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Sunday, November 11, 2012

[Review] 32GB Nexus 7 tablet

The Nexus 7 isn't new to the market, nor is it the most technically advanced Android tablet out there...but what it is, is one fine device for the money.

Way back in September, I made a decision to purchase a tablet for my own use around the house.  I have a burning desire to surf the web, check my fantasy basketball team, post on the Facebook, and blog all from the comfort of my couch.  Sure I could do this on my netbook, and I bought it with that in mind, but the idea of using a tablet for these endeavors seems darn near perfect.

The 16GB version now costs a mere $199, the 32GB w/WiFi only is $249 (plus applicable tax) and on November 13th, 2012 the 32GB version with HSPA+ will launch for $299.  I decided to pull the trigger once the 32GB WiFi only version arrived in a local retail store.  Since I had a few gift cards laying about, I picked it up last Wednesday night for exactly $41.36...and even as a fan of Android, I can easily say I'm impressed with this device.

How It Looks:

Front of the Nexus 7
All the descriptions of the Nexus 7 are spot on, and still really don't do it justice.  The front of the device without buttons of any kind is a sweet look, reminiscent of my Galaxy Nexus.  The soft touch dimpled rubber back with its minimalist "Nexus" and "Asus" logos is understated but cool.  The bezel is the right width to add to the look but not overpower it.  The position of the power button and volume rocker is a little too far down on the side for my taste, but isn't annoying by any stretch.  I do find myself pushing the volume rocker instead of the power button from time to time, but with a little practice I'm sure I'll get this sorted out.  I'm sure I'll want a screen protector and a case at some point, but for now, this thing just looks so nice I probably want to keep it the way it is.

Back of the Nexus 7

Its only got the front facing camera, located in the dead center of the top of the bezel.  This works for me, as using it for Skype calls is probably the only reason I'd need a camera in this thing to begin with.  I'm not the type to be out taking pictures with a tablet...and honestly, I laugh at the people who do.  There's the micro USB connection and headphone jack on the bottom right and that's it.  The screen is beautiful, and as clear and sharp as one could hope for.  Due to the size of the all glass screen, it does tend to pick up fingerprints quickly.  A good screen protector will fix that, or do like I do and keep a nice eyeglass cloth handy to wipe down the front from time to time and you're set.

Left side
Right Side
Right Side (angled)
How It Feels:

The size of the device is perfect for one handed holding (in portrait) and in landscape its definitely a two handed hold but its not in any way uncomfortable.  Having my fingers on the rubber back gives an impression of grippyness, and in either orientation you don't ever feel like you're going to drop the tablet.  It's large enough to view just about anything you'd be likely viewing easily, from web pages to YouTube videos to eBooks and more.  When I showed Sean the device the other day, his exact words were "this is the perfect size."  I'd agree.  I wanted something portable and felt good enough to hold it for long periods of time - the Nexus 7 hits those marks without breaking a sweat.

How It Works:

My 32GB version shipped with Android 4.1.1, and within a few minutes of connecting to WiFi updated itself to 4.1.2.  Jelly Bean is the best version of Android yet, and its performance is smooth and polished.  What's a little odd is the Google Play store advertises that the Nexus 7 ships with Android 4.2, but this clearly wasn't the case with my device.  I've flashed a few elements of 4.2 onto my Galaxy Nexus, and I can't wait for the official version to come out, as just the camera and keyboard bits are fantastic upgrades.

Even so, I buy Nexus products for their ability to be unlocked and rooted, and the Nexus 7 is no exception.  After a few days and with a few minutes work, I had the tablet unlocked and rooted, and a few minutes after that, I had a custom ROM flashed onto it.  I use a custom launcher as well, so transitions between home screens are smooth and quick, and rotations from portrait to landscape and back again are snappy.  I only experienced some choppiness when using the Chrome browser, specifically when scrolling up or down on web pages.  To me, this isn't really acceptable from a hardware or software standpoint, and the lag isn't crippling, just annoying.  Which honestly makes it even less acceptable.  There's really no reason I can think of for it at all.  

Real world battery tests included me using the tablet to watch a YouTube video for a half hour (which I streamed from my phone's mobile hotspot) where the battery went from 100% to 93%.  Web use over WiFi makes barely a dent, and you have to work hard to drain the 4325mAh battery with mostly web based usage.  Google claims 10 hours of web surfing - I believe they are right.  As of the writing of this article, I've been on battery for 1d 7h 51m, with a little over 5h 22m of screen on time.  Chrome has used the cpu for 2h 10m, and Google Music about 27m of  usage.  And there's still 30% of the battery left.  I'd expect to go about 3-4 days between charges with light to moderate usage, and 2 days pretty easily with normal use.

The Final Word:  

The Nexus 7 (in a word) is awesome.  I had a odd circumstance that forced me to wait for one of my gift cards, so while I had originally settled on purchasing the 16GB version of the Nexus, I'm glad the delay allowed me to get the 32GB version.  Now I can download as much content as I want, and not worry about running out of storage.  I can use the cloud if I need to, but I have the storage space to do as I please. The limited 8/16GB versions initially launched made me wary about buying one, but I'm very pleased with this purchase.  It's size, features, Nexus qualities, and price point really do make this the best Android tablet out there.  You can take my word for it...or go check it out for yourself.  I promise you won't be disappointed.

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