Impressions of the Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7 in plasticIn my right hand, an iPhone 4S, taking a picture of what is in the left.

A box fresh, brand new Google Nexus 7.

One of my colleagues had told me he had ordered Google’s first tablet when it was announced earlier in the month and I had asked him rather emphatically to bring it in when he got it, as it’s the most important thing to happen in the tablet market in 6 months.

(Note: For most people, 6 months isn’t a huge amount of time. In the tech industry, it’s about 2 years.)

So, what do I think from my hands on?

Firstly, the careful new owner asked me to keep it within its plastic confines, as he didn’t want to take it out till he got a case for it. This speaks more for the owner than the device. The plastic back is robust and the screen glass was expected. Over all, the build quality was impressive for such a small form factor. I’ve manhandled other 7 inchers, but the only one that felt as sound as the Nexus 7 was the BB PlayBook. There’s a lack of flex to the device which is comforting and surprising when you think of the price, but not if you think of the manufacturer. For example the Transformer Prime from Asus has great build quality too.

Further more, there’s a comforting heft with the device. That’s not the same as weight, mind you. Theres a subjective difference, weight is a defined metric, heft is more how the device feels in the hand and in use. To say that the Nexus 7 isn’t light, but it isn’t overly heavy. It’s comfortable and just feels right for something of its size. (When the super sized iPod Touch lands later in the year – cos it ain’t gonna be no iPad Mini, people – that will get the Apple Marketing spin of being magical! as it will be ridiculously thin and light, but still have an appropriate heft and weight for the device.)

The buttons on the side of the device seemed responsive enough and were not flimsy in their movement, which is another good sign of good build quality.

Here’s a side by side photo of the Google Nexus 7 next to an iPad (3rd Gen) – It’s not unfair to say that the iPad is twice the tablet of the Nexus. Size wise 😉

Google Nexus 7 and iPad 3rd Gen Side by side

So then, the ‘buttery’ smooth Jelly Bean!

Is android 4.1 all it’s cracked up to be? Well, I had received a heads up on how the new version of Android fared in the real world, prior to getting my hands on a Nexus 7. I had been reliably informed from a Samsung Galaxy Nexus user that had received the update that it made their phone feel like a whole new beast. It was indeed as Google had Trumpeted. So given that the hardware in the Nexus 7 is considerably meatier, would it be the same experience? No. It’s better. The speed is on a par performance wise as an iPad (2 & 3rd gen) for bouncing between home screen and apps and though the menus. I didn’t get a chance to give the device a full thrashing over a WiFi connection, as there wasn’t one at the time.

The polish on Android is really starting to shine and show off the best of the OS. It’s taken some time and there is still a long way to go. Like all Android devices shipping with a unified user interface for instance!

There were a few of us in the room by this point. One fellow has been considering a tablet for some time, but the cost of an iPad and the lack of any really good alternatives had kept his money in his wallet. When he was playing with the Nexus 7, he noted that it was bigger than he thought. I then held up the iPad and he conceded that it was exactly the same size that I had shown him with a mock up a few weeks earlier.

There was one particular thing though that made him recoil his a parse a bit though. A seemingly simple thing, but the fact that the home screen didn’t have a landscape mode. We said that the Nexus 7 switches to landscape with videos and photos, but not on the menus or the home screen or from what we could tell at the time, for Chrome, which remained in portrait mode.

Over all, my initial impressions of the Google Nexus 7 were exactly what i thought they would be:

  • A very well built device
  • A showcase for the ever more capable Android OS
  • The blueprint for Android tablets
  • The precursor to a 10 inch version

I would feel very happy recommending the Google Nexus 7 to anyone that didn’t want to spend the money on a third gen iPad. That is providing that you can get your hands on them as Google seem to be selling more than they thought and even if you get one – the box isn’t the easiest thing in the world to open!

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