Nexus 7: first impressions

You know what they say about third time lucky. Having made and then cancelled orders with Google and Currys, I decided to try my luck with Ebuyer yesterday afternoon as they were advertising the Nexus 7 as in stock and ready for delivery today.

Roughly 16 hours later I actually had the device in hand thanks to a very early morning delivery. Needless to say I had to have a quick play around before leaving for work. Having now had the day to play with it I thought I’d write down some initial impressions.


Hardware

I’m loving the size of this thing. I’m planning on taking it work work everyday to keep me entertained on my commute and at lunch and although I currently lug around my iPad 2 it is just a little too big. This is far more portable. It fits nicely in my small man bag and also doesn’t weigh me down.

I’m also really loving the build quality. It may be cheap, but it certainly doesn’t feel it. In fact, I’d be happy if my trust Galaxy Nexus felt as nice. The best part is the rubberised back. It looks classy, feels great and provides a nice surface to grip. Thank you Asus for not going down the shiny plastic back route.

It’s also very comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The lightness means that my arms didn’t get tired and the asymmetric bezels enable it to be gripped in both landscape and portrait without feeling like you’ll drop it.

The screen is also pretty great. At least as good as the one on my iPad 2 but much sharper due to the higher res and smaller size. Colours seem accurate to my untrained eye, it’s plenty bright and those of you who like to view their tablets off centre will be well satisfied by the viewing angles. The blacks are also nice and dark, if not as inky as on my Galaxy Nexus.

The one negative, which I’ve found very annoying, is the position of the power button above the volume rocker on the top right edge. I’ve already lost count of the number of times that I’ve turned the screen off when wanting to change the volume and, conversely, failed to turn the screen on because I’ve hit a volume button. Why not put them on opposite edged?!!!

Performance

Without going into massive detail, performance is excellent. The combination of Tegra 3, 1GB of RAM and Project Butter makes everything just fly. General navigation, app launching, transitions, animations and scrolling are all very fast and fluid.

UX

I’m finding that the Nexus 7 feels more like a big phone, than a small tablet. Unfortunately I was hoping more for the for the latter than the former.. This is only my opinion, but the widescreen form factor seems to work better in portrait than landscape, indeed the home screen doesn’t actually rotate to landscape at all.

Also, in general I’m finding the when using apps in landscape you just don’t have much vertical resolution to play with, meaning that you have to constantly scroll down. This is particularly the case in the browser, which happens to be my most used app on the iPad. But then in portrait mode, some apps can feel a bit squashed and in need of more horizontal space. Maybe it’s something I need to get more used to.

The app situation is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, we all know that tablet optimised Android apps are fairly thin on the ground. However the big phone form factor actually helps in this case as phone apps actually work quite nicely on the 7″ screen, at least in portrait. That said, I’m hoping that the Nexus 7 is the harbinger of a new breed of tablet optimised Android apps .Fingers crossed that its the device that finally gets devs to take Android tablets seriously.

All of the Google apps have (thankfully) been tablet  optimised and I’m really enjoying tablet Gmail with the ever-present label list. However the settings app could definitely be making better use of the screen estate. But I have to say that for reading books, and text in general, the Nexus 7 feels perfect. And widescreen video is also a treat.

Overall

I’m actually slightly underwhelmed by the Nexus 7. Don’t get me wrong. The hardware is awesome. In look, feel and horsepower it’d still be a steal at twice the price. The value proposition is completely unbeatable. But I think my minor disappointment comes back to my feeling that it’s more of a big phone than a small tablet.

I just am not totally sure about the widescreen form factor. I love it on my Galaxy Nexus but perhaps I’ve got too used to my iPad with its 4:3 screen. I guess I need a little time to get used to the Nexus 7 more and perhaps adapt my usage a little. I’ll definitely be updating my thoughts once I’ve had more time to use it. In the meantime, would I recommend a Nexus 7? Undoubtedly. For the price, it’s absolutely untouchable.

An amazing thing happened this afternoon. My best friend, a technophobe who prefers handing out CVs to applying for jobs online, came over to my house and asked to see my Nexus 7. He’s never been interested in a smartphone and outside of work only uses the internet for Xbox Live. But he played around with the Nexus for 15 minutes and was completely sold and compared to my iPad 2 it’s far more portable.

 

New iPhone to be announced on 7th August?
Up-close and personal with the Nexus 7
  • Snitch

    Good overview mate! I guess you’ll see this as a big smartphone because you have been using an ipad. I think this tablet will have more of an impact on people like myself who haven’t had or used tablets at any great length. To me its a risk I can take at £200. Cant wait to get mine.

    • Anonymous

      It is a great tablet, especially for the price. It feels really high quality. I actually prefer the feel to my iPad. The rubber back is feels great and is far more durable than the metal on my iPad which I’m always worried about scratching.

      I do think that if you haven’t had a tablet before it would be a great first device.

  • nice one Ravi, good first impressions and now you have built my impatience just that little more!!!

  • GadgetJase

    It’s that good it even comes with a tin of Vaseline, I see ;-)

  • Anonymous

    What! The home screens don’t rotate. That’s absurd.

    Agreed on the 16:9 aspect ratio. Apple are simply right here that 4:3 is a better aspect ratio for tablets than 16:9. I wish Google (and Microsoft with their Surface) would listen. It’s actually not a great aspect ratio for laptops either, 16:10 is better. Oh well, I’m sure I’d get used to it.

    These minor problems should be overlooked. It’s £159! And clearly significantly better than any other tablet at this price point, there are some stinkers.

    • Anonymous

      The screen is actually 16:10 as it’s 1280*800. I’m trying to get used to it but I think the iPad has made me appreciate 4:3 quite a bit.

      For the price it’s hard to complain about much. It’s an excellent tablet and still would be at £250-£300. I find it strange that people are complaining about things like lack of storage and a rear camera. Yes they would be nice to have but you have to cut something out to hit such a sweet price point.

      Out of interest I’d love to know what the best selling iPad capacity is. I’d guess 16GB too though.

  • rudy

    Don’t know about Britain but in Canada you can get a BlackBerry PlayBook for the same price. Better spec’d and 2 cameras to boot.

    • Anonymous

      What do you mean by better specced? This has twice the cores and a better quality, higher res display.