Emerging Technology

GADGET WATCH: Nexus 7

Patrick Stafford /

It was no surprise when Google unveiled its Nexus tablet last week – it had been rumoured for months. What was a surprise, however, was that the device actually appeared to be pretty well made, and a steal at only $200.

But there are plenty of Android tablets on the market, and they’ve all sung the “cheap, but quality” song before. Can the Nexus 7 actually break free from the pack and compete in the Apple-dominated market?

Hardware and Features

The Nexus 7 is manufactured by Asus, and obviously comes with a seven-inch screen. It’s powered by a 1.3Ghz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, and is running the latest version of Android – 4.1 Jelly Bean.

The screen puts out a resolution of 1280×800 pixels, and comes with a USB 2.0 port, a microUSB port, along with NFC. There’s a GB of RAM in there, along with the usual features – accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and voice recording as well.

There’s only a front-facing camera, to be used for Skype and other types of video chats, but such a low resolution won’t be used for any photography.

What’s the consensus?

First up is the construction of the device. For $200 you would expect some shoddy casing, but according to The Verge, that isn’t the case. In fact, it calls the Nexus “impressively built and styled”.

“Like most other tablets, what you mainly see is a glossy, black-bevelled display. In this case, that display is ringed by a matte silver band which looks like metal, but is a rigid plastic. Around back, the device is covered in a soft-touch, dimpled material which has the feel of taut leather.”

“It feels good to hold in your hands. That soft backing strikes me as decidedly different to other tablets in its class, and seems far more smudge resistant than something like the Fire.”

Other reviewers agree, PCMag pointing out the tablet feels “even classy” for its $200 price range.

But the real star here is Jelly Bean, the latest version of the Android software. Android has always had a problem with making the tablet experience as smooth as possible – so how did it fare here?

As TechCrunch points out, this is the first time the OS has properly introduced new users with tips and tricks to use when navigating. It also says the experience is smooth, noting that touch responsiveness has been improved, and that even the system font has been given an overhaul.

Back over at PCMag, it noted the performance from the Tegra 3 processor provides some great speeds for games, and browsing in general.

“This is the first Google device to install Chrome as the default browser, and that’s great; it’s about 30% faster than the older stock Android browser, and it has a better tab interface,” it said.

However, it did also say the device has some trouble with processing stylus touch inputs.

Back at The Verge, the publication criticised the camera, saying while it gets the job done it won’t serve for much more than video conferencing. And it also said the limited storage capacity – 8GB or 16GB – will turn some users away.

However, it did have good things to say about the screen, noting that text and images “look crisp and clear”. TechCrunch even said the screen looks better than its counterpart on the Kindle Fire.

The performance was also a key point, saying the speed was “particularly slouch-free”. It did point out some unstable scrolling action but, overall, said the performance drawbacks weren’t something most users would notice.

But over at PCMag, it did have some criticisms of Google Play, the company’s marketplace, saying there were some crashes. However, it said while you may have to be careful about using some codecs and file sizes, overall the performance was good.

Who’s it for?

It’s clear the Nexus 7 isn’t going up directly against the iPad. Its competitors are the Kindle Fire, and the Galaxy Tab, even if it’s being marketed to the same customers who are considering purchasing an Apple tablet.

At its price point, this is the best tablet you can buy. It’s cheap, but extremely well made and despite some drawbacks, gives a good performance.

If you’re price conscious and can’t bear the thought of handing over hundreds of dollars for an iPad, then the Nexus 7 is looking like your best bet – a cheap tablet that can actually get the job done.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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