Technology Review – Google Nexus 7 tablet

(My typical posts are reflections on the Bible, the church, and theology.  But I’m also an amateur tech geek, and I want to devote some space to reviewing a fine piece of hardware I’ve been fortunate to acquire this summer: the Google Nexus 7 tablet.  And while there are some thorough, professional reviews of the Nexus 7 out there on the Web, I thought I’d offer my experience as a regular guy/geek.)

The Quick:

My wife and I bought a pair of these tablets (the 8GB version is enough for our needs), his and hers, and we love them.  I use mine all the time, and I find it terribly convenient–at least as long as there is Wi-fi available.  When I’m at home, I reach for it, rather than sit down in front of the laptop/desktop, and I wander around with it.  The Nexus 7 is a pleasure to use, and I feel good that we only spent $199 each (plus $25 credit at Google Play).  I can fit it in my pocket or any bag and take it with me.  No, it’s not a substitute for my laptop or desktop (although I did download the free Kingsoft Office app which allows me to create a wide range of documents), but it’s simply great for reading and media consumption.

The wife and I took them to Europe with us, and they worked great for video chatting with our families back in the U.S., not to mention reading books on the long flights we endured.  It was also handy to have the GPS enabled on these, so we could verify where we were from time to time.  Here are the pros and cons, based on my experience:

The Pros:

  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS (nice improvement over 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • price and value (totally obliterates more expensive tablets, like the Toshiba Excite 7.7, as well as the wimpy-by-comparison Kindle Fire)
  • quad-core Tegra 3 processor (wow), plus a great GPU (although I’m not much of a gamer, I’m told this is an excellent gaming tablet)
  • impressive display (1280×800 HD 216 ppi)
  • smooth as butter (no lag)
  • 7″ form factor (like most Android tablets, it is 16:9, but I think a 4:3 display would be an intriguing option someday)
  • runs all my favorite apps (Skype, Kindle, Facebook, Biblegateway, Pandora,, etc.)
  • Chrome is the stock browser, and it syncs all my Chrome bookmarks
  • full Google suite (Google Play, YouTube, Maps, Gmail, Google+)
  • cool rubberized back that is more grippy than other devices I’ve held
  • GPS
  • virtual keyboard (I actually don’t mind typing when it’s in portrait mode; it’s much more comfortable than a smart phone, which is too small)

The Cons:

  • no expandable memory (seriously, even cheap tablets have a microSD slot!)
  • construction flaw (my tablet’s display and back were not firmly sealed together along the left side; it might only be a millimeter or two, but there’s definitely a little click and movement when I squeeze the left side)
  • no HDMI out port
  • no rear-facing camera (although this is not a deal breaker for all the other pros)
  • home screen locked to portrait (they want you to treat the Nexus 7 like a big phone)
  • sketchy speaker that points backwards (it’s also very close to the microphone, so it interferes when video chatting)
  • battery life (although it’s rated at 4325 mAh, it seems like kind of an energy hog; I end up charging that thing a lot)

The Conclusion:

No, the Nexus 7 is not an iPad killer, and yes, it is limited in what it can do.  But the real killer feature for the Nexus 7 is the value: for the price, you get a lot of tablet.  A lot.  This past summer I also ordered two cheaper Android tablets for our kids to use for gaming (especially on a long road trip we took).  And I regret it.  I bought the Idolian TurboTab C8 from an Amazon dealer, and when it arrived the back and display were not remotely connected to each other.  It also wouldn’t hold the microSD card in the slot.  So back it went, permanently (and I really wanted to like the Idolian tablet, since it seemed a good balance of price and features!).  I also bought the Zenithink C71 tablet from an eBay dealer for a steal.  But with technology, you usually get what you pay for.  The first C71 eventually wouldn’t “wake up,” so I exchanged it for another one that wouldn’t wake up or take a microSD card.  So back it went, too.  (On balance, the Idolian had a brighter screen and was sleeker than the C71, but they were both too chintzy, even for me.)

I would gladly recommend the Nexus 7 to anyone interested in the 7″ tablet market.  It’s way ahead of everything else in this category (sure, there are rumors of a similarly sized iPad this fall, if you swing the Apple way), from software to hardware.  And all at a good price.  Which, for a cheapskate like me, is icing on the cake.

8 out of 10 stars.


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