Google Nexus 7 8GB - Tablet

11/5/2012 1:27:28 AM

The Nexus 7 is Google’s attempt to kick-start the Android attack on the tablet market, which remains dominated by the Apple iPad. While 2012 has been the year the best Android phones have matched, and in many ways overtaken, the iPhone – in terms of performance and popularity – the tablet market remains dominated by the iPad. Google wants to change this.

Comparisons with the Apple iPad come easily, but this isn’t really a direct rival – for two key reasons. First, the screen size: the Nexus 7, as the name implies, has a 7in screen, noticeably smaller than the 9.7in iPad screen or Android rivals such as the Asus Transformer Prime, which has a 10.1in screen. Second, the price: at $238.5 for this 8GB version, or $298.5 for the 16GB model, it’s half the price of its full-sized peers.

Description: Google Nexus 7 8GB - Tablet

Google Nexus 7 8GB - Tablet

It certainly looks strong on paper. A 7in 1280 x 800-pixel HD screen is backed up by the latest version of Android’s OS, Android 4.1 (aka Jelly Bean). There’s Bluetooth, NFC and wi-fi on board, not to mention a front-facing 1.2MP video camera (which takes so-so pictures). The battery, which isn’t replaceable, will provide a claimed nine hours of HD video playback, 10 hours’ internet browsing and 300 hours on standby.

The tablet has been built with the help of Asus, responsible for one of the best Android tablets around, the Transformer Prime. As a result, the build quality is high. It doesn’t feel remotely cheap, despite being slim and very light, and the textured rubber rear casing feels solid in the hand.

It’s easy to hold one-handed whether you’re reading or watching video, and makes a full-sized tablet seem big and heavy by comparison – at 340g it’s close to half the weight of the new iPad.

Moving around the apps and interface in general is slicker than ever on Android 4.1, and the Nexus 7’s quad-core Tegra 3 processor makes for a fast and fluid experience. Customizable screens, familiar widgets and live apps and wallpapers mean you can make the five home screens as informative, exciting or simple as you like.

Description: The fact that Google has been able to produce a tablet as slick as this for just $238.5 is nothing short of astonishing

The fact that Google has been able to produce a tablet as slick as this for just $238.5 is nothing short of astonishing

Small tweaks aside, the biggest new feature is Google Now. This is an improved search platform, within which you can use text or voice search to deliver normal search results alongside ‘cards’ of content tailored to your previous usage or location. It’s accessible from various points on the tablet and while we found it a little slow at times, the potential is there” one to watch.

The usual plethora of Android apps is available from the Google Play market, alongside books and games to buy, and films to rent (including HD content). While the overall selection is now pretty thorough, there are still gaps – and more pertinently for the Nexus 7, a lack of optimized apps for the tablet experience. Sonos and Spotify are here, but there’s no BBC iPlayer for the Nexus 7, nor control apps from the likes or Naim.

On the subject of iPlayer, the Nexus 7 doesn’t support Flash, which means you can’t view the web version of the BBC site. The lack of Flash support applies to all Android devices from Android 4.0 onwards, not just this one, and while we expect most sites to move away from using Flash slowly, for now it might be an issue. (Apple devices have never natively supported the format.)

When it comes to browsing the internet, it’s no surprise that Google supplies its own Chrome app as standard. It brings with it neat features such as syncing bookmarks and viewing history across devices, and even letting you pick up on one device a set of web pages you left on another.

Whatever browser you choose, though, moving around is fast and fluid, it’s easy to zoom in on text, and web pages format intelligently. The screen is bright and clear, and while it isn’t as pixel-packed as some rivals, nor quite as sharp around edges, we have no complaints when it comes to viewing text or pictures.

Streaming HD video from YouTube, it’s impressive: black levels are pretty solid, colours have a natural balance and there’s good detail. There’s not quite the punch to colour of the best displays but we’re perfectly happy with how it performs.

Dragging content to the Nexus is far more flexible than Apple’s iTunes closed shop, but we found the mess of folders less user-friendly than Apple’s neat windows.

It’s a similar story with audio. File compatibility is solid, with MP3, FLAC and WAV files supported, and music sounds good. In terms of design and layout standard music player is fine, but of course there are plenty of other apps you can try instead. Hans Zimmer’s Inception OST sounds dynamic and powerful. The XX shows the tablet capable of an open, subtle delivery, while George Fitzgerald’s track Child is fast and rhythmical.

Android tablets have so far struggled to dent the iPad’s popularity, but the Nexus 7 could change that. The smaller size is interesting but it’s the smaller price tag that will ultimately make the most difference.

And thankfully, there’s nothing cheap about this tablet’s design or performance. The smaller, far more portable format works nicely – it looks increasingly likely that Apple will follow suit with an ‘iPad Mini’ – and the latest Android OS is the best yet.

Neat Google features, solid audio and video performance and an increasingly thorough and reliable selection of apps and other content all make for a genuinely compelling tablet alternative.

Use it with

RDIO A streaming service to rival Spotify, you can get a free month’s trial. We like what we see: it’s smart, allows for offline listening and the sound quality’s good.


Tech specs

Screen 7in, 1280 x 800 Storage 8GB Battery life 9 hours Wi-fi Yes Bluetooth Yes 3G No




Mac, Windows Dimensions (hwd) 12 x 20 x 1cm/340g





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