Google Nexus 7 review
Android has blossomed on smartphones in the last couple of years, with Google-powered handsets outselling everything else. Despite this, the operating system has struggled on tablets, with sales remaining well behind those of the mighty iPad. Big-brand manufacturers struggled to create compelling devices to undercut the Apple tablet, largely due to the fact that they weren't getting a cut of any app or content sales further down the line. Budget devices, meanwhile, were often of poor quality, didn't come with key Google applications and used outdated versions of the operating system. Something had to change.
Could the little Nexus 7 be the tablet turning point for Android
It now it has, with Google launching its first own-brand tablet, the Nexus 7, which looks to be the answer to all of Android's tablet woes. It's beautifully-made, with Asus taking on hardware design and manufacturing duties; it comes with the latest version of Android - 4.1 Jelly Bean; and, best of all, it costs just £159 for the basic model - the same price the Kindle launched for in the UK.
Before you even turn on the Nexus 7, it feels like a quality piece of kit, which isn't a surprise given that Asus is responsible for the excellent Transformer tablet line and the cutting-edge ZenBook laptops. With a 7in display and weighing 340g, holding and carrying the Nexus 7 is a lot like carrying one of the larger Kindle models, although it weighs around 50 per cent more.
It's fairly slender at 105mm, but it won't win any awards
It's 10.5mm thick, which isn't the slimmest tablet out there, but it feels far from bulbous. The edges are largely featureless compared to some Android devices, with just a power button and volume rocker on the right, and a headphone socket and USB port at the bottom. The back has a rubberised, dimpled finish, which makes the tablet easy to keep hold of, and a tiny, speaker grille strip.
The front is featureless, bar the tiny webcam above the screen, as all the controls are provided on-screen. There's no main camera, only a front mounted 1.2-megapixel webcam for video chat; there's no camera app installed for this, but you can download one from Google Play (such as the ever-popular Instagram) and take self-portraits if you wish. There's a microphone so you can talk to whoever you're chatting to, or to the Nexus 7 itself (see below).
The 7in display uses the same IPS screen technology seen in most high-end laptops and tablets. It's covered in a scratch resistant glass, from Gorilla Glass-makers Corning, and so should stand up to some abuse.
With a 1,280x800 resolution packed into a relatively small display you get a very sharp-looking 216 pixels-per-inch. That's not quite new iPad levels of detail, but it does make it very hard to see individual pixels. The display is bright too, with vibrant colours, and we had no problems with the automatic brightness setting. It's a fantastic little screen, and would be respectable on a device nearly twice the price; for a budget tablet it’s simply incredible.
The rubberised back panel makes it easy to keep hold of
AND NVIDIA MAKES IT THREE
The Tegra 3 chipset has an additional low-power, fifth CPU core, which helps to reduce battery consumption during less intensive tasks. We ran our continuous playback H.264 video test on the tablet, which is non-intensive as it's decoded under hardware support. The Nexus 7's sizeable 4,325mAh battery (just over the twice the size of the Samsung Galaxy S3's) lasted an impressive ten hours and 20 minutes. That's almost enough to get through all three of the extended editions of Lord of the Rings on a single charge.