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Google Nexus 7 Review (2013)


News by Andrew Kameka on Monday August 12, 2013.

google nexus 7 2013 · google news · android news · tablet news · andrew kameka

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Google Nexus 7 App drawers
Google Nexus 7 App drawers

Software and Apps

Pure Android 4.3 Jelly Bean - what else would you expect from a Google product? The Nexus 7 has the gift and curse of running the Plain Jane version of Android. It will get faster updates than any other tablet on the market, but its interface often feels like it's just a large phone. The beauty of stock Android's simplicity is not as big a selling point once you realize the launcher, notifications, and photo gallery are just scaled-up replays of what's seen on a phone. Similar charges could be levied against other manufactures, but at least Samsung does things like Multi-Window that translate well to larger screens.

The Nexus 7 software is vanilla enough to lull users into not paying attention to the pizzazz-free advancements of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Movies have virtual surround sound and 1080p HD video streaming, the keyboard is slightly faster, and Bluetooth low-energy uses less powers. Profile switching is easier as well, so users can share apps and data but only allow certain features to be accessible. A game can be installed once and played by multiple people with each player's personal game progress and scores left in tact. These are incremental improvements that don't grab headlines but they make the Nexus 7 a greater tablet.

Android's Fragments UI lends itself well to some tablet-specific views in other areas of the software. Fragments split content into multiple panels to show more data. Calendar shows a day or agenda view on one side and a monthly preview or event details on the other. I love viewing my schedule on the Nexus 7 because it means less time going back and forth between events. The same is true for Gmail, which has a two-pane view when held in landscape, and Google Hangouts, which makes monitoring multiple conversations so much easier.

Android doesn't measure up to iOS when it comes to the grand stable of iPad-specific apps, but developers taking advantage of Fragments creates some very good experiences. Productivity seekers can turn to Springpad for well-organized notes or QuickOffice Pro HD for document creation. Media hounds can turn to Hulu Plus or Netflix for streaming video, or the tablet-friendly views of TuneIn radio. And of course, there's an army of reading apps available like Flipboard, Pulse, Pocket, Readability, Feedly, Press, and Barnes & Noble Nook that scale up to fit the 7-inch screen quite comfortably.

Google Play services are pre-loaded to meet the basic needs for music, movies, books, and magazines. The selection is solid, but I'm still incredibly disappointed by Play Books not supporting eBook sideloading. Otherwise, there are plenty of apps to download. Android apps are designed to scale for larger screens, and many phone apps look just fine on the 7-inch display. There's clearly a quantity gap between the Nexus 7 and an iPad Mini when it comes to tablet apps, but the quality gap is less troublesome.

Communication and Data

Google sells the Nexus 7 in two forms, including the dual-band Wi-Fi-only model used for this review. The Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz) supports 802.11 a/b/g/n and maintains a strong signal. I was able to remain connected for up to about 28 feet and on the floor below my apartment. A version that also supports 4G LTE and HSPA+ will soon be compatible with 4G on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. Both tablets have Bluetooth 4.0 LE and NFC for Android Beam or triggering actions with NFC stickers.

Camera

Google and ASUS have doubled-up on the camera power of the Nexus 7. A 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera is present for video calls, the same resolution available last year. The front camera once again provides good enough visuals but won't win any awards. Neither will the new 5-megapixel camera placed on the back of the device. It's predictably average and takes pictures that are passable but won't be first choice over what someone can accomplish with most modern smartphones.

Battery

Google promises 9 hours of "Active use" with the Nexus 7. That is a conservative average of what the company expects when browsing the web, reading books, and playing games. I found the claims of the 3,950 mAh battery to be about accurate for those activities. Light usage made the tablet last more than a day. Deliberate stress tests of streaming Google Play Music, browsing the web, and watching Netflix lead to just under 9 hours. Playing games like Riptide GP 2 and watching videos were the biggest drains, but browsing the web and reading books lead to a more balanced approach. Battery life on the tablet is solid even though the Nexus 7 2013 edition has a lower capacity battery than the 2012 model (3,950 mAh compared to 4,325 mAh).

Conclusion

The pursuit of perfection, and the inevitability of never being able to catch it, ensures that things will always improve. That's been the story of the Nexus 7's young life so far. The original Nexus 7 was far from perfect, but it was fantastic because of delivering on the promise of delivering a real Android tablet at a significantly lower price than what other Android manufacturers charged. The 2012 edition lowered the tablet tax to an undeniable $199 and still supplied a good experience.

Google Nexus 7 speakers
Google Nexus 7 speakers

The same is true for the Nexus 7 2013 edition, only things are even better now. The performance is just a little bit snappier, the screen is just a little bit more eye-popping, and the software is technically the same, though it performs better thanks to the upgrades in hardware. There's even a rear camera for the rare occasion that you need to take a picture with a tablet. All of these changes cost only $30 more because Google the new Nexus 7 for $229. The tablet tax has increased, but so has the value. The Nexus 7 is now an even better deal to get a portable and enjoyable Android tablet.

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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.

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