Thoughts and Impressions of the Nexus 7



Over the past few weeks I’ve read a dozen or so of the early reviews of the Nexus 7. They were nearly all positive.

What seems to be the prevailing statement about the Nexus 7 is that it’s the best Android tablet by far, and that it’s the best $200 tablet by far. While that may be true (and I think that it is), I don’t know if it’s saying much.

It’s praised for two primary reasons: (1) the hardware has a surprisingly high-quality build for how inexpensive it is, and (2) Jelly Bean has proven to be a significant update to the Android operating system.

As Jerry Hildenbrand points out in his review of the Nexus 7 on Android Central:

Jelly Bean is like Ice cream sandwich, with all the features we wanted Ice Cream Sandwich to come with. It’s fast and smooth (like buttah), full of the latest and greatest APIs for developers to do all sorts of magic with, and there’s a level of polish we’ve all been waiting for.

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My Nexus 7 arrived on Tuesday. It is the first Android tablet I’ve ever used, the first 7-inch tablet I’ve ever used, and the first $200 tablet I’ve ever used.

The small form-factor of the Nexus 7 is quite nice. My iPad has become my laptop and most of the time when I am out and about the size of the iPad is perfect for me. But when using it around the house for reading or surfing the Web, there are times when the iPad feels a bit too big. My biggest gripe being that the iPad cannot be used with just one hand. Extended reading on the iPad requires that it rest on a couch cushion, your lap, or your chest.

But with the Nexus 7, its size, weight, and rubbery-back make it easy to hold with one hand. It seems silly to buy such a capable tablet for the sole purpose of easier couch surfing and extended reading, but to me that is the Nexus 7’s strongest suit.

But what then? Is the fatigued iPad reader meant to buy another, smaller tablet with the intentions of keeping it on the coffee table or at their bedside? Perhaps. But that seems a bit extreme to me. Surely there are other benefits and advantages to the Nexus 7 beyond its size.

To be true, the Nexus 7 is a fine tablet. Anyone awaiting a quality Android tablet will be pleasantly surprised. And anyone in want of a tablet that costs less than $399 would do fine with the Nexus 7.

As some are wont to say, the iPad is a device meant for consumption only (if you’re reading this site I have no doubt you roll your eyes at that statement too). Well, if the iPad is not meant for content creation, then the Nexus 7 certainly is not. For two main reasons: its screen size (and, thus its keyboard size) and its app store.

Typing on the Nexus 7 in portrait mode is not unlike typing on the Galaxy Nexus in landscape mode. It’s easy and quite doable with two thumbs.

However, typing on the Nexus 7 in landscape mode is pretty much a joke. The keyboard is too big to easily type with your thumbs while holding the device, and yet it is far too small to type home row style. Moreover, with the soft key system buttons resting just below the spacebar it is extremely easy to tap on one of them instead of Space.

If you do expect to type a lot, the Nexus 7 pairs easily with a Bluetooth keyboard. I was able to pair my AmazonBasics keyboard with the Nexus 7, and even the iPad-intended modifier keys worked.

Price and hardware aside, I find that my overall sentiment towards Android remains relatively the same from my week-long excursion with the Galaxy Nexus last Winter. On a technical level, Jelly Bean is noticeable improvement over Ice Cream Sandwich. But I still do not see the appeal of an Android device over an iOS device unless your motives for using one are based solely on price, screen size, or a vendetta against Apple Inc.

For me, when it comes down to it, software will always trump hardware. When I’m using a device like the Nexus 7 I want to know where the details are. Where is the magic? The fun? The incredible 3rd-party apps? It is because of these elements that the iPad is more than the sum of its parts while its competition continues to remains less than.