Google Nexus 7 review
UPDATED - FREE UPGRADE
The core tablet ingredients of screen, battery and chipset are impressive, but beyond that the specification of the basic model is fairly meagre. The £159 Nexus has now been updated from its original 8GB of memory up to a more reasonable 16GB of storage. A 32GB version is available, but it will cost you an additional £40.
If you want more storage though you'll have to stump up, as there's no microSD card slot on the device. That said, 16GB should be enough for most uses, as we can't see most people loading all their music onto it, as your phone is a better place for that. The fairly limited storage is only likely to bother those who want to carry around a lot of video. Still, we feel that a card slot would have been a useful addition, and those who want to watch video on the go will need to manage the space available.
Having said that, Android is still a very easy operating system to load your own video content onto and to get it to play. Drag-and-drop file transfers from a PC and a wide range of media players with support for every imaginable format make it the clear choice for those who like to take control over their media files. It's a shame then that's there's no HDMI output, though you can always stream files on the device to a DLNA-enabled smart TV or via a media playing set top box or Blu-ray player.
UPDATED - ON THE GO
Another recent addition to the Nexus 7 line-up is a 32GB model with 3G mobile support (HSPA+) for £239. The original devices lacked such an option, but given the tablet's easily-portable size it's a great option to have - and one that is a whopping £210 cheaper than the equivalent (although admittedly bigger at 7.9in) Apple iPad Mini. Now, the iPad Mini does support 4G data for higher speeds, but that's still an expensive option.
An alternative is to connect your Nexus 7 to your smartphone and use its data connection. For longer journeys where you want to settle back with some entertainment, but still get email alerts to the device you're holding, that will work fine. It's a bit fiddly everyday use, though, when you just want to check your email, not to mention the drain on your phone's battery.
UPDATED - FANTASTIC FOUR.2
The Nexus 7 has been updated since release with Android 4.2, which takes this brilliant tablet and makes it even better. For the full breakdown of the top new features see our Android 4.2 review. Here we'll look at the key features and how they affect the Nexus 7 specifically.
Google goes to great lengths here to show how much smoother Jelly Bean is than ICS
The biggest update is undoubtedly the inclusion of multiple user accounts, the first time we've seen this fully integrated into a tablet operating system. You can now a single tablet between multiple family members or friends, which could make it a handy, permanent addition to your coffee table.
Each user logs in using their own Google account (if you've got Gmail then you've got an account already) and so receives their own email, can have their own favourites in the browser, and even has their own apps. This does mean that each user has to buy their own apps, as you won't be able to use apps on other's accounts, though. Still, it's a brilliant addition and one that puts the Nexus 7 one step ahead of Apple's tablets in this regard.
Another big update, for the Nexus 7 at least, is that the home screen now works in nay orientation you wish. On release it was locked to portrait use - like a phone - which was annoying when you wanted to switch between a landscape task - such as a movie or some games - and the home screen and back again. Now it rotates to any direction, problem solved.
Other new additions include improved notifications, which are now actionable, so you can call or text back to a missed call number directly from the notifications bar. Which reduces the number of prods required to undertake common tasks.
On the Nexus 7 you also get separate notifications and settings pull-down menus, which are accessed by swiping down from the upper right or upper left of the screen respectively. The new settings menu gives you easy access to many commonly used settings in a simple tile-based format.
One disappointment of the update is that the Nexus 7 didn't gain the same wireless video output capabilities seen on the Google Nexus 4. With no HDMI output, it would have been good to see support for Intel's WiDi standard for connecting the tablet to your TV.
FLASH IN THE PAN
One major annoyance at present with Android 4.1 is the removal of Flash support - both in the Chrome browser and any other browser you care to install through Google Play. Adobe's Flash Player also can't be installed separately through Google Play. This is down to Adobe stopping support to concentrate on its AIR platform, but it does throw up a few annoying issues. The most immediate one for us is that without Flash, the BBC iPlayer stops working, both in the app or when you browse to the site. Given that catch-up TV is one of the best uses for Wi-Fi tablets around the home, this is a major blow and one that can't be fixed quick enough for us.
Speaking of content from other providers, the Kindle app still installs fine on Android 4.1. Google may be keen for you to buy your books through Play, but it's not yet brave, or silly, enough to cut us off from the most popular online store for such content. The screen is well-sized for reading books, being a little bigger than a Kindle's. It obviously can't match an E Ink display for contrast, but it's fine for quick bursts and with Amazon's synced bookmarks turned on you can switch devices at any time without losing your page.
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