User Experience

Media

As a media consumption device, the Nexus 7 excels. This is obviously the core of the device, with strong integration with the Google Play marketplace. That marketplace contains a good selection of content across books, films and music, although the overall scope isn’t quite as wide as iTunes. The actual applications themselves are on par with the best Apple has to offer, with painless streaming, high quality text rendering and a very easy to use interface.

The strength of the Android 4.1 operating system is backed with solid hardware – the quad-core Tegra 3 processor includes a low power companion core that allows for very low battery usage when playing back media but the strength to handle even 1080p with aplomb. The 7″ display is bright and crisp, with the pixel density not quite at Retina levels but still more than adequate for such an affordable device.

This Android tablet is a media powerhouse that offers comparable power and usability to the latest generation iPad, but at a ridiculously low price point. And unlike the Kindle Fire, the Nexus 7 includes easy access to a 600,000 app market that allows you to use whatever service you prefer, from Netflix for movies to Spotify for music.

Though some will bemoan the lack of HDMI-out for watching films on the big screen or 3G for truly mobile streaming, it’s still a good deal better than the majority of its competitors.

Gaming

While the Kindle Fire is powerful enough to read e-books or play movies, its hardware is much worse than other Android tablets. While some accepted that as a limitation of the price, the Nexus 7 proves that you can provide a beautiful gaming machine with the latest gaming-oriented architecture for the same low price.

The higher resolution display and more powerful dual-core processor unlock the door to games with console-level graphics and gameplay. The accessibility and customisation possible with the Nexus 7 is also far beyond that of the Amazon device; PS3 controllers work wired out of the box and wirelessly with an easy root. The Nexus 7 also includes a full bevy of sensors, including that crucial accelerometer, to ensure support for a much wider field of games.

It goes further than even powerhouse tablets like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 by using that Tegra 3 architecture to support advanced graphical effects and exclusive games. As well as running games built for Android, the system also handles emulated games from past generations with aplomb to further extend your mobile gaming grasp.

Still, there are some drawbacks. A lack of an HDMI port means that right now it’s impossible to play your adventures on the big screen. A single micro USB port makes it hard to charge your tablet and plug in a controller at the same time. And many gaming titles on the Android marketplace haven’t been updated to support the Nexus 7 yet. These issues may yet be overcome however, and with the burgeoning developer community backing the Nexus 7 it may be quite quickly.

Even with this issues though, I’d go so far as to say that the Nexus 7 is the best mobile device for gaming right now. It’s got a price point between the PS Vita and the Nintendo 3DS but with it comes more powerful hardware and a more rapidly expanding games library, stretching from first generation consoles right up to Android-specific editions of the best and brightest franchises.

General Use

Of course, you’re not just getting an e-reader or games console out of the Nexus 7. You’re also getting a general purpose mobile computing platform that can handle a wide variety of tasks, from productivity apps to media creation to web browsing. This last point is something of a strength for the Nexus 7, with the system being one of the few mobile platforms to support Google Chrome.

That support comes courtesy of Android 4.1, the very latest version of the mobile operating system. Android 4.1 continues what 4.0 started, offering vastly improved usability courtesy of a more unified design, enhanced multi-tasking and a much more fluid user interface. This last point, which Google has termed Project Butter, makes the OS extremely quick on its feet – there’s little discernible lag anywhere now, even for fairly intensive tasks like flipping back and forth through home screens or navigating media-rich web pages. It’s the best Android OS to date and I’d encourage anyone who has only used Android 2.3 or earlier to take another look.

The fluidity of the operating system is also down to the choice of hardware – the quad-core Tegra 3 architecture is powerful, no doubt. While you’ll best notice it in graphically intense games, it also serves to speed up more commonplace tasks like rendering web pages and opening multiple apps at once. The display also does its best to make things look good. While it doesn’t match up to the Retina display of the new iPad or even the panel used in the high-end Asus Transformer Prime Infinity, it’s still a lot more than you’d expect from something of this price range.

Finally, the overall build quality of the device is very good considering its price. While some customers have received tablets with manufacturing defects like loose screens, for those that have been lucky enough to receive a fully working model will find it quite durable, with the thickness and rubber backing making for an easy to hold and long-lasting device. Asus have not embarassed themselves here, by providing something that is visually distinct from the plethora of no-name tablets that inhabit the lower price points.

Accessories

Google Nexus 7 cases are the most popular accessories at the moment for the tablet, with quite a few options available. If you’re looking for something thin and light that still imparts some protection from scratches and shock damage, then the FlexiShield Wave cases are recommended. These cases also come in multiple colours, making it a viable customisation option. If you’d prefer the utility of an integrated stand and faux-leather construction, then SD TabletWear’s SmartCase line is more suitable.

Other types of accessories are less commonplace. The Case-Compatible Sync and Charge Cradle is perhaps the best Google Nexus 7 Dock on the market, with a sleek design that incorporates both a portrait desk stand and an integrated charging and / or syncing solution but still allows for cases to be used. If you’re using the Nexus 7 as a massive satellite navigation system for your car, then the Brodit Passive Car Holder is a good choice.

We’ll likely see more accessories available for the device if its popularity continues to grow.

 

Conclusion

With the Nexus 7, Google and Asus have redefined what is possible at the $200 or £159 price point. While the device has some flaws and omissions, they are causalities of the focus and restraint that its designers have imposed in order to hit this low price point. All of the most important features – processor, display, graphics, software – are intact and this is what makes  the Nexus 7 such a strong performer, whether in media consumption, gaming or just general purpose use.

Google and Asus have ensured that their competitors will have a difficult act to follow – and with the rumoured iPad Mini and Kindle Fire 2 on the cards for a launch later this year, that is a critical success.

Pros

  • Looks good, traditional tablet but uniquely styled
  • Powerful for its price point
  • Nice display, high resolution
  • Very affordable, best bang for buck tablet available
  • Good for media, web browsing or gaming
  • Wide range of accessories

Cons

  • Not quite as powerful all round as top end tablets
  • No HDMI port, only one micro USB
  • Many games don’t support it yet

Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7

 

About The Author
William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @wsjudd or on G+.