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Google Nexus Tablet — a practical, non-technical review

My, how technology flies. Tablets and smartphones are changing everything.

I reviewed the iPad back when it was first introduced. I thought there were too many technical reviews and not enough usability reviews, so I weighed in. Time to do the same for the new Google Nexus 7 tablet.

First, $200 for a full-featured tablet? That’s the sweet spot on price that I think many people/schools/companies have been waiting for. So, when Google announced the Nexus, I preordered one. Now that I’ve used it for a few weeks, here’s how I feel about it.

Operating System

The Nexus launched with Google Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). Jelly Bean is a noticeable improvement over previous Android versions. It seems simplified and better thought out. But, it’s still not as easy for a newbie to pick up and use as Apple’s iOS. From what I have seen of Google over the years, the company is good at keeping interfaces simple, but not so good at making them user friendly.

Size and Weight

At just over 7.5″ x 4.5″, it is about half the size of an iPad, and about three times the size of an iPhone. This size is surprisingly convenient, although it is too big for any pocket, but ok for a purse. It’s great for casual use on a couch or table, or for easy access at the side of a desk. At 340g, it noticeably lighter and easier to hold than an iPad, but not as much as an Amazon Kindle.

Display

The resolution of 1280×800 is quite comfortable and the quality is good. Web browsing seems natural at this resolution, even with the smaller display size. Resolution is higher than the iPad 1 and 2, but not nearly that of the 3 with retina display.

Input

The on-screen keyboard works quite well. When holding the device in portrait mode, its size makes thumb-typing easy and responsive. Key placement is pretty good too, although there may be some room for improvement. I’m still looking forward to finding a tablet with useful handwriting capabilities (Microsoft’s Surface tablet perhaps).

Copy and Paste

This is where tablets continue to fail for me. Copy and paste is still clumsy on Android and iOS devices.

Speed

It’s peppy and responsive. But, scrolling seems to be a problem. Scrolling websites and some apps is often jerky. Gmail seems to work fine, but popular apps like Facebook and LinkedIn have some annoying issues, which hopefully will be fixed sooner rather than later.

Camera

There is a 1.2 megapixel camera on the front but not the back. It’s good for video conferencing, but not too useful for taking photos. Surprisingly, a camera app does not seem to be included (or at least I could not find it), but you can get one on Google Play.

Home Button and Multitasking

The Nexus does not have a physical home button. It’s all soft touch, except for the power and volume buttons. Multitasking is fast with a dedicated button.

Dictation

For web search and writing emails you can use the built-in dictation feature. It works pretty well and is nicely integrated into the keyboard – just click and talk and your speech is converted to text. This feature has the potential to really help with those long emails that you try to avoid writing on any tablet.

Google Now

Google’s answer to Apple’s Siri. Where you have to ask Siri for information, Google Now tries to anticipate the information you want and present it to you before you ask. Lots of potential here, but it takes time for Google Now to learn what you want – perhaps another review for the future.

Battery Life

Google claims 8 hours of active use. I haven’t tested those claims, but that amount of time seems quite convenient for most daily use.

Apps

Access to apps is certainly not a problem with any modern Android device through Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

Setup

Setup was easy but I did encounter a problem. The setup stalled when it could not connect to my wireless network. My office network security restricts device use by MAC address. When the setup stalled, I could not access the device settings to get its MAC address, so I had to connect to another wireless network first. It’s not a big deal, but something I would have expected Google to have thought about.

Conclusion

With its full features and low price, the Google Nexus 7 is certainly a great value. Its small size makes it more convenient than full-sized tablets in many ways. But, if you need a device that will be stared at for long periods of time, the smaller size may not be ideal. Still, it’s hard to pass up such a low price.

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