Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nexus 7 review: The 7″ tablet segment performer has arrived

Nexus 7 proved to be a huge success for Google which was important for them make a headway in the tablet market which is still ruled by iPad and a lot of android tablet manufacturers could not even challenge the supremacy of iPad due to challenges around fragmentation issues which exist within the android ecosystem and previous versions of android OS simply lacked the ease of use factor which iOS has always being proud of.

With Microsoft ready to launch Surface tablet along with Windows 8 and recently released Amazon Kindle Fire HD, does Nexus 7 still stand a chance to grow it's presence in the 7 inch tablet segment until iPad mini arrives? and how does Nexus 7 stack up to these expectations that previous android tablets have not being able to achieve?

My iPad 2 was gathering dust by now as my fascination for iOS experience had faded away after I started using android OS first via Samsung Galaxy SII and then Galaxy Note. When I decided to switch over to Nexus 7 from iPad 2 (you may probably think of this as a downgrade) I did consider Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 for once, however I wanted skip Sammy on this one as they are very slow in releasing android OS upgrades even on their flagship devices while they keep tuning it for their proprietary TouchWiz interface compatibility and SGT 2 7.0 scores came out well below Galaxy Note while I was running some benchmark tests on my phone.

I got rid of my iPad 2 and Nexus 7 is officially not available in India yet, so by the time I planned to order via a relative in USA, it was sold out online and in stores, so I chose to order via a seller on E Bay, my shipment was delivered within 15-20 days in good condition, hassle free. Luckily I did not have too may issues unboxing Nexus 7 with the kind of videos I watched on YouTube showing how difficult it was to get the tablet out of the packaging material used by Asus.

Here's my review of this tablet after using it for more than a month now.

Form Factor and Design

Nexus 7 tablet measures at 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm (lhw) and weighs 340 gm. It surely packs a premium feel to the build quality and a rubberized back which feels like thick textured plastic allows better grip while holding the tablet it also does away with the worry of your tablet picking up scratches or dirt smudges on the rear section with frequent use.

Overall look of the tablet is very minimal, no physical buttons below the lower bezel with the one similar to home screen button on the iPad. There is a power button with volume rocker on the top right hand side of the tablet, has decent bezel space. Nexus 7 does not have a rear camera however there is a front facing 1.2 mp camera with light sensor which can be used for video calls/conferencing, surprisingly the placement of 3.5 mm headphone connector is towards the lower section of the tablet and not on the top, which is slightly intrusive while using tablet in portrait mode.

Nexus 7 scores high on portability, it cannot fit in your regular day to day apparel however it is easy to carry around in a sleeve case and would probably fit well in your suit or rear pocket in your jeans.


Nexus 7 comes with a backlit LED IPS display that has resolution of 1280x800 pixels at 216 dots per inch (dpi) which is 48 dpi short of iPad's retina display at 264 dpi. Watching HD videos, scrolling through pictures in the gallery and accessing other multimedia content looks good however while accessing apps like Facebook, Twitter I noticed that the screen looks slightly washed out on colour and contrast reproduction, maybe it could be something related to poor colour calibration.

You would need to tweak the brightness settings for Nexus 7 as I noticed that screen display scores the highest as a battery hogger. No hassles experienced while reading e-books, minor lag noticed while rendering PDF pages with image content. Display glass is made up of corning scratch resistant material, however catches smudges very easily so a screen guard is a must.

Hardware and Battery Performance

Nexus 7 runs on NVIDIA's Tegra 3 quad core chipset (SoC) with ARM Cortex A-9 processor that clocks at 1.3 GHz, has 1 GB memory and also houses 12 core ULP GeForce @ 416MHz graphical processing unit (GPU) which works great on this tablet to provide a lag free and smooth gaming experience. Takes around 30 seconds to boot, multi tasking between apps works efficiently on this tablet, screen transitions are extremely smooth, I did notice that it took few milliseconds to normalise text display while zooming in and out of web content in Dolphin browser.

There is a definite plus of playing games on Nexus 7 in comparison to those I have played on my Galaxy Note. I noticed less time lag duration in game loading process for titles like Real Football 2012 and Asphalt 7, however the visual quality does not differ in such games even with all the extra juice Nexus 7 posses on GPU front. Rendering overall game environment, colour and contrast reproduction difference is noticeable while playing the game titles which are Tegra HD versions of popular games on Google Play store like Samurai II Vengeance, Dead Trigger, Shadowgun, Galaxy on Fire 2, Max Payne Mobile, Shine Runner which I have installed on my tablet.

If you compare this device's performance to iPad on the gaming front, It would fall a notch behind when it would come to rendering textures, anti-aliasing feature that helps in reducing jagged edges, however Tegra 3 optimized games give you additional eye candy effects within the game environment, like a water splash on screen, improved gun flare and bullet path effects in some FPS games.

With a 4,326mAh battery, Nexus 7 lasted between 6-7 hours on a test I ran with Wi-Fi on throughout, 30% gaming, 50% web browsing(inclusive of uploading and downloading content), 20% watching HD videos on tablet and YouTube. I tried doing a standby test with 30% battery left once which lasted 1 day 12 hours and still 7% battery left. Time taken to complete full charge is around 3 hours, No complaints here in this section. I am posting few tests run on benchmarking tools like NenaMark 2, SmartBench 2012 and AnTuTu with battery test screens as well, link here

Nexus 7 tends to get a little warm on the lower left side of the screen during extended usage, luckily it does not overheat like an oven which I experienced with Samsung Galaxy SII.Speaker performance is not so good, Stereo effect is hardly audible with the external speakers, while listening to videos and music with a headset quality is slightly better.


This tablet has standard Bluetooth and 802.11n WiFi connectivity, Nexus 7 would probably be my first NFC device, yet to use it for any practical purpose. This technology is still at a nascent stage and catching up with mobile and gadget users globally, Samsung and Nokia also have already launched some NFC enabled mobiles in India.

There are two mics provided for noise canceling action on the tablet, which works well for voice based Google Now search service, You can modify settings on this app with English(India) as language and it works! though it has trouble understanding few difficult Indian names and words so you would have to fiddle around with your dialect a little.

Google has recently introduced turn by turn navigation for Google Maps in India, you can take advantage of the live traffic updates allowing you to take a look at estimated travel time from home - work - home, as it covers major cities in India, also check out display cards of places nearby, which makes it worth putting it on the car dashboard for using navigation features on this tablet.

Absence of 3G connectivity is going to hurt Asus in the long run as they are planning to bring this tablet in India this year around Diwali, Samsung is providing calling feature on a 10 inch Galaxy Note 800 tab and Galaxy tab 2 7.0, personally it does not make sense to me for having a camera, calling feature and 3G connectivity on a tablet.

I have used 3G dongle for my laptop, 3G service on my phone connection while travelling and frankly speaking these services are completely dependent on network infrastructure of a mobile service provider, when you leave the safe zone of your home Wi-Fi connection, there is no guarantee you would get seamless connectivity outside and with new radiation norms for cellular towers implemented from 1st September, be ready to notice a drop on quality of service and connectivity related to 3G services, unless you want to show off rarely used features of your gadget do not fall for a "value for money" concept of getting a phone and 3G device in a tablet, however all I can say this is how the taste of Indian consumers has evolved for gadgets and hence the demand exists.

OTG connectivity issue has being resolved with a workaround of installing a paid app Nexus Media Importer available on Google Play store, allowing you to mount flash drives and SD cards from a card reader to transfer content on the go, connecting game pads, keyboards and mouse. (Requires compatible OTG cable)


Storage is another area of concern for Asus when it comes to lack of expandable memory slot supporting SD cards, even with the 16GB version, actual available memory space you would get would be around 13.2 GB and I would not recommend this tablet in case you want to carry lot of multimedia content on your tablet and downloading few graphic heavy games would clog your tablet memory in no time. I was able to manage my storage needs with the 16GB WiFi version I had of iPad 2, so it does not make much difference to me.

Jellybean experience 

Thankfully Nexus 7 does not come with too much of  bloatware pre-installed and my tablet was immediately updated to version 4.1 after the initial set up process was completed, over and above the smoothness and lag free navigation and usability on Nexus 7, there are features like smart widgets which resize according to the space available on a home screen, you can expand a specific widget which may occupy larger screen space, other widgets would adjust in size accordingly. Push Notifications have also improved on Jellybean OS, you get content preview in the drop down menu while accessing notifications and Smart update feature is a god send, In my opinion it is not possible always to update apps and games over 300 MB in size for a small tweak or improvement patch released by the publisher.

Most popular apps are compatible for Nexus 7 on Google Play store, however there is still work to do for Google to match up to the vast library of apps available for iPad, issues around OS fragmentation and slow adoption rate of new OS releases from Google by manufacturers need to be sorted out in time, even today Gingerbread remains the most installed OS version of Android globally, ICS was just settling in and Jellybean has arrived on the scene and going to be rolled out on major flagship devices of various companies, which allows very little time for developers to adapt themselves to the changing requirement of the OS framework on which apps are developed.


Nexus 7 has the ability to shine as a strong performer for Google and without any doubt is the best 7 inch tablet to go for today, A slightly expensive variant offering 3G connectivity and expandable memory would be a big plus for Asus in augmenting sales figures for this tablet.

This tablet works best as an e-book reader, portable gaming device and for watching multimedia content. Even with iPad I could never use it as an extension to my laptop for creating content, which is where Windows Surface would play an important role once launched. Gaming on a 7 inch tablet is much better than getting your fingers sore juggling with touch screen controls on a 10 inch screen,

You may also think aren't budget tablets from Micromax and Karbonn and other Indian manufacturers not worthy enough in case they need to be used just as consumption devices? I have used Micromax Funbook and checked a demo piece of Karbonn Smartab in a store, Indian manufactures are not conscious on building a credible product in this lucrative 7 inch tablet category.

A low cost tablet would comes with performance and lag issues, touch screens are not so responsive in these tablets and overall product build quality from these manufactures leaves a lot to be desired, add after sales service which is again a concern. Micromax Funbook has battery calibration issues also, It loses charge at 50-60% battery levels and the cost of replacing cracked glass on a Rs 6,400 Funbook is Rs 3000, what point does it make to buy a low cost tablet then?

I already mentioned the reason why I skipped the thought of purchasing Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 at the beginning of this review, and being a device promoted by Google you can be rest assured that you would receive OS updates much earlier to tablets made by other vendors. Currently Nexus 7 8GB version is available for around Rs 15,000 and 16GB version for Rs 20,000 on EBay India site.

You can wait for Asus to officially release this tablet in India and the pricing range is going to stay in the similar bracket of current online pricing on e-commerce portals for Nexus 7, it is a true value for money product in the 7 inch tablet category, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD is a noteworthy competitive product and luckily Apple did not reveal iPad mini during their September 12 iPhone 5 announcement event, which gives Asus a chance to expand sales in additional countries where Nexus 7 is yet to be launched and it would continue getting a first mover advantage in those markets.

Please feel free to leave your comments, video review to follow with more updates and tips for Nexus 7

Link to unboxing pics here

My review got featured on, and also the top emailed article on 29th Sep 2012, many thanks to all the readers.

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