Friday, August 17, 2012

Google Nexus 7 (16GB) Review

Google introduced a Nexus line of Android phones in 2010.  The Nexus series is meant to provide a pure Android experience with an unlockable bootloader, no carrier modification, and be the first to have the latest Android updates.   Although there have been three Nexus phones, Google introduced its first Nexus tablet, Nexus 7, at its 2012 I/O Developer’s Conference.  The tablet itself is manufactured by ASUS, a leading Taiwanese computer and electronics company.  The Nexus 7 is aimed at the lower price market to compete in the $199 - $250 range.  Therefore, it is not meant to be an “iPad-killer”.  The media tends to incorrectly compare devices that are designed for different markets.  The Nexus 7 is currently a hot selling item as most retailers including the Google Play Store cannot keep it stock fast enough.  So is this device worth it?  Read on...

     The Nexus 7 comes in two flavors: $199 with 8GB of storage and $249 with 16GB.   For a limited time, Google also provides a $25 credit to the Google Play Store when you register.  Our review tablet is the 16GB.  Although it is a personal choice, 8GB may not be sufficient for most people.   There is no micro-SD expansion slot.

The Nexus 7 is average size compared to other 7” tablets.  The Nexus 7's dimensions are 7.8” (l) x 4.7” (w) x .41” (h) compared to the Kindle Fire of 7.5” (l) x 4.7” (w) x .45” (h).  For comparison, the Barnes & Noble Nook Color's dimensions are 8.1” (l) x 5.0” (w) x .48” (h).  The Nexus 7 weighs about .75 lbs which is light.  The Kindle Fire is .91 lbs.  One major advantage of having a 7” tablet is the ease of typing using your thumbs.  Try doing that on a 9” or 10” tablet.

     The body is light and made of plastic (obviously to reduce cost).  However, it does not feel like a cheap Chinese tablet.  The rear of the tablet has a rubberized back which allows a better grip.  The Nexus 7 tablet has a micro-USB (OTG) port, headphone jack,  and dock contacts.  The one external speaker is good but is located on the back which we are not fans of.  Its not as loud as apparent by having only one speaker.  We played music and watched videos on a very high volume with a little distortion.  Two speakers would have been preferred but at this price level, one tends to typically find one speaker.  Overall, the exterior quality is very good for this price range.

     The Nexus 7 does include a front-facing and centered camera but no rear camera.  Don't expect high quality videos or pictures with this camera.  There are no physical buttons on the front on the device due to the introduction of capacitive buttons in Android 4.0.   There is a power button on the right side and a Volume Up & Down button below it (if viewing in portrait mode).

     Included accessories are mini-USB cable, and DC power adapter/charger. 

Under the hood, the Nexus 7 has a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor running at 1.2 GHz and 1 GB of RAM which again is not typical for this price range so definitely a  big plus.  Our Nexus 7 has 16GB of internal storage memory although about 13.5GB is usable (the rest is for Android).  The tablet has a built-in accelerometer, GPS, Gyroscope, NFC, digital compass, Bluetooth and Accelerometer.  The Nexus 7 does include a 12 core GPU which the benchmarking results will show its top performance.

     The Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n ) performed without any issues and performed on par.    Connection never dropped and no significant slow down in connection.  It is on a 2.4GHz frequency rather than the fast 5GHz (HP TouchPad uses both).

The processor and screen are the two most important pieces of hardware in a tablet.  Google/Asus did not skimp on either one.  The capacitive screen is 7” with a high resolution of 1280x800.  The Kindle Fire, for comparison, has a 1024x600 resolution.   The viewing angles are excellent.  The screen has true multi-touch which has three or more points of input.  The screen is covered by Corning glass although no confirmation has been made if it is Gorilla Glass.

As our video demonstrates, the Nexus Tablet works well with all multimedia (pictures, music & videos) types.  We tested these three types of multimedia using the stock apps.  There are other better apps to use but our focus is only on the apps included.  For the pictures, the quality of the images was very good.  The colors were not as bright or lively as the original file.  For videos, we tested using MP4 format with 1250 & 1500 bit videos,  three 720p HD files (AVI, MOV & MP4 format), and one 1080p HD file (native MKV).  The stock player was not able to play the AVI and MOV videos.  Actually neither did mVideoPlayer.  Only MoboPlayer (which claims to play any video format) was able to recognize and play all these videos.  All non-AVI, non-MVK, and non-MOV files played very well with no stuttering in the stock player.  The Nexus 7 had no trouble processing the 1500 bit video.  Although the MoboPlayer played the 1080p HD file, there was some stuttering as the device struggled a little.  However, there is no reason to play 1080p HD video on a screen size of 1280x800. We would recommend MoboPlayer over mVideoPlayer since it plays virtually all formats.  Overall, the multimedia experience was overall excellent.

Google includes free copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon movie plus books (Alice in Wonderland, Great Expectations & Pride and Prejudice) and some songs. 

Software/Applications (Apps)

The Nexus 7 obviously include Google apps.  No surprise here as most lower-budget tablets do not.  Google Wallet was not included initially.  However when you update to Android 4.1.1 JRO03D, it will get installed. We performed our standard PDF rendering test using Repligo and our test PDF file.  The Nexus 7 took approximately 4.3 secs to fully load the first page of the document.  This is slighty quicker than other tablets using a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor.  One nice feature is that one gets a $25 credit to the Google Play store when you first sign in.  (This is for a limited time so it may change.)

Because the Nexus tablet has the newest Android software (4.1 Jelly Bean), I will briefly go over what is new.  Our review is based on the hardware but it would be an injustice to ignore the latest Android software.  There are many new features in Jelly Bean.  The top are:
  • Project Butter – allows smoother, faster and more responsive interaction.
  • Google Now – learns your search patterns and provides information for you before you even ask.  You are provided cards with information such as local weather, sports scores from your favorite team, traffic, calendar reminders, and much more.
  • Improved Voice Search – optimized and new voice playback.  Used in conjunction with Google Now, it may be considered better than Apple's Siri.
  • Expanded Notifications – there's new expandable notifications that display more information than before.
  • Better Chrome Browser – better HTML5 experience, better JavaScript experience, and faster rendering.
  • Android Beam – with NFC built-in, one can “beam” photos and videos with another NFC device.  Also better connection to NFC-ready Bluetooth devices.
  • Resizable Widgets – although this was introduced in ICS, the widgets are automatically resized to fit.
  • Improved keyboard – predictive text, faster and more responsive.

One item to note is that when you install a new app, a shortcut is automatically added to the homescreen.  I personally do not like this feature but others may find it convenient.

We benchmarked the Nexus 7 against the HP TouchPad (with Android 4.0.4) and Cruz Tablet T408:

     When comparing the Nexus Tablet against the TouchPad and the Cruz T408, one should note that the TouchPad has dual core while the Cruz tablet has a single core processor running at 1GHz.  It is no surprise that the Nexus 7 dominates all the CPU & GPU benchmarks even against the limited benchmarks where the quad-core Eee Pad Transformer Prime is included.  The Nexus 7 also is tops with the Vellamo benchmark (which tests the following items: rendering, JavaScript, networking, and user experience) and the BrowserMark benchmark (which test
Javascript & HTML rendering).  With these benchmark scores, it does not make sense to overclock the device.

  (Different benchmarking apps may test  different aspects of the CPU and GPU which would account for variance.  One cannot look simply at one set of benchmark scores.  One should view all in an aggregate.)

Battery Life
Our standardize testing consist of two battery tests:  1) played a movie that repeated until the unit shut off (with Wi-Fi turned on); and 2) played a movie that repeated until the unit shut off (with Wi-Fi turned off).  Both tests had the brightness at 50%.  The battery averaged 9:42 with WiFi on and almost 11 hours without WiFi.  Battery life is very good overall. 

Overall, the Nexus 7 is the best value Android tablet currently on the market.  For its price, you are getting excellent hardware.  So what are the strengths: 1) quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor that should handle majority of current 3D based games and video rendering; 2) $199 price tag; 3) full Google apps; 4) latest Google updates without manufacturer interference; 5) $25 credit to the Play Store; and 6) excellent 1280x800 7” screen.  As for the negatives: 1) no expansion slot; 2) no HDMI output;  4) stuttering on 1080p video and 5) unable to play HD AVI and MOV videos natively.  These negatives are minor and the first two are due to keeping cost low.  There is no denying that the Nexus 7 is the best $200 tablet on the market for now.  It will be facing competition as more manufacturers will introduce tablets in this price range. (The Not-Yet-On-The-Market Acer Iconia A110 should offer more features for the same price.) Also Apple's rumored mini-iPad may make its debut this fall (although the starting price should be at least $300).  If you are looking at purchasing one of the cheap Android tablets that are on the market for under $200, save your money and buy the Nexus 7.  It is well worth it.  You get what you pay for except here you are getting more than what you pay for.

Useful Links:

Excellent Basic Step-by-step Setup
Nexus Root Toolkit (unlocks bootloader & roots device)
Video on how to use the Root Toolkit

Recommended Case & Screen Protector:

Google Nexus 7 Tablet Slim Fit Leather Case (Black) with Stand by Supcase (TM) - Color Options: Black, Sapphire Blue, Green, Purple, Light Blue, Deep Pink, Deep Blue, Red, Pink, Yellow, White

CrazyOnDigital Screen Protector Film Clear (Invisible) for Google Nexus 7 Tablet (3-pack)


  1. Got one and it is fabulous. I also like my Prime, and the TF101. The Nexus 7 negates Steve Jobs prophecy, and is not the last device Apple won't get credit for pioneering.. No matter what Apple does, it will always be a follower now.

  2. Google Nexus 7 application compare with ipad and other tablet, through price it is cheaper than ipad, maybe a litter expensive than other tablet. but Google Nexus 7 owner application is most useful.Tablet PC

  3. Nice post and it would be great for everyone, Thanks a lot for spreading this information here.

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  5. Thanks for providing such a great article, it was excellent and very informative.
    Thanks for review
    thank you :)

  6. Both the GOOGLE Nexus 7 vs Apple iPad Air devices seem to be good in many ways. the Apple iPad Air is much smarter than the GOOGLE Nexus 7. The Apple iPad Air is really a cool option to try out for the users as it promises a wide range of features in comparison to the other device that makes a good option to go with.
    GOOGLE Nexus 7 (2013) by ASUS vs Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

  7. I think the colors were not as bright or lively as the original file. For videos, we tested using MP4 format with 1250 & 1500 bit videos, three 720p HD files (AVI, MOV & MP4 format), and one 1080p HD file (native MKV). The stock player was not able to play the AVI and MOV videos. Actually neither did mVideoPlayer. I would like to say Thanks for sharing such a nice article.
    Why Wearable Technology???

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