Enter the Nexus
Summer 2012 saw the launch of the Nexus 7. Designed and developed by Google in conjunction with Asus, it’s the first tablet in the popular Google Nexus series. Featuring a 7-inch 1280×800 HD display, quad-core processing, up to 32GB (from Oct 2012) of on-board storage and a host of bells and whistles; the most important being it’s a stock Android experience and guaranteed to get updated software way before pretty much everybody else. No fuss, no mess, no clunky UI overlays.
I’d been toying with the idea of getting an N7 since the device was first released, however as I was rocking an original Sony Tablet S1, with 16GB on-board storage AND a 32GB SD card, and the N7 initially topped out at 16GB I was reluctant to take the plunge.
However, over the remainder of the year I spent some time trying to source additional accessories for my S1, things like a spare charger – unsurprisingly from a Sony product, the S1 has a proprietary connection – and/or a charging cradle and after coming up short, I started to change my mind. Namely as, with the release of the Xperia Tablet, the S1 was gradually rendered obsolete. There was a software update to the device in September 2012, to bring some features in line with Xperia Tablet, but since then there has been nothing. Rumours were abound at start of February 2013 the S1 wouldn’t be getting the Jelly Bean upgrade and with my patience thoroughly exhausted I decided to abandon the device, just like its makers had.
As stated above the 32GB variant of the Nexus 7 was introduced shortly before Christmas, to appease the grumbles from consumers who wanted more storage on the device. Not that this grumble was entirely without merit as the Nexus series of devices do not come with expandable storage – it’s all about the cloud with Google. And in some ways it’s all the better for it – making me choose what I want to watch or listen to, without having to trawl through thousands of tracks across multiple storage formats and the occasional erratic behaviour from the scripts required to bind the SD card.
Speaking of music and movies, the Nexus can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. 720p movies now stream from a server or play on the device without a hint of the ‘digital wash’ that used to appear on the dual-core Tablet S and was a sign of the processor struggling to keep up with the feed. It plays music quite well through the on-board speaker too and has a decent enough EQ that should appease casual and discerning listeners alike.
Regarding the speed of the device, it’s not that it’s quick, it’s that it’s so fast and so slick, the dual-core Tablet S pales in comparison and I thought that was pretty quick. You can egg the device on to go faster by using something like CPU Master and clocking the speed up to somewhere between 1100MHz and 1300MHz for the best results.
Of course to do something like this you need to be rooted. On the Sony, this was a pickle but Google’s embracing of the development community is fully evident here; with an accessible bootloader, you can do whatever you want. For example, the stock factory image for 4.2.2 was released just a few days ago. Within a few minutes I’d downloaded the image, installed it to the N7 and rooted, booted etc. In addition to this, the freedom offered by the N7 has thrown open the doors to some spectacular work from the guys over at XDA and beyond. Now that’s certainly progress you can’t buy from other rival devices retailing at a much higher price.
And for the price of £200 the N7 certainly feels a lot more expensive. The construction is sturdy and solid, without a hint of the creaking in the body I’d read about in other reviews. The grippy back panel works wonders as well and has saved the device more than once from flying out of my hands. At 216 PPI on a 7 inch screen, the display is vivid and gorgeous. I could go and on spewing superlatives about how great it is without once getting to a bad point. I can’t find one! Even with a decent case for protection it fits quite neatly into my inside coat pocket. Portable, durable, reliable and affordable – the Nexus 7 is a great effort from Google and Asus and a decent stepping stone into the tablet market for the uninitiated.