To provide a bit of back story for this blog post – not long after my review of the iPad, I ultimately decided that the iPad was somewhat redundant to the iPhone I was already using, thus it had no compelling reasons to remain in my bag. As such, I eventually sold it and relegated tablets to the “computing fad” bin. Recently, I received a Nexus 7 as a gift – the 8GB model. Here is an overview of my recent experiences with it. After incessantly hearing about the glorious benefits of using tablets from my friends, I was willing to give tablets another go and see where this new 7″ form factor was going to take me.
The 7” form factor for tablets is the sweet spot for touch/tablet computing. It is small enough to fit in a backpack or messenger bag with ease and not displace other important objects you need to carry around (notebooks – of the paper variety and “dead trees” aka books). The lightweight and durable materials used in its construction make it feel sturdy – but not cheap. I am a fan of rubberized coatings as they allow for a comfortable feel in the hands and provide a solid grip that cannot be found on glossy plastic or metal. ASUS managed to blend these features together well in their execution of the Nexus 7, allowing for long term one handed use. The front facing camera provides a quality (enough) picture for videoconferencing. The lack of physical buttons on the face is strange (like a home button), however this is quickly forgotten as one becomes accustomed to the device. [Editor’s Note: I’ve yet to suffer a total system hardlock. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.]
I received this the day Android 4.2 was released, so as soon as I fired it up I was already downloading the updates for the OS. It felt fast and responsive – setting up all of your accounts was very easy, especially if you already have an existing Google account. The Android marketplace is diverse with its offerings, and you can get some great open source software for your tablet if you choose to get it. As a Nexus device, it runs the vanilla version of the Android OS. As the Google flagship device, you can count on hardware and device driver support from developers. While I have not tested any custom ROMs for it yet, the fact that I can excites me greatly. The freedom to do what you want with your device and run the software you want is something I wish Apple would consider (Yes – I understand the walled garden approach but I believe they would see increased revenue from hardware sales if more software was compatible with their hardware.) I would hope to see a privacy and security focused ROM distro ala SELinux released for the tablet by the open source community. Once I get time – I will probably try out a few custom ROMs and end up writing a review about them.
Reading on this tablet is very nice, as the screen adjusts its brightness based on ambient light to conserve battery. Adobe offers its full suite of “free” products for the device (Flash and Acrobat Reader) so you can use this in a manner that is nearly identical to a browser on a laptop or a PC. My eBooks all work well on the device and it is nice to be able to carry around a large library of information (all of my computer books and research white papers).
The 8GB is a bit cramped once all of your OS updates are installed and you download all of your applications from either the Google Play Store or your synced Google account. I am wondering why a discrete SD card slot was forgone, but based on my limited research this seems to be a recurring theme from new android devices going forward as apparently support for the reader is difficult in the fragmented Android device market.
Here I would like to draw attention to a term for a phenomenon I am calling “app bleed”. App bleed occurs when what should be a compartmentalized application ends up sharing data with other applications installed on your system. [Editor’s Note: I realize this is just a file/access permissions problem – however I find app developers advertising this type of behavior as a “feature” to be a dumb idea.] This problem worsens when you store your credentials in the application and it does things automatically without your knowledge. For example, if you are logged into FaceBook and go to some website and read an article and it automatically shares that article with your FaceBook friends or some purchase you made on amazon.com gets tweeted to your Twitter followers. Many of these apps check for each other and want to share data between themselves. I STRONGLY dislike applications that share data with each other – unless I explicitly tell them this is OK. I like all of my apps separate from each other because I want to know where my data is being stored at all times. The future seems to be trending toward greater integration of social media/email/scheduling programs all sharing data with each other – so it looks like people like me are left out in the cold.
The Nexus 7 has just the right blend of features and price making it too compelling to pass up if you are in the market for a multimedia widget. It does everything it aims to do extremely well. If you see yourself needing a cheap device to consume web or social media content – this is the best one for the task. I will look forward to using my Nexus 7 for months to come. Stay tuned for my reviews on custom ROMS – coming in a few months! [Editor’s Note: Probably a bit longer.]