Nexus 7: First impressions

It’s always exciting to get a new piece of gear, and I haveto admit to being a bit more excited than usual this week as I waited for thearrival of the Nexus 7 tablet I’d ordered. In fact, I spent a good portion ofthe day pacing back and forth wondering where our faithful earth-toned couriercompany was…turns out I was right at the end of the driver’s route. Torture! Butthe Nexus 7 did indeed arrive before the end of the day.

The first thing that I noticed was that the box seemed fartoo small to contain a tablet computer – indeed, for anyone used to the size ofthe iPad or one of the 9- or 10-inch tablets, the Nexus 7’s compact form factormight seem to be too small. But put it in your hand and that opinion changes.

Indeed, the Nexus 7 fits comfortably into one hand, thanksthe combination of the smaller high-def screen and the tapered edges of the bezel alongthe back of the tablet. The texture along the back panel also provides a nicegrip – you don’t feel like it’s going to slide out of your hand when you’reholding it. If you’ve seen the Blackberry Playbook, it’s a similar size, butit’s also more comfortable in the hand.

The other thing you’ll probably notice fairly quickly is howbasic the exterior design of the tablet is – unlike some Android tablets thatcome with a lot of switches, doors, buttons and ports, the Nexus 7 comes withonly the USB charging port, the headphone jack, power switch and volume rocker.There’s no slot for storage, no extra USB ports, no separate power connector.It’s pretty mean and lean. Or, if you’re feeling less generous, a bit spartan.

I have to admit that the lack of removable storage almostmade me cancel my pre-order. True, a lot of people are starting to eschew thehabit of “owning” digital content, and thus there’s less need to store a lot ofdigital content on the tablet itself. Instead, people are choosing to pull allof their content out of the cloud, streaming directly from Google Play as theywish to consume it.

That’s great if you’re always in a zone where you haveaccess to Wi-Fi. There currently isn’t a version of the Nexus 7 with built indata, which means if you regularly find yourself in the field without access toWi-Fi – say, flying from one city to another – you’ll have to rely on the Nexus7’s built-in memory. And let’s be frank: with only 8 or 16 gigabytes onboard(depending on the model you choose), you may quickly find yourself butting upagainst the edges of the 7’s available storage.

(If you choose to unlock and root the Nexus 7, you can usethe USB port at the bottom to connect external memory cards using a USBOn-The-Go cable; I’ll probably be looking at this in a separate post fairlysoon. Stay tuned.)

The Nexus 7 comes with a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera,for use with conferencing apps like Skype. It’s an adequate camera, but that’sabout the best you can say for it – it won’t be winning any awards for quality.

A question I’ve been asked a few times so far, when tellingpeople that I’d ordered the Nexus 7 is: does it have a removable battery? Andthe answer is no. But kinda, if you’re brave.

Like most new tablets, the Nexus 7 seals the battery insidethe tablet. But unlike some of the competition, it’s fairly easy to get theback off using the proper tool, and the battery can be replaced without toomuch fuss. You won’t be swapping it out in the middle of a long flight, butwhen the battery does finally give up the ghost, you should be able to replaceit without a costly trip to the shop.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the fact that the Nexus 7ships with Jelly Bean on board – one of the first devices to run this shiny newOS. I’ll talk more about Jelly Bean in an upcoming post, but suffice it to saythat first impressions are good; even an update to version 4.1.1 was quick andpainless. And a test of Google’s voice command system, while a bit uneven, isstill impressive enough.

I’m going to delve more into the features of the Nexus 7over the next little while, but my first impressions are positive. The smallform factor makes it nice and portable, but it still has enough power under thehood to give it a leg up on many of the other competitors with tablets at thissize and price.


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