This article was published on July 1, 2012

A Nexus 7 tablet review from someone who actually used it for a few days

A Nexus 7 tablet review from someone who actually used it for a few days
Drew Olanoff
Story by

Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

As you might have heard, Google finally unveiled its own tablet last week at the I/O developers conference. In a partnership with Asus, the company is hoping to grab a slice of a rapidly growing market, and I’ve spent a few days playing around with its offering – the Nexus 7.

I’m not going to bore you with you ridiculous unboxing videos or photos, and I’m going to save you all of the Kindle Fire, iPad and Surface references and comparisons. Yes, this is a pretty to-the-point review of something that I’ve spent the last few days actually using. Imagine that.

Since I’ve never had a chance to properly put the Ice Cream Sandwich OS through its paces (which is a whole other story that I won’t get into here), Jelly Bean seems way futuristic to me, and I imagine that most people who decide to pick up the Nexus 7 will feel the same way.

I’m going to try and be as brief as possible and answer most of the questions that have been asked of me since I picked this badboy up at the conference.

Also, I’d like to preface this by saying that I usually have my nose in my computer or my phone, and tablets have never really gripped with me as a way of computing or using the web.

The outside

The idea of a seven inch tablet had me completely fascinated. Why would someone want something that’s not quite a full-screen tablet, and bigger than a phone? It seemed goofy to me, but when we spoke to Google during the conference we were told that quite a bit of market research went into the decision on size.

The device feels super sturdy, and the back of the 7 has a leather-like feel. This thing probably won’t slip out of your hands, which is nice. Also, the screen doesn’t smudge as much as I assumed that it would, so that’s a plus. Unfortunately, I can’t read books on it outdoors, because there’s quite a glare problem.

When you watch someone using this thing, it’s hard not to think “Wow, that’s a big phone”, even though it doesn’t have the capabilities of one. If you can get past that, it’s very easy to start a very personal relationship with a device of this size. I tend to sleep with my phone, so take that last comment with a grain of salt.

The inside

This thing is fast…hella fast. For $200, I can’t believe how much power is packed into this thing. I played the new Sonic the Hedgehog game and the loading screens flew by without a hitch. I’ve read some reviews that say the Nexus 7 is the perfect “book-reading” or “video viewing” device, but I wouldn’t count games out at all.

The screen is crystal-clear and HD videos are absolutely gorgeous.

The unfortunate part is that app developers haven’t had a chance to optimize their offerings for Jelly Bean and the 7-inch experience as of yet. Apps like Twitter and Facebook feel like the same ones you’d find a phone, which was a bummer

Taking this thing on the road isn’t going to happen though, since it’s WiFi-only. Some see this as a plus, as dealing with AT&T or the like for yet another device is a pain in the ass. The Nexus 7 is a mobile device for the home, which makes complete sense. The idea of “mobile” doesn’t mean you’re walking down the street, it just means that you’re not a desktop or laptop computer.

Everything else

At first, I had to make a conscience effort to use the 7 to do things like check email. I wanted to really give this thing a shot, so I quickly decided to just set it on the table and see if I’d reach for it before I grabbed my phone.

In quite a few cases, I did just that. If you use any of Google’s products, you’ll find Jelly Bean and the Nexus 7 to be a handy device. The Gmail experience is worth the price of admission alone. The other thing you’ll quickly figure out is that the 7 is meant to showcase Google Play, which is Google’s marketplace for movies, TV, music, apps and games. Yes, Google wants your money, and it hopes that the Nexus 7 is the conduit to that.

Personally, I have myself wrapped up in Spotify for music and Netflix for movies, so Google isn’t going to get my money on those fronts. Fortunately both of these apps work perfectly on the device, so I didn’t feel “forced” to change my habits at all.

Are you going to want to rush out and by the Nexus 7? As with anything, that’s going to be a personal preference. If you’re in the market for something that’s not a phone and not a “computer”, then it might be worth picking up. The fact that it’s WiFi only will most certainly keep a segment of folks away with it, as being tethered to somewhere with an internet connection can be annoying.

What I can say is that this particular device can totally serve a purpose for you if you’re a couch-computer-person. For me, I use my phone so much, I worry that it’s going to damage my eyes eventually. If you think about it that way, using a larger display for things like reading is a smart bet.

Using the 7 is extremely natural, even though Jelly Bean still has its quirks. For example, you can’t put the homescreen in landscape mode, which seems like an incredible bug to ship with.

I won’t lie, I have a ton of gadgets in my closet that go unused. I have tablets, laptops, netbooks, and desktop machines. It takes quite a bit to make my normal rotation. I wanted to wait a few days to discuss my experience, since I think it’s ridiculous to publish a “review” of something that you’ve spent an hour or less with.

The things that I’m talking about today though, are things that won’t change for me moving forward. I absolutely do need a larger device to mess around on the Internet when I’m not at my computer, so the Nexus 7 fits that need.

Also, I haven’t found one thing that it doesn’t do that bummed me out. That’s saying a lot, since I’m rather picky. Is the Nexus 7 going to change the world? No. Is it the worst product ever? No. As with anything, nothing is black or white.

What I can say is that the Nexus 7 is an absolute steal at $200. The 16GB model will run you another $49. I hope my thoughts were helpful, let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer them.

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