Google Nexus 7 review
It's immediately clear that the Nexus 7 is largely designed to be a portrait-orientation device. Unlike most tablets the home screen only works in this form factor, which can lead to some awkward switches when moving between one landscape task, such as watching a video, and another, such as typing an email on onscreen keyboard. This is a little awkward and we'd have preferred a rotating home screen. By default the Nexus 7 is actually locked into portrait, and you have to find the software switch on the notification bar to disable this - there's no hardware switch unfortunately - which is a bizarre choice but one easily remedied.
Speaking of the notification bar, it drops down the centre of the screen, without filling the width. It looks a little odd at first, like it has been shoehorned in from a phone with a slimmer, smaller display. However, it actually makes it easier to digest (much like the columns of text in a newspaper or magazine) and it doesn't completely remove you from the task at hand. It's also been improved, so you can take actions directly from the bar, such as sending a reply or sharing an incoming message with others.
Google's store, incorporating everything from apps, to games, plus movies, books, comics and a lot more, is still improving. The lack of big-selling tablet hardware is certainly as issue; with few games, for example, taking full advantage of the larger screen area and resolution on offer. Android users seem to be averse to paying serious money for applications, though hopefully the Nexus 7 can change that with more developers devoting more resources into tablet apps that owners want to buy. For now, however, Android is still playing catch-up with Apple in this area and that will take some time to turn around.
A widget showing recently used content (such as books and movies) from your Google Play library is loaded by default to cover the entire of the main page of the home screen. It's easily removed, or resized, but it's a clear statement of intent about what's important to Google here.
IS IT FOR YOU?
The Google Nexus 7 is, in many ways, incredible value; however, to achieve that price it looks like Google is planning to make its profit later via Google Play. A number of design decisions, such as the small amount of memory and lack of an SD card slot support this, and software decisions, such as the removal of Flash from the latest version of Android are also suspiciously timed. Despite all this, the Google Nexus 7 is still an incredible bargain; though it's worth thinking about how and when you're going to use it before stumping up the cash.
If you've already invested in a super-sized smartphone, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, then the Nexus 7 may not have much appeal, as you're less likely to carry both with you, and your handset has the advantage of a 3G connection. The tablet's bigger screen does have its advantages, but we're not sure they're sufficient to justify an additional device.
For use on the move it's more likely to appeal to those with smaller or aging handsets, who don't want to make an expensive upgrade to a far bigger device. They will then have to pre-load the content they need though, so it'll take a bit of fiddling with apps at the outset to get the most out of it. Even Kindle devotees may be tempted to make the switch. The reading experience isn't as good of course, but the addition of video, games and cached news is a compelling argument.
Around the home it's more straightforward, the screen isn't huge, but it's still a great little device for streaming video or TV, browsing the web or playing games. The lack of an HDMI port is a little disappointing, as it would have been good to play movies or games on a bigger screen, or use it to control photo slideshows. All of these are possible still, except for games, by streaming such content to a DLNA-capable smart TV or set top box. Kids will absolutely love it, as it's sized just right for them and more than powerful enough for any mobile game, plus at a fraction of the price of the iPad it's not such a disaster if it falls foul of rough handling.
It could be argued that the larger and more expensive Google Nexus 10 is a better accompanying device for today's sizeable flagship smartphones - and if you own the such a phone then it's a better buy. At this price, though, the Nexus 7 is a real impulse purchase, and having seen the quality of the device we'd say just go for it. It's a fantastic tablet and one that practically everyone will find a use for.
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