While we’ve had our hands on this nifty little tablet for a few months, with first impressions here, we decided to give it some time before finally reviewing it.
The Google Nexus 7 is the internet giant’s first attempt at a tablet, with the idea that you get a tablet with none of the bloat that some manufacturers load on the machine. As it’s manufactured by Asus, it also has as good a pedigree as you can get in the tablet world. It was also the tablet that arguably forced Apple to release the iPad Mini – after swearing they never would.
Setting up was a breeze, especially as I already have a Google account and I was up and running in a matter of minutes. The only difficult part was getting the Nexus 7 out of the box without damaging the box. It’s much faster than my now aged Asus Transformer, which starts to really chug along once you open more than one tab on the browser. The Nexus 7 is slick, and the screen resolution is high enough in order to read this webpage in portrait mode.
Design wise, it looks just like either a large smartphone, or just a scaled down tablet so no real surprises. The responsive touch screen is protected by tough Corning Gorilla Glass and the rear with a grippy rubber, making it feel safe in the hands. That’s essential for the kind of outdoor use I intend to give this device. If you want a review of how fast this tablet is, how it compares to other tablets and the in-depth tech specs, the it’s already been done to death – here.
The Nexus 7 comes with Jellybean installed, being the latest version of Android, and boasts a battery life of 8 hours or more. The first thing I installed was Backcountry Navigator Pro, and to my surprise it immediately located me. I’m not only indoors, but also underground in the basement.
We tried it out on a few summer days, along with a few wild camps to see how it performed. On the hill, the GPS worked well, but the only issue being that the screen isn’t easy to see in bright daylight. While usable as a GPS, it’s probably a touch on the large side. A large 4-5″ mobile is a much better option in that regard. There’s plenty of juice in the battery to watch a couple of lengthy films and get a bit of browsing done. It just gets uncomfortable to hold while you’re camping for watching a whole feature, but for solo wild camps it’s ideal. While I had to think twice about taking my full size tab on a wild camp, with the decision usually being to leave it behind, the Nexus 7 is going to be along on most of my trips. Remember that you can also use it for viewing Kindle books with the app, especially useful if you’ve got a book that’s in colour.
What’s not so good with the Nexus 7 is the lack of a HDMI port, so you can’t use it to view Netflix on the telly like the larger tablets do as standard. There’s also no way of expanding the device, with no memory card sockets, but a serious lack of expandability hasn’t prevented Apple yet. You also lose the back camera, but while that may be important for some, it’s not a dealbreaker for me as I wouldn’t use a regular tablet as a camera. Though at the smaller form factor of the Nexus, a back camera may have been a bit more practical compared to that on an iPad, but not something I’ll miss personally.
A further downside is that there’s no Flash support on Jellybean. While HTML5 is meant to be the new standard,that’s absolutely no use whatsoever while many key sites out there are based on Flash. So for instance, if you expect to view iPlayer on this device, think again. Neither is the android app compatible, but considering that I’ve yet to get that to work on other devices then that’s no loss. However, with a bit of tinkering, I managed to get a version of Flash and iPlayer installed and it works OK, you just can’t use Flash in Chrome.
All this should be taken in the context of the ludicrously low price. At £160 for the 8GB version and £199 for the 16GB, you’re getting a decent device that only compromises a few features, and at £100 cheaper than the newer Apple offering. Shopping around, you can get the 16GB tablet for not much more than the 8GB price. If like most users you intend to spend money on apps, music or movies then that price starts to look even more attractive with a £15 Play Store credit. You also get a few free books (a Jeffrey Archer, if you like that sort of thing) and a free Movie – Transformers Dark of the Moon, which is more of a big screen movie. But they’re free, so I’m not going to complain.
Summary. This tablet is the game-changer that’s even got Apple running for cover. At £160 you just can’t go wrong if you’re after a mini tablet that you can take wild camping, or just for general use. I’d expected it to be an extravagance when I bought it, but I now use it far too much! The smaller form factor is much easier to handle than a full size tablet and more practical to take on a wild camp.