Admittedly, I was against the idea of owning a tablet initially; thinking they were heavily targeted at the wealthy/people with too much cash & time. However… well, I haven`t really changed my mind. I did, yet again congratulate Apple (in my mind) for creating a market out of nowhere for a new piece of technology. And they have. Do you know how many iPads have been sold? Loads & loads. I always thought they would become more of a niche thing for demoing portfolios for businesses or for businessmen on their travels. Apple are already such an icon for stylishness among society that I think they can just sell stuff with little effort - the power of branding.
But the iPad was instantly a write-off for me due to the price-tag. I just wasn`t interested in spending that much on a tablet, even though the integration with my other Apple products would have been nice (Apple TV & Airplay). I also looked briefly into the Samsung Galaxy & Sony Tablet ranges, & although they were appealing, I decided against them for the same reason as the iPad. So, I looked at the Arnova 7 3g (Archos brand - rebranded after bad press for unreliable hardware/software) as a budget alternative recommended by a friend. I went into HMV to play with it but came across the Nexus 7. Comparing the aesthetics & screen resolutions alone made me want the N7. I made a pretty snappy decision & bought the 16GB version @ £199.99 (it also ships as 8GB @ £165).
The N7 is the first in a line of Nexus tabs developed by Google & Asus. It runs (obviously) Google’s OS Android in which the releases are named after candy or other sweet products. The N7 comes loaded with 4.1 Jelly Bean. Being open source of course, the OS is highly customisable, & the source code is freely available to manipulate. Thus, various launchers (shells for the interface) have & are being developed. Again, compare this to Apple who are usually very tight over connectivity unless it’s among it’s own hardware. Google have thrown in £15 credit for their Google Play store (apps, movies & e-books). AND Transformers: Dark of the Moon free & a book which I have forgotten. Generous, though.
Well, the first thing I noticed was the weight (340g), it’s very nice & light, but it doesn’t feel cheap in any way at all - quite the opposite. There is a plastic back to maximise grip (even for those of us with sweaty hands.. :/ ) which is delightful to hold. The power & volume buttons are the only none-touch screen interactions you’ll have with the tab (no “home button” equivalent). There is a typical 3.5mm headphone jack & mini USB port located at the bottom of the tab which I find is a convenient place for both. The USB cable however would have been better longer than it is (only a few feet max). It acts, like the Apple products, as a standalone cable but plugs into the plug via standard USB.
The second thing I noticed was the size. 7 inches is a great size for a tab I think - portable & ergonomically friendly. The iPad is a little too big in my eyes, but each to their own. The 1280x800 (LED backlit IPS @ 16:9 aspect, too) display means HD movies look great, not full HD I know, but it means that the N7 runs smooth as hell. Nvidia’s 1.2GHz quad-core Tegra 3 chip is a sexy thing really, & means through benchmarking we get marginally higher specs than the iPad 3 ;D (http://www.itpro.co.uk/641896/apple-ipad-3-vs-google-nexus-7-head-to-head-review). The 1GB of RAM (DDR3) & 416 MHz twelve-core Nvidia GeForce GPU help too. Generally, especially with the whores of the cache & background service world (Facebook mainly) you get around 512GB of RAM free with to play with aside from the OS. The only game I have tried so far is Minecraft PE, which runs fine.
Now, to possibly my first negative point about the N7 - the flash storage. I really don’t think it’s a big deal, but I would have loved an SD card port for connectivity, especially for my photos. I know other reviewers have slammed the N7 for it, but think about it -cloud storage is the next big thing. Apple started with.. I’ve forgotten what it was called which turned into iCloud, then Microsoft announced their cloud, then Ubuntu joined in withUbuntu One (which I use), & currently they offer 5 GB free.. Also, WIFI connectivity nowadays is great. I have an app actually on my that acts as a server to transfer data to my browser on my Macbook.
In terms of battery life, the N7 has a 4325mAh Lithium Ion which is pretty impressive. Supposedly it lasts 9 hours during HD video playback & 300 hours on standby, & although I haven’t had the patience or pedantry to test that quote, I bet it would.
The list of tech features are as follows - Bluetooth (3.0) which I think is still a good interface to include at the moment for sharing for some applications. Just 1 (!) user-facing camera for video calls (which I currently haven’t tested as I have no friends) which is at 1.2MP (720p). I’ve read that Skype & other video calling is decent, though (not amazing but decent). So, another gripe according to some critics is the lack of front-facing camera, but lets face (haha) it, you people look like idiots taking a photo with your tabs in the air. NFC is the technology for interacting with car parking machines for example, & I reckon Google will integrate this heavily with Google Wallet (credit card storage & organiser application).
As for the lack of 3G… this is a point, but then as I said WIFI is so accessible now. HDMI, well, again good point. I would like to have seen one, but with interactivity over WIFI for this type of thing popping up nowadays I’m not sweating (actually I am a little but it’s unrelated). There is also an Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, digital compass, GPS, magnetometer & microphone for the various applications included on the N7 (maps, Google voice search, rotating interface etc).
So, the interface. Well, the lock screen is cool - swipe upwards & you are transported to the Google search (also voice activated) app, and any other direction to unlock normally. I suspect Google will add more actions to this later. The 3 main buttons at the base are (left to right) the return/back button, the home button & the recently accessed app button. I have found the return button can be a little confusing instead of having a close button in the software, but having one button for it makes sense. You can customise the home screen however you like with the widgets provided with the apps. For example featured or suggested items from the Google Play store, or I have a list of unread articles from the RSS reader greader. Installing apps from Google Play is a sinch, too. I really like the interface, it’s clean & simplistic & not overcrowded (my pet hate). You can add apps to the ‘dock’ at the base of the interface & also apps to folders there too (like Apple’s iPhone app folders). I love the pull-down notification tray where all your stuff appears (again lent from Apple’s iOS but I’m not complaining). You can also save screenshots holding down the power & volume down buttons simultaneously, which I love. The keyboard is nice & big so my sausage fingers have no issue punching in letters.
Ok, so one issue here I will raise which isn’t Google’s fault at all - Adobe no longer support - or even make available - their flash plugin for the N7. Now, this IS for me a big downside when viewing content on the flash-happy web. Maybe this will be addressed in the future?
Man, sorry if this has been too long to read, but, guys, I love it. I know this review hasn’t really been too impartial, but honestly I am mostly an Apple fan so I wasn’t trying to bash the iPad.. Anyway I highly recommend the N7 - especially if you use it for the same reasons as I do. I had this gut feeling that Google (& Asus) would produce solid pieces of hardware/software. I know other reviewers have rated it lower due to no front facing camera, no HDMI port, no mobile network interface (3G) & perhaps most notably no flash storage expansion. But, at least to me these aren’t groundbreaking design flaws (as I have covered in the text). All I can say is I’m glad I waited..
Sidenote: Apparently Linus Torvalds likes the N7 too (yeah I know open source)
Thanks for reading, guys.