Google Nexus 7 – First Impressions

by | Aug 1, 2012 | Hardware, SpireTech Labs

After my first two weeks being the owner of the Google Nexus 7, my impressions are positive. As a worker in the tech industry, I need access to a computer pretty regularly, and access to e-mail is an important part of my job. The appeal of getting a tablet was to have a easily mobile method to get to the web, if need be. Previously, I had been using netbook for mobile computing, and the Nexus tablet has grown on me quickly. The first thing that struck me is that I don’t need a separate bag to carry it around. With laptops, and the netbook, I tend to want a bag to carry the machine, along with a power adaptor. The tablet is small enough that carrying it in hand isn’t tiresome, and the battery life is quite good, so it isn’t necessary to carry the USB charging cable.

The Nexus 7 is smaller than the iPad, closer to the size of a Kindle. So, reading on it seems pretty natural as the display is about the size of a paperback book. The display is clear and easy on the eyes. I purchased a few books to test the display out and had no problems reading for hours.

It only has one camera on the face that is primarily intended for video conferencing, and there is no camera app built in. Yet, it still comes with the image gallery installed. So, you have a way to view photos you upload to the device, but no useful capability to take pictures. There are third party apps that will allow you to take pictures with the front camera. It is a bit difficult to frame a shot while not being able to see the display, so its ability to be used as a camera is quite limited.

Streaming video, such as movies or youtube, play smoothly and clearly. Though it comes gratis with a copy of the Transformers 3 movie (woo hoo), I have yet to watch a full movie on it. One minor gripe its only speaker is on the bottom, which becomes the side if you turn the display for a wide screen view. This means that sound is only coming out of the right or left hand side (depending on how you have it oriented). This can be mitigated by using headphones, but it can be disorienting for a moment because the sound doesn’t seem to come from the middle.

Productivity software is a bit lacking out of the box. It does come with a document reader and spreadsheet viewer. So, you can place items like word documents and excel spreadsheets in Google Drive, or upload them directly using the USB, and read them. It doesn’t come with any text editor, though. I would like the ability to use the tablet as I would a notepad but there isn’t a default app for just taking notes or memos. Evernote seems to fit in this niche quite well. Not only can I use it to take a quick note or dictation, it also can sync these entries with a desktop or other device. There are other full office suites, like Documents To Go, available via Google Play that make the device more practical for work applications other than checking e-mail and reading spreadsheets.

One thing I hope Google addresses is their approach to cloud storage. Each app (Google Drive, Google Play Video and Music) has its own cloud storage that can easily sync with a device. None of them can see or interact with the other, though. For example, the music player has its own cloud storage to be able to purchase music on one device and listen to it on another. It would seem a no-brainer to have the music player see music in Google Drive, but this is not the case. The fact that storage hasn’t been consolidated down to one repository that all of their apps can see is a bit beyond me. I hear this is something they are addressing currently, hopefully this will improve in the future.

One last note – Not all apps are ready for the OS version the Nexus uses (Jelly Bean). There are some audio and graphical glitches because developers haven’t yet taken the time to update their app. I wouldn’t consider this a particular case for or against the Nexus 7, but it is something to bear in mind that affects the user experience.