The Google Nexus 7 is not only the first device to run the new Android 4.1, aka Jelly Bean, it's also Google's response to the Amazon Kindle Fire and the latest entry in the consumption/budget tablet market. Manufactured by ASUS, the Nexus 7 sells for either $200 for the 8 GB version or $250 for the 16 GB version.
But while it may be meant for media consumption and built as, essentially, a portal for Google Play content, it isn't built like a simple budget tablet. It sports high end specs and aside from the shiny new version of Android, it has a 1280 x 800 Gorilla Glass display, a front-facing camera for video chatting, and, most impressively, an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor. So do high-end specs and a low-end price equal Android gold? Read on and find out.
Build and Design
First things first: the Nexus 7 is a beautiful tablet. Its body is all black, save for a silver trim around the edges, and at 0.75 pounds and 0.41 inches thick (slightly lighter and thinner than the Kindle Fire, which are 0.91 pounds and 0.45 inches thick) it's incredibly svelte and lightweight. It takes on a slightly less boxy and rectangular look than the Fire, with the edges sloping in gently toward the back. I'm generally a fan of sharp edges because I find them to have a cleaner, more modern look, but even I found the shape of the Nexus 7 to be graceful.
And a particularly nice touch is that the back of the device is covered with a textured, slightly rubberized material that's both comfortable and practical. I'm of the personal belief that all tablets should have some sort of grippy backing like this, rather than just slick plastic, so I was very happy with this particular design choice. The branding back here is simple too, with "Nexus" etched in near the top and "ASUS" down at the bottom near the tablet's one mono speaker.
The 1280 x 800 7-inch display of the Nexus 7 is quite impressive despite the fact that it doesn't feature any of the ubiquitous, new-fangled display technologies that are available these days (see: AMOLED, Super AMOLED, Super AMOLED Plus, Retina display, etc.). It has a respectable pixel density of 216 ppi and it's coated with Corning Gorilla Glass, giving it a beautiful-looking sheen and sharpness. On the highest setting, the brightness of the display is more than sufficient, even if it isn't the brightest we've ever seen on a tablet.
Other Buttons and Ports
One could also add "minimalist" to the list of adjectives describing the design of the Nexus 7. The sharp, sleek look of the tablet's design isn't cluttered with an array of buttons, ports, slots, or controls, as it has only two buttons and two ports. If held in portrait orientation, there is the power/standby button and volume rocker, both located on the upper right side, and on the bottom, there is the micro USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The only other design features of note are a front-facing webcam on the top short edge of the bezel, and a small set of contact points on the lower left side of the device, which will likely be used for the audio dock accessory that ASUS has since announced for the Nexus 7. Few details have been released about the dock, other than the fact that it will charge your tablet while holding it in landscape orientation and, of course, amplify your music.
I do have an issue with one of the design choices, though. Since the sides of the tablet slope inward towards the back, that angles the power and volume rocker buttons away from the user slightly, which takes some getting used to. Rather than having the buttons right there on the side of the tablet where your fingers will instinctively reach for them, they're actually more towards the back. I also wish that holding the power button for anything longer than a split-second wouldn't prompt the tablet to ask me if I want to power it down (instead of just putting it into standby), but in the grand scheme of things, these are very minor complaints.
The tablet's lone mono speaker is definitely a weak point of the Nexus 7. Normally, I would turn to my usual disparaging rhetoric about how terrible tablet speakers are in general and move on. But while that may be the truth, the fact here is that the Nexus 7 is meant to be a tablet for media consumption. And when the whole point of your tablet is to watch movies, listen to music, play games, or otherwise engage in activities that often involve audio, you would think that the manufacturer would put in two (stereo) speakers that are halfway decent, at least by tablet standards.
Unfortunately, this isn't the case, as the Nexus 7's speaker is of poor quality, even when compared to other tablets, which is not exactly a high standard. It can make a decent amount of noise at maximum volume, but if you crank the volume up high enough to get a lot of sound out of it (or even at medium levels, at times) the distortion gets so bad that the speaker sounds like it's tearing. It's really rough, and you're better off using headphones whenever you can.
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