• The Next Chapter: Our Nexus 7 review

    While Android tablets have been around for 2 years now, none has really been able to capture consumerís interest. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 gets a lot of media coverage but itís usually for the wrong reasons. The Asus Transformer Prime was an anticipated device but it was priced too high to generate much interest outside of early adopters. Really, while people are buying Android tablets, it often feels like the platform has no momentum. It feels like the only reason a regular person would buy an Android tablet is because itís cheaper than an iPad.

    Itís quite different from the phone side where Samsungís Galaxy line has become a poster child for Androidís success.

    What Android really needs is tablet to help it stand out. Android needs a hero device thatís cheap, and has wide appeal, to help give the Android tablet ecosystem a much needed, kick-in-the-pants.

    The most interesting thing about the Nexus 7 is that the 8GB model is $199 (the 16GB model is $259 CAN) which includes a $25 credit to the Google Play store. While $199 tablets are nothing new (Blackberry Playbook, Kindle Fire, etc) what makes the Nexus 7 special is its hardware. Itís a substantial step-up. Not only does it ship with a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, but it also has a higher resolution 7Ē 1280x800 IPS display, 1GB of RAM, 4325mAh battery and either 8 or 16GB of storage. Aside from the lack of a rear facing camera, missing microSDHC slot, and maybe an IR blaster, on paper, the Nexus 7 doesnít make any hardware compromises.
    Itís a pure Google device so thereís no third party customizations (for better or worse). Besides that, itís the first device to ship with Jellybean: Android 4.1.

    Did I mention it starts at $199? While itís still a lot of money, consider than the current tablet poster boy, the new iPad starts at $499 while the iPad 2, $399. Heck, until the Nexus came out a 7Ē Galaxy Tab Plus still cost $349. The Nexus is quite a bargain.

    Pins for a docking station

    microUSB slot, headphone jack.

    power and volume buttons.

    In portrait orientation the Nexus is pretty narrow for a 7Ē tablet. Just look at the pictures of it next to a Galaxy Tab Plus and Blackberry Playbook.

    While the iPad is obviously bigger it is a little bit thinner.

    The back feels like leather and has an interesting pattern on it. I wish more manufacturers used leather. While itís not a chintzy device - it does feel like just they made it solid enough to not feel cheap and no more. It doesnít feel like a plastic toy but the iPad and Playbook both feel more solid.

    The displayís strength is its pixel density. At 216ppi itís not iPad sharp but to my eye, itís sharp enough. Jellybean uses pretty small text and it looks great on the Nexus.

    Indoors the Nexusí display looks fine. Viewing angles are decent as are black levels. However, when I compare it with my Playbook the Nexusís looks dim, washed out and slightly reddish. The Nexus display is a reminder that sometimes thereís more to a screen than its resolution.

    Left to right: Galaxy Tab 2.0, Nexus 7

    As for the speaker on the back, my wife and I tried watching a video on it before we slept and found it wasnít loud enough. If youíre going to watch videos on it use headphones.


    From a UI perspective Jellybean looks quite similar to Ice Cream Sandwich. While I havenít tried any 7Ē ICS tablets I do own a ICS powered Motorola Xoom. I hate how on the Xoom, the apps button is in the top right corner. The Nexus feels more like a giant phone. The apps button is located in the center at the bottom of the home screens where it should be.

    For some reason the home screen doesnít support landscape mode. While I personally never use landscape mode on tablets (unless Iím gaming) a tablet needs this in case youíre using it with a physical keyboard.

    Other than that, to me the most dramatic thing is that the menu animations and transitions are much smoother on the Nexus. Otherwise it feels like a slightly more refined version of Ice Cream Sandwich.

    Note that the Nexus does not support Adobe Flash. If you visit a lot of Flash enabled websites you may have to get creative.

    As far as apps go, the main new feature is Google Now. Google Now is kind of a personal assistant. It looks at where you go plus it checks out your calendar and presents relevant information based on this. For example, I was downtown the other day, when I looked at my notification area it told me how long it would take for me to get home (including traffic) if I left right then plus the weather downtown. It also has support for public transit, your next appointment, travel information like translations, sports information, etc. Itís very cool but to be honest, while Google now is really cool itís more suited for a phone. Pretty much everyone carries a phone around with them all the time. The same canít be said about a WiFi only tablet.

    Generally speaking, I find that, out-of-the-box pure Google devices can sometimes leave me wanting when it comes to DLNA support, video codec support, built-in camera functions, social media integration, chat plus some of the built-in utilities are kind of basic.

    The idea with a pure Google device is that you go out and get your own apps. Since the Nexus 7 doesnít have a rear-facing camera there is no camera app. Unlike the Tegra 2 the quad-core Tegra 3 processor is powerful enough to decode HD video files so no special video player is needed (I used Dice Player and MX Player). Since 3rd party video players work fine you can use them with DLNA players from Google Play (like MediaHouse). While I do like some customizations you get from OEMís theyíre not essential like they used to be.

    A pure Google device also tends to receive more updates. While you usually get one major Android version update, itís rare to get more then that unless you do it yourself.



    Asus Transformer Prime:
    Apple iPad: 1693.7
    Nexus 7: 1705
    Motorola Xoom: 2146.7
    Samsung Galaxy Note: 2714.3

    SunSpider is a benchmark which runs within a browser. The Nexus is right up there with the new iPad and Transformer Prime. While itís true that the Xoom and Noteís processors are hopelessly outclassed by the Nexusí itís interesting to compare since they represent a step up and down size wise.


    Vellamo is another browser test which actually consists of a group of benchmarks.

    Motorola Xoom:
    Samsung Galaxy Note: 1366.73
    Nexus 7: 1719.52

    GL Benchmark:

    GL Benchmark is a OpenGL test. I didnít include results from the Asus Transformer Prime because my results for it were with an older version of GL Benchmark.

    Egypt Standard:

    Motorola Xoom: 1715
    Samsung Galaxy Note: 3179
    Nexus 7: 5848

    Egypt Standard Offscreen

    Motorola Xoom: 2317
    Samsung Galaxy Note: 3179
    Nexus 7: 7097


    Basemark is another OpenGL 3D benchmark. In the past Iíve found that the Tegra 3 doesnít do as well as it should in Basemark and the Nexus is no different. It barely outscores the Noteís Adreno 220 GPU.

    Motorola Xoom: 4.42
    Nexus 7: 17.84
    Samsung Galaxy Note: 16.56

    As far as performance benchmarks go the Nexus does really well and is right up there with the class leaders.

    Battery Life:

    To test battery life I used AnTuTu battery tester along with my personal battery benchmark. For my personal benchmark I charged the battery, set the brightness to max, disabled WiFi and played a video using the built-in video player until the unit shut off.

    Battery life (minutes):

    Nexus 7: 442
    Samsung Galaxy Note: 350
    Motorola Xoom: 301

    AnTuTu tester:

    Motorola Xoom:
    Samsung Galaxy Note: 577
    Nexus 7: 448

    While the Nexus aces my video playback test it didnít do so well in AnTuTu. My personal experience is that the Nexus needs to be charged every night which is kind of disappointing for a tablet.


    So youíre probably wondering if you should run out and buy a Nexus 7. Itís not a perfect device - it could have a better screen and could be more solid. However, its price more than makes up for these deficiencies.

    Next is the 8 or 16GB question. I think the decision boils down to whether you plan on storing video files on the it. I donít think the Nexus makes a good music player and thereís no rear facing camera so you probably wonít be taking many pictures. Since the Nexus lacks a memory card slot I think that makes it a poor choice as a video player anyways. So ,while I got the 16GB model I think most people will be fine with just the 8GB.

    When it comes to tablets I see 10Ē tablets as being portable while 7Ē tablets are mobile. A 10Ē is portable in that I use it around the house but Iím not usually moving when I use it. A 7Ē is mobile because I can fit it in some of my pockets so I can usually take it out of the house and use it while Iím walking around.

    Still, since the Nexus 7 is WiFi only, I have to work to get it connected when Iím out. None of my phones has enough battery life that Iíd want to leave their mobile hotspot feature on all the time while Iím out and I donít want to carry a portable hotspot around. This limits its mobility.

    Of course, If Iím creating content, a 10Ē deviceís larger display is probably more appropriate. To me a 7Ē tablet in its element when being used as an e-reader, for watching videos, surfing the web and gaming. When I reviewed the original Galaxy Tab I had the same thoughts. Back then, Android phones maxed out at around 4Ē (Galaxy S, HTC Desire, etc) so the size difference between them and a 7Ē tablet was noticeable. Since then, we now have screen sizes bigger than 4Ē including the 5.3Ē Galaxy Note. The Note is also really good as an e-reader, watching videos, you get the idea. More choices are great but it also muddies the waters. If you already have an Android phone with a big screen, you may find that the trade off between screen size and portability doesnít make sense.

    Itís not that the Nexus isnít substantially bigger, itís just that the Note is much bigger than a 4Ē phone yet itís still small enough to go anywhere.

    The Nexus 7ís lack of a rear-facing camera may limit its usefulness as a business tool though, as a consumer, I wonít miss it since most of my phones do a good job in this regard.

    Itís also a very disruptive device. Based on its specifications and what everyone else is charging Asus/Google could have asked $349 or $399 for the 16GB version. Of course, at that price they probably wouldnít have sold that many just like other Android tablets. Itís going to be hard for other companies to charge much more for their tablets.

    In the 7Ē range, besides LTE, a rear facing camera, more storage and perhaps, maybe a HDMI port what else can manufacturers put in their tablet to justify charging more than the Nexus 7? LTE normally adds about $130 to the price (like on the iPads), you might be able to charge another $50 for another 16GB of storage, Iíd argue that a rear facing camera doesnít add any use to a tablet and I donít think most people will pay anything for an HDMI port. Of course, if you were to add all these features youíd end up with an expensive tablet that no one will buy.

    On the 10Ē side you can charge about $75 more for a higher res screen along with all the other features I mentioned but you run into the same problem - you end up with an expensive tablet that no one wants to buy.

    About 6 months ago I thought to myself that no one should buy an Android tablet unless it costs less than $299. Looks like someone read my mind.

    They need to be cheaper than a phone since a) you probably wonít carry it everywhere, b) they probably wonít be subsidized by a carrier. But, while they need to be cheaper they need to have beefy enough specs to run anything you can throw at it. Last yearís Tegra 2 tablets just didnít cut it.

    To me, the Nexus 7 really represents where tablets need to be.

    All in all, the tablet market just got a lot more interesting. If I can split the history of tablets into chapters we just entered a new one. The first chapter would have devices like the Apple Newton, Palm Pilot, that sort of thing. The next chapter would be Windows Tablets followed by the iPad. Flipping the page would be Android/Web OS/Playbook tablets and now we have affordable, powerful tablets like the Google Nexus 7.


    Interesting Back
    Battery life
    Sharp screen


    Quiet speaker
    Storage not expandable
    Screen not bright enough
    Battery life
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Next Chapter: Our Nexus 7 review started by howard View original post
    Comments 32 Comments
    1. DerekToronto's Avatar
      DerekToronto -
      I am actually disappointed with this nex7. Subpar with the screen and battery life. Compare with the Samsung Tab 7.0. I am much more satisfy with the older Samsung.
    1. sabesh's Avatar
      sabesh -
      Nex7 is faster than the Tab+. However, it's left to be seen if the Tab+ picks up speed with an ICS update. If you notice in the comparison shots, the Tab + displays more of the Web Page despite having a lower resolution.

      That being said, I'm liking the Nexus 7 for its customization options. Way more custom ROMs and Mods available for it.
    1. Furry Atom's Avatar
      Furry Atom -
      Here's the reason for the screen issues. Google and Asus messed up really badly and it's likely that the washed out colors are unfixable. With 86% sRGB you'd expect it to be better than the Android competition at around 60-60%, but then they had to wreck the intensity scale.

      In fact it doesn't sound like the first issue related to lack of factory checks and calibration. Lots of stories about loose screws, creaky plastic, and backlight bleeding.
    1. Zman2k2's Avatar
      Zman2k2 -
      I will admit, this is my first tablet. But my impression is that it will do everything that I want it to. I purchased the 16Gig version, and have loaded 6 movies on it from my iTunes library(converted of course). It keeps me connected with my email, calandar , and allows me to avoid the laptop, which is now my wifes' email shopping nightmare. I can surf all the websites I usually do, with the minor annoyance of no flash support, and stay connected. If I want to take it with me somewhere, I can tether it to my SII over WiFi, and use it wherever I go. I'm more than happy with my purchase, because I realized before purchase, that there were limitations. I can live with them, some may not be able to.
    1. skelms's Avatar
      skelms -
      no flash support!? really? does anyone know if there is a workaround if you root the device.
    1. Furry Atom's Avatar
      Furry Atom -
      Doesn't even need root AFAIK. Just put the Flash APK on the device and install it, then use a browser like Firefox that has Flash support.
    1. Zman2k2's Avatar
      Zman2k2 -
      How do I put the flash apk on the tablet? I checked the play store, and there wasn't anything there. Do I do it straight from Adobe?
    1. episodic's Avatar
      episodic -
      I'm very sad it doesn't have a camera. I want a 7 inch android tablet, but I like to use evernote and take pictures of stuff like reciepts, etc and things from work and file them away. I also like using camscanner to scan things and send them to my printer. Sucks they left the camera off imho.
    1. HC - NO "i"'s Avatar
      HC - NO "i" -

      But do not forget how much you have paid for your good ol' Galaxy Tab 7.0.

      Furry Atom,

      Regarding the Google Nexus 7 Display Stumbles and Falls Short..., I hope Google and Asus could recalibrate with the drivers and able to fix it with a firmware update.

      Few more photos to share...

    1. Zman2k2's Avatar
      Zman2k2 -
      OMG OMG OMG OMG! The nerd in me is dying to know where you got the Star Trek LCARS displays?
    1. TadMorose's Avatar
      TadMorose -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zman2k2 View Post
      OMG OMG OMG OMG! The nerd in me is dying to know where you got the Star Trek LCARS displays?
      Lol me too

      Sent from my SGH-I747M using Tapatalk 2
    1. HC - NO "i"'s Avatar
      HC - NO "i" -
      Zman2k2 / TadMorose,

      For more details...

    1. Zman2k2's Avatar
      Zman2k2 -
      The nerd in me thanks you. Free Google credit spent wisely.
    1. lmcjipo's Avatar
      lmcjipo -
      For Canadians, does this ship from the US or from Canada?

      I noticed that they UPS and if they ship it from the US to Canada, that will mean adding UPS's outrageous brokerage/customs fees to the product (in addition to the standard taxes).
    1. kodakball's Avatar
      kodakball -
      I got mine shipped from the us from google play store and there wasn't any additional fees or delays.

      Quote Originally Posted by lmcjipo View Post
      For Canadians, does this ship from the US or from Canada?

      I noticed that they UPS and if they ship it from the US to Canada, that will mean adding UPS's outrageous brokerage/customs fees to the product (in addition to the standard taxes).
    1. TadMorose's Avatar
      TadMorose -
      Quote Originally Posted by HC - NO "i" View Post
      Zman2k2 / TadMorose,

      For more details...

      Awesome! Thank you, sir!
    1. Furry Atom's Avatar
      Furry Atom -
      Quote Originally Posted by HC - NO "i" View Post
      Regarding the Google Nexus 7 Display Stumbles and Falls Short..., I hope Google and Asus could recalibrate with the drivers and able to fix it with a firmware update.
      They never fixed the Nexus S having horrible calibration and a white point of about 10,000 degrees kelvin, and they didn't fix it on the Galaxy Nexus either. So I'm guessing no that won't ever happen and it'll be fixed by some guy on XDA which won't help users who don't want to/know how to flash their device.

      Oh also it took them two years to make the Android Gallery render higher than 16 bit color. Google doesn't seem to care much for display quality on mobile devices.
    1. rap1008's Avatar
      rap1008 -
      Wishing it had the back camera. There are several apps I'd like to use that need camera support. For example barcode scanning features in shopping and inventory apps.
    1. migo's Avatar
      migo -
      It would be nice to have, but given the cost savings, I think they made the right choice. There will be other tablets around $300 that you could buy that do include the back camera.
    1. TC_Mits's Avatar
      TC_Mits -
      But not Nexus.

      This N7 is a good basic inexpensive tablet intended to go head-to-head with the Kindle et al. It's pretty good for that. But I'm thinking a Nexus 7" 'Pro' with 8mp camera, 64GB SD, and 1080p non-PenTile, etc. ... would reach a different market.

      Perspective instantiates reality.
      [From DX by HoFo app.]