Getting to know the Google Nexus 7
I’ll admit, my Droid 3 isn’t treating me well these days. I’m displeased that I don’t get to enjoy the Ice Cream Sandwiches or the Jelly Beans. On top of that the Droid 3 is very prone to crashing. While the Nexus 7 looks cool, one of the main reason I bought it was to evaluate Android 4.1+ for possibly another Android phone (if I liked it), else I’m going back to iOS.
The very first thing I noticed when I picked up the Nexus 7 was the weight… or lack thereof. According to Wikipedia it tips the scale at 12 ounces, or 4 oz short of a pound. What I really noticed was that it wasn’t as heavy as the Kindle Fire, which I returned in part because it was a bit too heavy.
The Nexus 7 has a 7” screen and is sold as a tablet, but resides squarely between phones and standard tablets (10”) in size. Google decided to go with a default orientation of portrait (rather than Landscape, which is the default on the Xoom and other 10” tablets) which makes it play a little more like a phone. Now, I don’t have the largest of hands, but I can still wrap them around the back and get a solid grip on it. Speaking of solid grip, I really like the dimpled back. It’s got a little grip to it without feeling rubbery. I don’t mind the rubber feeling (I’ve mentioned liking it before), but it is nice to have a little more “clean plastic” feel without losing grip.
The display is a 7” IPS LCD which means it has really nice color reproduction. It does 1280×800 at this 7” size for a density of 216PPI which isn’t too far from the iPad 3’s retina density of 264 PPI. Between the IPS and the high PPI, the screen looks really nice. The only possible detractor is that the screen is not terribly bright. It’s bright enough, but not SUPER bright which can be a problem in certain overly bright situations (like when you go outside). I found that manually flipping over to full screen brightness helped.
The speed and responsiveness certainly make the user experience of 4.1 a HUGE leap forward from the 2.x series. While there are still nice animations all around the actions you do, many of them are executed a great deal faster. I’m a power user, so I know what I’m doing and I like to move quickly. Animations that prevent me from getting to the next task normally annoy me, but I found that this was generally not the case in Jelly Bean.
All of the “little things” they’ve polished in the UI are really beginning to make Android shine. Simple tricks like swipe to kill apps or swipe to dismiss individual notifications are FANTASTIC. You can very quickly get done what you need to do and get back to the fun things. There are hundreds of small improvements all over the operating system that address as many of those “niggling bits” that I can think of. Suffice to say, the polish is really making Android a breeze to use.
Voice Search (IE Google Siri)
The game now is “Who is better? Google or Siri?” and that is something I can’t answer. I don’t have an iOS device currently so I can’t run Siri searches. That being said, I took the Voice Search for a short spin and haven’t been disappointed. I asked it where the nearest Japanese Restaurants were and it popped up a map with all the tasty eats around me. I asked it for directions to a cross street near me, it popped up a screen showing me what it was going to do (so I could abort if I wanted to), then after a few seconds it kicked me into Google Maps with my desired directions. I can even ask it how tall Mount Fuji is (12,388 feet, by the way) while music is blasting in the background. I’ll have to spend more time with the feature to see how strong it really is, but so far it’s worked very well.
A few media reports I’ve read have referred to the Google Nexus 7 as “slick” and I wholeheartedly agree. The only major detractor I can find with the device is the lack of expandable memory. I would have loved a MicroSD slot, but honestly, I doubt I’ll put 16GB of media on the tablet, let alone more. Really the MicroSD slot is no major loss unless you’re planning to use nothing but the N7 for extended periods. It is safe to say that the Nexus 7 is $250 well spent (for the 16GB version). I won’t be returning this any time soon as it’s now my Kindle, my portable game console, my tablet, my around-the-office notepad, and, of course, my media consumption device.