Fedex Santa knocked on my door and woke me up this morning to deliver my latest completely irresponsible purchase, the Nexus 7 tablet from Google (although the only brand marked on the device itself is Asus). I almost wish I’d shot an ‘unboxing’ video because actually opening the box took me forever, as it seemed that it was glued inside the colorful sleeve (it was just such a tight fit that it was harder to remove than the worst jam jar lid), but there are plenty of other people who captured the experience on camera.
This being my first departure from the Apple ecosystem in which I’ve resided these past few years, at this point I have no real opinion of Android, other than that it sounds like a pain to develop for (because of device and version fragmentation), but the fact that the Nexus 7 is going to effectively be Google’s reference tablet for the OS makes it seem the logical entry point for a curious newbie.
When I powered it up (I love that devices are shipped pre-charged as standard) my first thought was “Black screen, modern font, Metro ripoff!” and my second thought was “Hang on a minute, how the hell does it know who I am already?”
I guess it could have been set at the factory, since it was purchased using my Google account… but I don’t know where it picked up “intepid” from, as I don’t use that handle in association with any Google service I can think of. Spooky!
I haven’t really done much with it yet, but I have to say it seems like a very nice device for the price (US$200), and already I totally get the 7″ form-factor. I mean I love my iPad, and it’s likely to remain my tablet of choice, but reading in bed with it requires two hands, whereas the Nexus 7 seems light and small enough to hold in one (maybe not for long periods– we shall see). The Nexus 7 is to the iPad as a paperback is to a magazine.
One caveat is that I have large-ish hands, and so can comfortably hold this thing in the palm of one hand. If yours are smaller you will go mad accidentally touching the screen with your thumb as you try to hold the device from the corner, since the bezel isn’t wide enough to allow a secure grip. Pictured to the right you can see the Nexus 7 sitting on the iPad, and although the former looks more streamlined you will quickly miss the generous bezel of the latter, which makes it a lot easier to keep your thumbs off the active display area. There’s a good reason Apple went with an outdated aspect ratio and an unfashionably thick frame.
- Regular google apps (gmail etc) are integrated beautifully (as one would hope!)
- I will probably never connect this thing to my Mac (except for dev purposes maybe). All my music is in iTunes and there’s no way I’m going to be bothered trying to work out how to get it onto a device which I’m rarely going to use for media playback anyway.
- The USB connector is Micro-B, slightly less common than Mini-B, which is mildly annoying because they are about the same size anyway. It just means you need to keep track of the cable instead of just using what you probably already have (although it is the same connector used by the Kindle).
- The rubberized back is quite nice and grippy, and means when you put it down you don’t have to worry about that tooth-edgy aluminium scraping sound you get from so many Apple products (plugging a USB cable into the back of an aluminium iMac is like nails on a blackboard).
- The Nexus 7 is a device you can be reasonably sure will get timely Android updates, unlike a lot of other cheap junk out there. Seriously it’s the fear of buying a device that’s superseded the moment it leaves the factory which has kept me away from Android and Windows Phone in the past. Lately Apple has become the only company that shows any real commitment to supporting the hardware it sells you (eg Microsoft/Nokia are selling Windows 7 phones right now that will not be upgradable to Windows 8, so basically you’d be an idiot to buy one.)
- You get a couple of freebies and $25 in Google Play store credit. I got to watch Transformers: Dark of the Moon for free, although it wasn’t until about 25 minutes in that I realized it was actually the movie that I was watching, and not a sequence of extended trailers for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It really is an unbelievably bad film.
- You’ll really miss having a physical home button. Again, this is a design decision that Apple made years ago, that at first seemed a bit weird (after doing away with physical keypads they couldn’t get rid of this last, dorky little remnant?) but turned out to be very sensible indeed. On iOS devices an app can never obscure the home button (since the home button isn’t even on the screen), and you won’t press it accidentally because it’s not even touch sensitive. I’ve already done quite a bit of swearing at the Nexus 7 navbar which I keep triggering unintentionally.
- Although the display isn’t quite as sharp as the new iPad’s 264DPI, it comes in close at 216DPI; perfectly acceptable to my shitty eyesight (and much sharper than iPad 1&2)
- The only camera is a front-facing one, so I guess it’s good for video chat and that’s about it. The smaller device size should mean that eye-lines won’t be too out of whack.