with Android and, in my opinion, it is getting a lot better ever since ICS.
Despite having a camera (in the front only), reports say that it doesn’t have a photo or camera app which means that the camera is strictly for video chat.
One thing I noticed about the Nexus 7 is that it uses the phone UI of ICS despite being a tablet. It actually made me curious as to why Google would do it this way. I have CM9 ICS on my Galaxy Tab which uses the tablet UI and it still feels at home on the 7-inch screen size. I can say the same for the other 7-inch ICS slates in the market right now like the new Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. Could Google be modifying the tablet UI completely? I guess only time can tell for now. Let’s wait for the bigger tablets to get their Jelly Bean updates.
I will speak more about Jelly Bean when I have the chance to test it or, if I grow impatient, I might post about the update in the near future basing only on the information I can grab from the web. Hopefully CyanogenMod starts making it for my Galaxy Tab so I can put my fingers on it soon.
I do think that the Nexus 7 has potential (ooh that price point!). It also seems to perform well and the latest version of Android just runs in it like a breeze. Android as an OS has been through a lot of improvements lately which really makes the platform a lot sweeter and, now that Asus has been able to cram such performance into a cheap machine, we should expect a lot more coming.
One problem I have with the Nexus line of devices is their availability. For those not living in the US, UK, Canada and Australia (which is where the Nexus 7 will be initially released, by the way) they seem to be very hard to come along. I work in the Middle East and the Galaxy Nexus is the only Nexus device that has been officially released here so far. I just hope the Nexus 7 gets the same treatment. I really see it being a boon here in Saudi Arabia and back in my home country, the Philippines, given its price especially with my fellow Asians. Google, please make my wish come true!