I viewed Google I/O, Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) and the first Nexus tablet as Google's last chance to deliver a knockout in the tablet space before the onslaught of Windows 8 and Windows RT devices later this year. While the show was undoubtedly a success, I don't know that the market for $499+ Android tablets has a life after Windows 8/RT hit. We should see Windows RT tablets at $499, and Ivy/Haswell based Windows 8 tablets will handle the higher price points.

It seems that Google also realized this as the Nexus 7, its first Nexus branded tablet, starts at just $199. There's a huge market for tablets as a primary computing device, and I believe Windows RT/8 offers something unique and compelling for that usage model. At the same time however, there's decent demand for a tablet to augment your existing computing world. It's a far more specific usage model but one that really demands a lower price point. Users are willing to spend a lot for something that does everything in your life, but for something that's more nice than necessity, price matters even more.

The Nexus 7 is aimed at the latter. It's a device for users who need ultra portability and tons of battery life for content consumption. While Apple has been quietly empowering the iPad to be a content creation device, and dockable Windows 8/RT tablets will attempt to replace your notebook, the Nexus 7 is a more traditional ARM based tablet by default.

It's clearly Google that I have to thank because the Nexus 7 is the most solidly built ASUS tablet I've ever used. That's not to say that its predecessors were examples of shoddy workmanship, it's just that the Nexus 7 is damn near perfect. The back has a great grip to it. The whole thing actually feels like a well made book because of the soft touch plastic back. The book comparison is sort of hilarious because it's a feel that Amazon couldn't get right with its overly generic Kindle Fire. The book illusion stops once your hands touch the glass for obvious reasons, but man does it feel nice to hold.

The Nexus 7 feels considerably lighter than the Kindle Fire, but I still had to prop it up on something or hold it in two hands if I was going to use it for a long period of time.

The power button and volume rocker are placed much like they would be on a phone - at the top right edge of the device. The sole buttons on the device do feel a bit ambiguous, something I feel that I would get used to over time. I had the disadvantage of switching between several tablets during this review and never did get used to the position and feel of the buttons on the N7. That's probably the biggest gripe I have about the design of the device. In other words, there's not much to hate.

The Nexus 7 features two mics for noise canceling action (likely in support of Google Now). You get NFC, Bluetooth and 802.11n WiFi but there's no LTE option as of now. I know there's internal debate about releasing an LTE enabled version at some point in the future.

ASUS Tablet Specification Comparison
  ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity ASUS Transformer Pad 300 Series ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime ASUS Nexus 7
Dimensions 263 x 180.6 x 8.4mm 263 x 180.8 x 9.9mm 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm
Chassis Aluminum + Plastic RF Strip Plastic Aluminum Plastic + Rubber back
Display 10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 Super IPS+ 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 IPS 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 Super IPS+ 7" 1280 x 800 IPS
Weight 594g 635g 586g 340 g
Processor

1.6GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T33 - 4 x Cortex A9)

NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L - 4 x Cortex A9)

1.3GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30 - 4 x Cortex A9) 1.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L - 4 x Cortex A9)
Memory 1GB DDR3-1600 1GB 1GB 1 GB
Storage 32/64GB + microSD slot 16GB/32GB + microSD slot 32GB/64GB + microSD slot 8 GB / 16 GB
Battery 25Whr 22Whr 25Whr 16 Whr
Pricing $499/$599 $379/$399 $499/$599 $199/$249

Cost is the major selling point for the Nexus 7: for $199 Google will sell you an 8GB version with a $25 credit at the Google Play store, along with some preloaded magazines, books and a movie (Transformers: Dark of the Moon). It's tough to buy a new tablet and not buy apps for it, so the $25 credit is likely to be incredibly useful - making the effective retail price of the Nexus 7 $174. If you want 16GB of storage the price does go up to $249 however. Unfortunately even Google is not above charging $50 for $4 of MLC NAND.

The limited NAND capacity prevents the Nexus 7 from being home to more than a single full length movie or a couple of TV shows. Streaming video content isn't a problem, Netflix works beautifully on the device but there's no hope if you want to keep a ton of content local. Unfortunately USB OTG isn't supported for storage, so you're left with no other option for expanding local storage (short of rooting the device).

In every sense outside of portability, a 10-inch display is much nicer to look at than a 7-inch one in my opinion. There's less zooming in you need to do on web pages or magazines. Text in general is just easier to read and perhaps I'm getting too old, but there's something nice about everything being comfortably bigger.

Does the Nexus 7's form factor make it feel substantially better than using a smartphone? Yes, I'd say so. The same reasons I gave above for a 10-inch tablet being nicer to use than a 7-inch tablet are equally applicable to 7-inch tablet vs. a smartphone. There's this size/usability optimization curve that requires some soul searching to figure out exactly where you land on it. I suspect most people fall into the small smartphone + large tablet dichotomy, but the beauty of this current mobile revolution is the availability of choice. The Nexus 7 in many ways is very much like the 11-inch MacBook Air. A bit impractical for many, but those who crave portability are drawn to it. The Nexus 7 still feels like you're using a tablet, just a small one.

I needn't dwell on the benefits of a 7-inch form factor for portability any longer. If I'm wearing baggy enough pants I can even pocket the Nexus 7, something I simply couldn't do with the iPad. I'm more likely to carry the Nexus 7 with me than I would the iPad, but the comparison isn't quite as open and shut as that. The iPad offers LTE, the Nexus 7 is more portable, the iPad is easier to look at, the Nexus 7 is more affordable...the back and forth is endless.

Android 4.1
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  • The0ne - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    My Kindle is fulled with books and audio books and I need more space. I am seriously thinking about purchasing the Nexus 7 as a replacement simply because XDA has provided a way to add more storage space via a dongle. Still, my eyes are shouting for a 10" reader as I know the 7" Kindle is always stressing as it is. Reply
  • robinthakur - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    I would imagine it is the beginnings of an anti piracy drive as that is such a hot topic on Android and a key reason why some app just aren't available for it. Which is a great shame as having a Micro SD slot is emminently useful and cheaper than paying for manufacturer added storage. Reply
  • TheJian - Wednesday, August 01, 2012 - link

    iphone collection packs are readily available on newsgroups and websites. No more piracy on android than ios. That's a fallacy perpetuated by apple lovers. Nothing sneaky about leaving off a micro sd slot. Dead trigger was given away because of one of two things: The game sucks an reviews show it, or they just are apple lovers who ported it to give it away to hurt android. Why would you give your game away due to any piracy? No amount would make a sane person give away their work for good. There are NO honest people on android?...LOL. Sounds like a scam to me. How does angry birds make money then? OK, a 3rd option; they saw sales sucked so went with whichever had better sales and publicity stunt for the other platform (in this case android). I'd venture to guess sales still suck on IOS too... :) No amount of publicity crap will fix reviews in the 40's. Rovio isn't complaining about android sales.

    Does your ipad3 come with micro sd? Must be because of all that piracy huh? Sounds like BS both ways eh? For $200-250 what did you expect to get? They blew away the kindle fire, asking much more is asking for the impossible at this price.

    Make a better game that people enjoy (and isn't just a gpu fest) and it will sell. End users don't crack games, professional groups do and they do it just as well on ANY platform (including the PS3 now). Heck you can buy an xbox360 pre modded and ready to happily play your copies. Yet, for some reason people spew comments about PC's being so easy to pirate on...LOL. PC games have craploads of patches, thus needing more skilled users to update and crack said updates. I'd say it's tougher on a pc, where any monkey can buy a pre-modded console and boot a burned game from release groups.

    As someone already said, most users can't even copy/delete files. Witness the number of people in forums etc asking why their pirated PC game doesn't work. "the game says insert disc etc, where's the crack?"...Umm, gee, did you check the \crack folder? Bother to read the nfo file?...ROFL. Followed by the inevitable "how do you open a .nfo file?" and it goes on an on. Worse, some just can't get past "how do you open a rar file, or .001, or .part1.rar"...At some point someone says RTFM or "google it" :)
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    The fact of the matter is that there is little incentive to jailbreak an iDevice anymore because Apple has added most of what was missing previously. You also lose alot like when Apple release a new iOS and you have to wait for it to be jailbroken.

    However, for most Android users who do not own first party Google devices (at least the ones that still get updates...!). you need to root your phone to install updates in a timely manner. On most FAQS about rooting your phone there is inevitably a section discussing pirated apps. The availability and proliferation of pirate apps for Google is certainly nothing new, perhaps you have been willfully ignoring it. The stats on it from most of the developers who mention it are absolutely shocking.

    This is the downside of having more technically adept users I suppose, but to pretend that it either doesn't exist or even more crazily that iOS developers release thei product on Android free to hurt the platform (hmm...) is paranoid delusional.

    The fact is that Angry Birds on Android is free and *ad-supported*. It is not free. Rovio is at least canny enough to realise that the target market aren't prepared to even pay 1.99 for their hard work, and even those playing ad-supported games still complain about the in-game ads and use ad-blocking software so that still doesn't solve the problem. The 360 and also PS3 do ban users that they detect using pirated software online (everyone seems to play multiplayer these days) so no it is not just as easy to pirate on console to how easy it is on the PC.
    Reply
  • GTForce - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I think it should be "winning a higher level accolade" instead of "winning a higher level allocade". It's always baffling to see pro tech editors not using a simple spell-check to finalize their articles. BTW, a nice article (as usual on AnandTech). Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Pro or Moe ?
    Arrogant and ignorant.
    Imagine the heady region in where they dwell.
    If they need a spellchecker, they must be stupid.
    It's fear and low self esteem.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I'm curious now if a better flash memory controller is part of what gave iPads the fluidity lead up until this tablet, how do they fare in NAND performance? Reply
  • wendoman - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    "The video below shows you what can happen on a Transformer Pad Infinity while downloading a bunch of large files in the background:"

    Where the video?
    Reply
  • driscoll42 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    You don't actually lose Amazon's video service. You can view Amazon Prime videos in any standard browser, I've got a shortcut on my Nexus 7 which just goes straight to Amazon's Video Service. What you do lose is access to the Lending Library. Reply
  • geniekid - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Good point. I use Amazon VoD a lot, which is the best argument for myself in getting a Kindle Fire over this thing.

    I wonder what the difference between the KF and Nexus 7 is in terms of how long it takes to get from the home screen to actual streaming video.
    Reply

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