Google Nexus 7

If you're looking for a tablet for games, media and books, the Nexus 7 is an outstanding device, sold at a great price. What it doesn't have, you probably won't miss.


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CNET Rating
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About The Author

CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Design

Physically speaking, the difference between Android tablets and Apple's iPad has, for the most part, been in the little things. Not unimportant things, mind you, but features that are small in size. A micro-HDMI port, for example, is something we expect to see on an Android tablet, micro-SD card slots too. Some Android tablets play host to USB ports, both full size and micro, and some have a slot that also read the SD card you use in your digital cameras.

Not so with the Nexus 7. Google's approach is far simpler than its OEM partners. Opting to follow Apple's lead, Google has designed a tablet with the bare minimum of openings, ports and slots. There's a single micro-USB port at the base of the tablet, which is used for both charging and data transfers, and there is a 3.5mm headphone socket on the top. Otherwise, the tablet is sealed in a comfortable, plastic chassis, with a dimpled texture to hold on to.

The Nexus 7 is light, and its textured cover is comfortable to hold.
(Credit: CBSi)

It's not the slimmest mobile gadget around; the Nexus 7 is about 10.5mm thick, but thankfully, it is one of the lightest tablets you can buy. At 340-grams, Google estimates that this tablet weighs the same as a standard paperback (think Pride and Prejudice, not War and Peace) and it is certainly one of the most comfortable to hold, even for long stretches of time.

The screen is probably the reason Google chose to work with Asus on this project, given the success Asus has had with its tablet displays thus far. The screen on the Nexus 7 is fantastic for the price you'll pay, offering an HD resolution IPS panel with responsive multi-touch controls. Colours and blacks could be bolder, but text onscreen is crisp and gradients appear smoothly. Off-axis viewing angles are good, though not as good as those on the larger Asus Transformer models.

It's also worth noting that the Nexus 7 doesn't have a rear-facing camera. There is a 1.2MP front-facing lens for video-calling, but there is no camera for everyday photography. Some may disagree, but we think this a wise decision. Cameras on tablets tend to be of a poor quality and are awkward to use because of the larger size of the devices themselves.

We do feel Google is missing a trick in not including an HDMI port on the Nexus 7, though. This tablet is primarily a multimedia consumption device, and the option to share the content on the tablet with a larger screen makes sense to us. That said, we doubt may Nexus 7 owners will miss this functionality, either way.

Android Jelly Bean

One of the best reasons to consider the Nexus 7 over any of the other Android tabs available at the moment, is that you are all-but guaranteed to have the latest version of Android as soon as Google releases it. The Nexus 7has the Jelly Bean version for now, and while we've published more detailed opinions on this update already, it is worth pointing out the top-line pros and cons, as it informs so much of how this review is constructed.

For starters, Jelly Bean is definitely better than all previous versions of Android. It feels slick and fast and there is almost no processing lag whatsoever. Animated transitions appear fluid and they respond to all touchscreen input, however subtle. There is the standard suite of Google apps pre-installed, plus a few new ones like Google's Flipboard-style news reader, called Currents. You also get a free movie (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and AU$25 credit on the Play store, which is substantial when you consider that you can buy the 8GB version of this tablet for AU$249.

Google Now is also installed, a new application which attempts to deliver information to you, before you request it. For example, if you tell the tablet your route to work and home each day, it will, in theory, give you traffic warnings before you set out in either direction. You can also tell it where you live and which sporting teams you like, among other things, and it will keep you up to date with weather and scores. To launch Google Now you simply swipe upwards from the virtual Home button on the navigation bar.

Really, Google Now? You think I should hang out at Scruffy Murphy's?
(Credit: CBSi)

In our tests, Google Now was pretty useless. We couldn't plug in Australian sporting teams, and we didn't find the automatic navigation suggestions very helpful. From the sample cards you can browse through, it seems like a great feature for travellers with flight times and currency and language translators on hand. We did find the updated voice search feature far more useful though, with voice-to-text translation providing far more accurate results than previously.

Performance

Matching the tablet's excellent screen and design, Google and OEM partner Asus pack in some of the best of this generation's mobile hardware. Opting for an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, Google pretty much guarantees that you'll be able to run anything in its app store with this tablet, plus future proofs it for some time to come. It seamlessly handled all of our tests, all games and HD video content we threw at it, and it multitasked between these apps without complaint.

In synthetic benchmark comparisons, the Nexus 7 certainly held its own. It's BrowserMark result was excellent, using the Chrome browser for Android, and 17.69 frames-per-second in a 3D rendering benchmark is solid, though not mind-blowing.

BrowserMark benchmark results

  • 90748
    Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
  • 92805
    ASUS Transformer 300T
  • 103580
    Apple iPad (2012)
  • 118591
    ASUS Nexus 7
  • 120154
    Acer Iconia 510

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Battery life in tablets is never as much of a concern as it is with smartphones, especially a 7-inch tablet that doesn't have 3G connectivity. Asus includes a 4325mAh battery pack in the Nexus 7 and delivers Energizer Bunny-like results, with 10 hours of 720p video playback in our tests, over five hours of web browsing and approximately five days of standby between charges. As with the display, it is great that battery life is not one of the areas sacrificed to keep the price low.

Connectivity considerations

One important thing to remember about the Nexus 7 is that there is no 3G option — this tablet is strictly Wi-Fi only. If you feel like you're going to need data regularly when you're on the move, you might look to some of the other 3G models available.

Of course, savvy smartphone users will know that you can easily share the data on your smartphone account with this tablet, using the personal Wi-Fi hotspot option on most current smartphones. You might need to increase your monthly data allowance through your telco if you take this route, but it will give you the data you need on the Nexus 7, when you need it.

Storage

Perhaps the most limiting feature of the Nexus 7 is that it only comes in 8GB and 16GB storage options, and there is no way to expand this memory with an SD card, or similar. This means you have to figure out in advance whether the extra AU$50 for the 16GB is money well spent, or not. Only offering these two options is obviously part of Google's plans to keep the price of the Nexus 7 to a minimum, but it definitely creates an obstacle for users with large media libraries.

It might mean that you will have to consider alternatives to local storage for certain file types. Photos and documents can be accessed easily and quickly when they are archived on a cloud storage tool like Dropbox, though this won't work so well for videos. Also, if you have a large music collection, you might consider signing up to a streaming service like Spotify, rather than dumping all of your MP3 files on the memory of this tablet.

Overall

Google's tablet is easily our favourite Android tablet, blowing past the excellent Asus Transformer in our esteem with its lightweight design and low price. We've seen other tablets in this price range before, but none have come close to delivering the performance of the Nexus 7, or having a screen of the same quality as you get here.

This is an important tablet for geeks, as it will be the best way to stay up to date with Google's platform as it advances. For everyone else, the Nexus 7 is a great value tablet and a solid alternative for anyone who wants an iPad, but isn't prepared to pay top-dollar for one.



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mhorn43 posted a comment   
Australia

I really want a Nexus 7!

What is a really cheep website to purchase it from?

 

jakethesnake posted a comment   
Australia

Is it possible to use a 3g 32g Nexus 7 as a mobile ?, It would be sweet if I could have a tablet and a mobile in one device and its a lot cheaper then a note 2

jimsutt
9
Rating
 

"Great device, pity it wont connect to my WiFi Hotspot .."

jimsutt posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Great Screen, great goggle experience ..

The Bad:Not much ... WiFi is Infrastructure mode only ... Pity ..

Bad: I have tried to connect to a Nexus 7 using the WiFi HotSpot from my phone (Nokia N8) .. It dosen't work because the Nexus 7 does not accept Ad Hoc WiFi only Infrastructure mode .. I am not sure if there is a work around for this problem but because I need to use the Nexus on the road it's not really suitable for me ...

Good: I love this device, great goggle experience

Cheers
Jim

 

AdamB9 posted a comment   

There is a 3G one available now but not supported by the two main carriers, Vodafone and Telstra

Fuzz24
9
Rating
 

"Quality and cheap"

Fuzz24 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Crisp speed, light and ergonomic, great speed and battery life, cheap!

The Bad:No expandable memory

Bought a Nexus 7 and haven't regretted it at all, it is easily the best bang for buck on the market. I mainly bought it to read books and pdfs, it is incredibly clear and the scrolling in pdf docs is smooth and considerably lighter than other tablets out there.

One thing I love is the OS is smooth as hell and doesn't have any of the mild motion stuttering I've found in other various android machines including the the tab 2 7.7. The battery easily lasts two days, and that was doing moderate internet activity and app installing.

I've never needed the back camera other tablets have, if it shaves off the cost then I'm happier. For $300 you get the performance speedof the $500 tablets. The speaker is decent enough, but I believe ipads still have a better sound quality. If they had expandable storage I would have given it a 10.

ThePis7olStar
3
Rating
 

"Broken after one week"

ThePis7olStar posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nothing

The Bad:Audio

I recently received the Nexus 7 as a birthday present and for use for school work. I received it exactly one week ago and upon using it today the audio ceased and after some fiddling with the settings it came back but with a buzz to it or a vibration the noise. It has also been extremely slow whilst going this. Extremely disappointed with it. Don't know if want to risk getting it replaced. Not to mention the money wasted on apps.

 

SpyderJ posted a reply   
Australia

This isn't a review. All you're doing is complaining that the particular Nexus 7 you have is faulty. Complain to Google, not in the REVIEW section of a website.

 

AlexV1 posted a comment   
Australia

Hey Joseph ,
New Sony Tablet Information just leaked via Mobiflip website...Quad Core Tegra 3, Alluminium Body with folded magazine design ,Splashproof , running ICS and 6000 mAH battery..

 

"MARKED AS SPAM BY AKISMET"

Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   
Australia

Thanks for the tip!

 

Retro55 posted a reply   
Australia

Joseph Hanlon, Have you Reviewed the new Bauhn 9.7" Android Tablet 16 GBWith dual processor ... Model No: AMiD-972XSCurrently being sold through Aldi StoresCan you please post your views on the Bauhn Tablet Also what does WCDMA/EVDO meanAnyone else with view on Bauhn Tablet Happy to read... It is not the single core one sold by Aldi last July.Retro 55

 

petermchardy posted a reply   
Australia

Yep... Good call... I am waiting on that one myself... Would be nice if they came up with native support for SDXC cards so you didn't have to format the larger ones using FAT instead of EXFAT... As good as the NEXUS is too much of it is of no use in Australia and if you camp or like the odd road trip then not having expandable storage is complete crap... For the price though... Pretty handy.

 

KaweeshaW posted a comment   

hi,
I'm a university student and i'm planning to buy a tablet just for uni work. basically all I want to do is take notes, edit/annotate PDFs, and surf web. my initial thought was to buy an iPad, but then i saw this and thought it would be pretty cool to try an android device. but i'm still a bit unsure about this. any thoughts?

 

MarkM7 posted a comment   
Australia

I am trying to de-apple my life and the Nexus is the first step. Its a great toy, It fits in my old leather Filofax, it plugs into my apple laptop and lets me transfer media to it easily enough. I love the clean interface (unlike apples drop shadows on every icon). I love the price point the most, it means it's affordable. I had a macbook air and recently its battery just...expanded, and blew out the keyboard. Thats over $1600 down the drain because its out of warranty. Conversely, if the Nexus 7 has any issues past its warranty date I feel alot better knowing it cost around $300. And if Google bring out a new one i'll give this one to my kids who are already playing riptide GP on it ALL THE TIME. Next up is getting a google phone. Bye bye apple.

 

SpyderJ posted a reply   
Australia

Don't forget too Mark, that even if you're out of warranty, consumer protection laws in Australia require the manufacturer to repair/replace a product if the problem is due to a manufacturing fault or defect...

Lifehacker has a good discussion about it here in regard to iPhones:

http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/08/how-to-get-apple-to-replace-a-defective-out-of-warranty-iphone-in-australia/

(though of course Apple still try to take the p*ss when it's a home button problem =)

PhilippaP Facebook
7
Rating
 

"I'd give it a 10 if it had expandable memory"

PhilippaP posted a review   
Australia

The Good:fast, easy to setup and navigate, great google experience

The Bad:Not expandable, no back camera (for scanning)

My Nexus 7 arrived last Friday (20/7) and I've played with it off and on ever since. It's good - benchmarks well (though not as well as CNET seemed to be able to get, mine didn't come out any faster than my iPad2 - still, that's fast.
The experience of setting up the Nexus is really simple if you already have an Android device (much like ios) although you have to manually download all your favourite apps, they are all there in the Play Store (dumb name, I preferred Market) and it's easy to see what needs to be downloaded, altho it isn't until you try that you find out what's compatible with Jelly Bean and what isn't.
All in all I like it, but hate that the memory isn't expandable, that was a bit mistake I think.
Like the Nexus7 tho' I do, over all, I prefer my Samsung GT 7.7" (I just wish Samsung would pull their finger out and release ICS, because I'm fed up with Honeycomb), until Apple bring out a smaller iPad at least.

Thanks for the review CNET, pretty much spot on as always.


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User Reviews / Comments  Google Nexus 7

  • mhorn43

    mhorn43

    "I really want a Nexus 7!

    What is a really cheep website to purchase it from?"

  • jakethesnake

    jakethesnake

    "Is it possible to use a 3g 32g Nexus 7 as a mobile ?, It would be sweet if I could have a tablet and a mobile in one device and its a lot cheaper then a note 2"

  • jimsutt

    jimsutt

    Rating9

    "Bad: I have tried to connect to a Nexus 7 using the WiFi HotSpot from my phone (Nokia N8) .. It dosen't work because the Nexus 7 does not accept Ad Hoc WiFi only Infrastructure mode .. I am not sur..."

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