Tablets

Google's Nexus 7 tablet: Good device, great price

Find out why Donovan Colbert thinks the Google Nexus 7 tablet is probably the best tablet on the market but won't blow the doors open for enterprise tablet adoption.

The big news right now in tablets is the Google Nexus 7. Even notoriously pro-Apple tech writers are mostly gushing about the Nexus 7, some calling it the best tablet on the market. The two things that they're most impressed with are the build quality and the new features of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

For a device that retails for $199 ($249 with 16GB), the Nexus 7 is very well built (see the specs) and offers almost all of the features that most users will want. Here are some of the exceptions:

  • Instead of a metal frame surrounding the Corning scratch-resistant glass, the Nexus sports plastic -- honestly, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 feels more like iPad premium quality (and price).
  • The "leather-like rubber back" didn't impress me.
  • There's no SD card slot.
  • Google was hoping that users would leverage the cloud, but people want their data local, which was evident by the excessive demand for the 16GB version. This caused a supply shortage of the more expensive model.

Android's newest OS, Jelly Bean, is nice, but it isn't really a quantum leap. The fundamental improvements are the introduction of Google Now, better notifications, and the Project Butter enhancements to the OS and app smoothness. However, if you've been using Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tegra quad-core Android tablet daily, you'll hardly notice the difference. Let's take a closer look at these improvements:

  • Honestly, Google Now feels a little pasted on to the OS, when it should be front and center in the Android experience. The ability to configure Google Now as your "default home" would also have made sense. Instead, the easiest way to access Google Now is by long-pressing the home soft key and swiping up.
  • Notification improvements are subtle. They're not going to change your world, but they improve the experience in a transparent way.
  • As for Project Butter -- yes, it makes a difference. There's less stuttering, jittering, and missed input. I can tell the difference when I go back to my ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF300, and the TF300 is no slouch. If we're solely concerned about matching the smooth UI experience of iOS, Android is now neck and neck. This was never a deal-breaker to me, but progress is good.

Android tablets are now legitimate contenders. I said it would happen and that ASUS had the best chance of realizing it. ASUS makes great tablets, but they needed the brand recognition of Google in order to reach a broad consumer market.

Before the release, I was concerned about QA challenges, and there definitely were issues with early shipments. The most significant complaint dealt with a screen separation at the front of the device. Other common issues included bad speaker quality, dead pixels, backlight bleeding on the LCD, and bad USB ports. My device suffered from a distorted speaker and separating glass, but Google Play was very responsive when addressing this.

Google Play also botched the roll out of the pre-sales orders to online buyers. In many cases, people who bought directly from retailers received their tablets first. Both ASUS and Google have to improve to compete effectively.

At the office?

I don't think the Nexus 7 is going to be the device that blows the doors open for enterprise tablet adoption, because the device and platform are strongly oriented toward consumers. However, the IT department will probably see an uptick in employees wanting to use the Nexus 7 as a BYOD solution.

Google Now really delivers the "digital personal assistant" that every PDA since the Newton promised. Where Siri seems broken, Google Now is an adaptive service that really seems to get it right. Unfortunately, this comes at a price. For peak performance, the user must opt-in to a range of data collection, including your travel by GPS. By correlating travel patterns with date and time, Google Now figures out where you live, work, and play, and it pops up reminder "cards" that contain information like traffic and route. It's a neat trick, but the security-paranoid aren't going to like it. This feature also uses Google Web History, which is a browser history stored on Google's cloud. Turning these features off disables Google Now.

Bottom line

The Nexus 7 is fairly well built and full featured tablet that hits the proverbial sweet spot on pricing. As a real pure Android tablet, it leaves the Kindle Fire in the dust. While the build quality isn't as polished as more expensive brands, firms wanting to bulk supply employees with inexpensive tablets will find it very attractive. The Nexus 7 probably is the best tablet available at the moment, but with Jelly Bean upgrades already announced for affordable 10" tablets with better hardware, a 10" Jelly Bean tablet may be worth the wait -- especially for corporate use.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

7 comments
mikeshomes67
mikeshomes67

This is a bad Tablet have owned many, the screen cracked in 2 weeks in protective case. Google says sorry! REALLY... What a waste of money. If you do your research you will see that screens on the loser tablet are cracking all over thew place. I caution anyone buying to get ready to lose $250.00.

unixDon
unixDon

The "see the specs" link in the 3rd paragraph is broken - It gets a 404 error.

seth
seth

The latest target for viruses and malware with no good answer. Coupled with Google recording EVERYTHING you do under their "privacy" agreement. Kind of like a Facebook OS!! (NOT that Apple is any better.)

JJFitz
JJFitz

I have been using a 7" Android tablet (HTC Flyer) daily at work and at home for more than a year and I am convinced that the 7" tablet is a perfect size for mobility, e-book reading, and taking notes. Although I am tempted to purchase a Nexus 7, there are three things that keep me from doing so. [b]Stylus[/b] One of the most useful features of the HTC Flyer is the n-trig stylus. I use it to jot down notes, draw diagrams, and annotate photos that are automatically synced with my Evernote account. I wish Microsoft OneNote for Android allowed stylus input as I live in that on my Win 8 convertible tablet. The stylus is also great as a pointer. I don't have to zoom in when I want to tap those tiny hypelinks on webpages. I'm talking about your page numbers TechRepublic. [b]Rear facing camera[/b] Personally, I would sacrifice the front facing camera on the Nexus 7 for a rear facing one. I'm not into Skype, Google Hangouts, or Go To Meeting on a 7" tablet. I am not that spontaneous and none of the apps have been reliable enough on a Wifi-only tablet for me to trust it for a business meeting. I'll stick with my convertible tablet / laptop for that kind of stuff. I use the rear facing camera on my Flyer quite often. I snap pictures, annotate them with the stylus, and send them out to others. The rear facing camera came in very handy when picking out dorm room furnishings at Ikea with my daughter. I took pictures of the items and their tags, jotted down a few notes on the pics and went to the warehouse collect the items. I've used it a lot at hardware and furniture stores to show stuff to my wife. Let's face it, she has the final say on design decisions in this household. ;) I've also used it at work to take pictures (with notes) of construction projects, data closets, data ports, and conference room layouts. As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." A picture with words and arrows is worth even more. [b]Removable memory[/b] I store a lot of documents, audio books, e-books, and music on my table. I can barely manage to fit my stuff on the removable 32Gb MicroSD in the Flyer. MicroSD cards are cheap now so I bought a 32Gb card for $24 a couple of days ago.Now, I have two 32Gb cards that I can switch back and forth on my Flyer. I would spend quite a bit of time offloading stuff with only 16Gb. My dissappointments with the Flyer are: 1. HTC has pretty much abandoned support for it. I don't expect any more significant improvements or upgrades from HTC. 2. There are not enough Google apps that take particular advantage of stylus input. 3. Good for Enterprise does not work on the Flyer.

jon.hill
jon.hill

Why is eveyone so hooked up with wanting a 10" tablet for me the 7" is a perfect size for the hand and extremely portable, its easy to hold in bed for reading which I'm sure the 10" would be to cumbersome. You couldn't right a novel on it but you can take notes and do some basic data input, but Google are pushing this as a media consumption device not an all rounder. What annoys me more is that Google Wallet, magazines etc are not available in the UK at the moment and should of been pre-launch and after rooting (which is extremely easy to do) the storage issue isn't an issue. Overal for my first tablet experience its a big hit and exactly what I was looking for.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I never saw widespread complaints about the Nexus 7 screen cracking, except when people tried to apply pressure to get the separating screen to re-adhere. If you put excessive pressure on a screen that isn't properly affixed to your device and it cracks, you probably should have addressed the issue by sending it in for an RMA. That is what I did for my first Nexus 7 when I encountered this issue, they sent me another, and I haven't had the problem since. I think this issue represented a minority of early Nexus 7 tablets - and I address that in the original article.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Not sure why I never got back here to make comments on this thread. My apologies. The problem with 7" tablets is that they're not ideal for the Enterprise in many cases. That is the problem with 7" format tablets. They're not ideal for most corporate use. They're just a little too small. A 10" is the minimum for really leveraging RDP, Citrix and other remote client connectors, it is a much nicer experience for content creation (Office Pro, Documents To Go), and other serious applications. As you point out here, the 7" format is ideal for consumer oriented consumption. Reading books, listening to music, a coffee table supplement while watching TV. A 7" device might be ideal for remote workers accessing a POS or employee tracking and logging application - something very specific and task oriented, maybe even a custom in-house app. At the price of the 8GB Nexus 7, for that kind of role, it is clearly superior to almost anything else out there. The lack of SD and host USB, the ease of locking it down, the pure unskinned Android experience, no HDMI out... and the price make it ideal for those kind of solutions. But it is a great tablet. I go to it more often than my ASUS TF300 at this point, and my daughter is bugging me for one for Christmas. She is likely to open up the 32GB box and get the 16GB unit after I "set up" her new device - because 16GB is just a little too small to be practical.