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Probably The Best Tablet On The Market - But It Is Cheaper Elsewhere
on 8 November 2012
Reviewers are all correct to say this tablet is cheaper elsewhere. You have to remember that Google's Nexus is a direct competitor with Amazon's own Kindle Fire HD, so it is not surprising that Amazon will not price it competitively or favourably with the Kindle Fire. Actually full marks to them for stocking a competitor's product at all!
There are loads of online reviews that lead me to purchase the Nexus 7 in preference to other options so I will not dwell on comparisons with other products.
My experience out of the box was of a high quality bit of kit. The dimpled non-slip back with the NEXUS logo keeps the device from slipping if you use the device on a tabletop, or your lap and looks classy. The touch screen is beautifuly smooth and responsive , and whilst the screen is not a Retina display as in an Apple product, it is HD, vibrant and sharp, and lends plenty of depth to the visual experience. In fact I never thought I would watch a full length feature film on a device this size, but it come loaded with Transformers 3 Dark Side of the Moon, which ran flawlessly, and listening through my AKG450 headphones it was an immersive cinematic experience - I was very impressed.
The sound quality when played through the internal device speakers is okay but hardly stellar. If you are serious about your music, you will have invested in a decent pair of cans or earbuds to improve your experience. No headphones are included. My headphones are good mid-range ones, and the audio reproduction is very good, improved by using either the device's own graphic equaliser or downloading one from the "Play Store". I downloaded EQualiser for free which has several presets as well as 5 sliders to set your own custom levels. I did notice with my older Sennheiser earbuds that the volume output seemed quite restricted and certainly some headphones that require more power to drive them will benefit from an in-line headphone amplifier. I use a FiiO EO5 mini headphone amp, purchased through Amazon for about £15, which I have reviewed separately. The AKG phones are sensitive and don't really need the amp, but I swear it still sounds better with the amp connected.
I mostly download my music from Amazon MP3 store and have also played from the Amazon Cloud, this works well, I just had to remember to go into the settings to manually refresh the cloud to see my latest purchases. I guess that is what I find attractive about the Nexus and the Android Operating System, I am not tied to one Media retailer, and my music will play from the standard windows media files already stored on my PC and ripped from my CD collection without any time consuming conversion. I can just connect the Nexus to my Laptop/PC with the included USB to Micro USB cable and drag and drop my music (or pictures or any other data) to the Nexus or vice-versa.
A plus point is access to many thousands of Android Apps, many of which have been developed by 3rd party developers. OK so many apps are configured to run on smaller screened smartphones, and are merely upscaled - but that happened with the i-pad initially too. I suspect that the Nexus being such a volume selling platform, it will be a target for masses more optimised Apps in the near future.
Something to bear in mind if reading US reviews of the Nexus 7 is that "Google Now" which learns from your habits such as travel and web-browsing to think ahead and provide you with traffic updates etc does not currently work well in the UK although it promises to be an interesting development if supported properly here. As a dedicated e-reader I think that the original Kindle is actually very hard to beat, but reading the included Jeffery Archer tome on the Nexus was very comfortable . Google play does offer a good range of Classic Novels for free. Interestingly I never did get the promised £15 credit on the Play Store - not sure why.
One gripe. Sometimes I have to hold the power button in for up to 20 seconds before the device turns on. Other times the response is almost instantaneous, most of the time it takes a press of between 3 and 8 seconds before the power comes on. It seems this is fairly normal, and is not too much of a worry, but some consistency would be good.
The wi-fi only nature of the device is not quite as limiting as you might expect with so many free wi-fi spots around now. As a BT Internet customer I have an App to connect to any BT Hotspot for free which is great. Alternatively I can use my Smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot when it has a good 3G signal and I have used the Nexus to connect to it which pretty much as good as having built in 3G.
Battery power is great. I have used the device for music and movie playback and web browsing for 5 hours solid and the icon showed half the power remaining. Full recharge takes only two hours. Much better than my HTC Smartphone.
I find that because the tablet is highly portable but provides a bigger and more comfortable device to web browse with than my smartphone, it is now the device I use all the time for most of my on-line leisure activity. It is also quicker and more convenient to use than my laptop but I would not draft letters or do much document work on it - that is not what it is for. I use it a great deal more than I thought I would. The screen is smooth and responsive and I find the size a good compromise between portability and useability..I do not think that I would so readily carry a 10" tablet around, wheras this will slip into a large inside jacket pocket, and not take up much room in a handbag/manbag.
I paid £189 for the 16GB Nexus at Currys and am well pleased. It seems that now a new 32GB device is going to retail at £199. Knock yourself out and go for that one (Just remember you can get it cheaper than here). I have no storage issues since I can transfer stuff easily to my laptop, but there is no on board expansion option so buying the bigger capacity is bound to give you some degree of future proofing.
UPDATE:15/12/2012 - Still very happy with the tablet...I find that I hardly use the laptop at all now as the Nexus and a Smartphone cover most of my computing needs except for a couple of letters which I needed to draft, and the subsequent printing of them using the laptop.
I have just updated the device to the Jellybean 4.3 Operating System...which took about 5 minutes. I have not noticed any differences from the 4.2.2 Update which had made the interface a little more user friendly, giving you a quick access to your commonly used settings by sweeping down the screen with your finger, and giving you access to Music Purchases from the Google Play Store.
For those who have asked - the BBC iPlayer works flawlessly with any Nexus that has been updated to Jellybean 4.1.2 or higher. Flash content will not work, which is annoying, but I have not got around to researching a work around. Just "Google" if you want to know if particular services work with the Nexus...there is a large user community out there willing to share their experiences...which is another reason why I think this makes sense as a purchase.
The tablet in this 16GB format is now available at around £159 so represents even better value for money, but as I said above 32GB does give you a lot of future proofing for £199. I have around 500 songs and 40+ apps on board and I am using less than 4GB of memory. I stream the movies but if you prefer to download a lot of them then you probably would benefit from the 32GB version. In any capacity the Nexus is very popular and now supply problems seem to have been sorted out make sure you shop around for the best deal.