Nexus 7 review

Google Nexus 7 tablet

Google first tablet market is Nexus 7, an Asus-made device which has impressed us no-end. Updated on 25/06/13.

Wielding Android 4.2 Jelly bean, a 7in IPS screen, a quad-core processor and a bargain price tag of £159, the Nexus 7 is a tablet which, at the least, deserves your consideration.

 See also: Google Nexus 7 tablet vs Apple iPad comparison review.

The Nexus 7 has been on the market for a while now; it's been almost a year since it launched. Over that time a number of rival tablets have arrived, most of which have arguably been copycat efforts.

Despite strong entries from the likes of Amazon with its Kindle Fire HD and Barnes&Noble with its Nook HD, the Nexus 7 is still our top pick for a budget tablet. The Nook HD is a strong contender with a higher resolution display and the recent addition of the Play Store. If you want expandable storage, it's worth taking a look at the Acer Iconia A1. See also: The 7 best tablets with expandable memory: what's the best tablet with an SD card slot?

Of course, if you do not want an Android tablet then the iPad mini is undoubtedly a great choice.

Google Nexus 7 tablet

See also: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) review.

Google Nexus 7 review: Design

As the name suggests the tablet has a 7in screen as is therefore a small tablet. The Nexus 7 is respectably thin at 10.9mm and very light at 336g. See also Group test: what's the best cheap tablet PC?

It's designed to be held in portrait mode predominantly and we found it very comfortable in one hand, in either orientation. You can easily reach right round the tablet with one hand, like you would with a smartphone. The pint-sized dimensions of 120 x 199mm mean you can also put the tablet in the back pocket of your jeans or the inside pocket of a jacket. See also: is the Nexus 7 a good deal?

Google Nexus 7 tablet rear

The front is one piece of glass only interrupted by a camera and light sensor surrounded by a silver metal frame. The back of the Nexus 7 is a dark brown, effectively black, textured cover which has a rubbery feel. The finish on the rear cover provides a good amount of grip and feels nice to the touch.

Physical buttons and ports are minimal with a power button and volume rocker on the right hand edge while a microUSB port and headphone jack reside on the bottom of the tablet.

There's also a 4-pin connector at the bottom of the left hand edge for use with future accessories like a docking station and a pair of stereo speakers sit at the bottom of the rear cover.

Google Nexus 7 review: Build quality

We've come to expect tablets with a price tag under £200 to offer poor build quality. However, the Nexus 7 throws this trend out of the window. Google's tablet is well made and feels like a premium product, almost making us double check the price.

The scratch resistant Corning glass sits neatly flush with the metal frame and the same is true of the rear cover. The buttons and ports also feel solid, not cheap and nasty like we've come to expect from budget tablets.

Google Nexus 7 tablet ports

One very small quibble we found was rippling on the screen at the top and bottom edges. This is something we saw on the HTC One X and happened when putting pressure on the display. We're not suggesting that everyone will be pushing the screen like it's one giant physical button but it is more worrying in terms of traveling with the Nexus 7 in a bag, for example.

Google Nexus 7 review: Hardware

The Nexus 7 has a surprisingly good line-up of hardware for a tablet with a budget price tag. For starters it uses the same nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor found in many high-end tablets. This is backed up by a healthy 1GB of RAM.

In the GeekBench 2 test the Nexus 7 scored highly with an average of 1452 over three runs. This reflects how smooth the tablet runs and performs. In our Egypt HD gaming test, it scored a solid framerate of 14fps.

The highlight for us is the 7in screen which uses a backlit in-plane switching (IPS) panel with a resolution of 1280 x 800. The display has excellent contrast, brightness and viewing angles. The level of detail is high thanks to the 1280 x 800 resolution giving a pixel density of 216ppi. This is higher than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) which costs more.

We found the screen good for browsing the web, playing games but even more so for watching films and other video content.

Google Nexus 7 tablet screen

Storage is limited at either 8GB or 16GB with the latter costing £199 compared to £159. It's worth noting that the full quoted capacity won't be available since the Android operating system uses around 2GB of the space.

Unfortunately a cost cutting measures mean there's no microSD for expansion. This is probably the biggest let down about the Nexus 7. Asus told us there is less focus on local storage with content stored in the cloud. However, the Nexus 7 isn’t equipped with 3G capabilities.

There is 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi so you can tether the Nexus 7 to a smartphone for data on-the-go. Other connectivity includes Bluetooth, GPS and a near-field communications (NFC) chip.

In an attempt to save costs there's no rear facing camera present on the Nexus 7. This doesn't bother us much seeing as smartphone cameras tend to be better and more suitable to use. More importantly than a rear facing camera, there is a fairly decent 1.2Mp front facing camera for video chats, though.

There's no camera app pre-installed so you'll have to visit the Play Store to get some software to utilise the camera. We found the picture quality easily adequate for taking a few snaps and video calling.

Next page: Nexus 7 Software and Battery Life>>

Google Nexus 7 review: Software

The Nexus 7 brings with it the latest version of Android, this time it's called 4.1 Jelly Bean, an incremental update to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. See also: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean FAQ: What you need to know.

There's no major overhaul of the interface so existing Android users will be immediately familiar with the layout and the way things work. However, Google has improved the performance and responsiveness of the operating system. In a word it's slick, a polished and refined version of Ice Cream Sandwich and finally closes the gap between Android and iOS.

We experienced no lag whatsoever across the entire tablet whether we were moving around the home screens, menus or scrolling through a video. Web surfing with the pre-loaded Chrome browser also gave smooth performance, loading pages fast and not batting an eyelid at pinch zooming or scrolling.

Nice enhancements have been made to notifications, now shown in a drop down bar again. Some of which expand to show more information and allow you to respond via action buttons without opening the associated app. For example, the Gmail notifications group emails together and can show the subject line of each.

Google Nexus 7 tablet Chrome browser

Widgets now resize automatically to the space you place them into while app shortcuts, and other widgets, rearrange themselves if you place a widget over the top. There isn't a great deal of pre-loaded widgets to choose from but the Play Store has plenty on offer.

The one issue we had with the interface on the Nexus 7 was that the home screens don't support a landscape mode. The tablet is designed to be held in portrait orientation but we still would like the option to use it in landscape mode as well.

Dictation can now be used offline and there are a number of improvements and changes to Google search. Search results are displayed in information cards and you can use voice to ask questions and get answers back in an audible voice, like Apple's Siri.

We found the voice recognition understood the vast majority of questions we asked and gave us an answer quickly as well as providing excellent accuracy for dictating emails and such.

Google Nexus 7 tablet voice search

Google Now is the main feature of Jelly Bean and aims to be a step ahead by predicting what information you will need, such as directions or train times so you don't actually need to manually search for it. It will gather what it thinks is useful information and presents it neatly in separate cards.

The feature is accessible via the lock screen, by swiping up from the bottom of the screen at any time or by holding the home button and selecting the Google icon. We found it really handy since it gives you all the kind of information you would usually search for with additional suggestions such as local attractions based on your location. Its downfall is the need for an internet connection meaning when you're out and about you'll have to tether it to your phone.

Probably the biggest issue with 4.1 Jelly Bean is the lack of Flash support. This means you can't, for example, watch Flash-based video content on websites like PC Advisor and while you wait for update to the BBC iPlayer app you can't access it via the Chrome browser. Until content providers move away from Flash, the Nexus 7 will be somewhat limiting. See How to add Flash to Android Jelly Bean

Google Nexus 7 review: Battery life

Google touts an iPad matching 10 hours of battery life while browsing the web over Wi-Fi using the Nexus 7's 16Wh battery. In our tests the Nexus 7 lasted two and a half days' worth of use involving regular periods of use connected to Wi-Fi.

We were pleased with this result after using the Nexus 7 for a variety of tasks. Like with most smartphones and tablets, the screen used the majority of the juice.

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Google Nexus 7: Specs

  • Screen resolution: 1280x800
  • Screen size: 7in
  • Display technology: IPS (In-Plane Switching)
  • Touch screen: Capacitive
  • Accelerometer: Yes
  • Messaging capabilities: E-mail
  • Microsoft Exchange support: Yes
  • Attachment editing: Yes
  • Attachment viewing: Yes
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Battery life (as tested): 9hours
  • Processor speed: 1.3GHz
  • Processor type: Quad core
  • Operating system: Google Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Application store: Yes
  • Internal storage: 16GB
  • Wired Terminals / Ports: 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB
  • A2DP Bluetooth: Yes
  • Wireless technology supported: Bluetooth, Wireless 802.11a, Wireless
  • 2.11b, Wireless 802.11g
  • Screen resolution: 1280x800
  • Screen size: 7in
  • Display technology: IPS (In-Plane Switching)
  • Touch screen: Capacitive
  • Accelerometer: Yes
  • Messaging capabilities: E-mail
  • Microsoft Exchange support: Yes
  • Attachment editing: Yes
  • Attachment viewing: Yes
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Battery life (as tested): 9hours
  • Processor speed: 1.3GHz
  • Processor type: Quad core
  • Operating system: Google Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Application store: Yes
  • Internal storage: 16GB
  • Wired Terminals / Ports: 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB
  • A2DP Bluetooth: Yes
  • Wireless technology supported: Bluetooth, Wireless 802.11a, Wireless
  • 2.11b, Wireless 802.11g

OUR VERDICT

Google has set a new standard for budget tablets with the Nexus 7. It's an unbelievably well-equipped device for such an affordable price. The silky smooth performance and high resolution IPS screen are the highlights for us. If you're looking for a tablet under £200 then look no further than the Nexus 7.

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