It was a bit of a wait, but the 32 GB version of Google’s 2013 Nexus 7 refresh is finally available in Canada, and I got my hands on one. I’ve been using it heavily for the past week and a half or so, and I am completely in love.
A bit of background on my mobile and tablet usage may be in order.
I am NOT a smartphone user. I have an Android phone, but it is pretty old at this point, and stuck running Gingerbread, so the new Nexus 7 is my first exposure to the more mature versions of Android. For the most part the phone sits gathering dust while waiting for me to remember that it exists and plug it in.
I’ve been a tablet user for years. I have an iPad 2, which I still love and use constantly. In many ways, the iPad is my TV.
The new Nexus 7 has surprised me by being a tablet I use in very different ways. The new version of Android feels fully mature; this is a platform you can really get things done on. For the first time in my life, I feel like email isn’t something I have to look at on the computer anymore. (I know, I’m firmly in the tiny minority here.)
One of the big reasons I’ve been a computer holdout in a mobile world for so long is input. I’m a very quick touch typist, and using just about any other input interface feels impossibly slow and clumsy. This is still true using touchscreen keyboards, but the voice recognition in Android Jellybean is impressive, and the Nexus 7 handles it incredibly well. It has managed to understand what I’ve said to it even while I’m listening to loud broadcasts without headphones. It understood me over even our own John P during a Geek Beat Live show! This gives me a lot of hope that I’ll be able to hang up my keyboards soon, and they will be the ones gathering dust instead of my phone.
The screen on the new Nexus 7 is incredible. Anyone who’s seen an Apple retina device knows pretty much what to expect; it’s impossible to see the pixels on it. It’s full 1080p, 1920×1200 squashed into a 7″ rectangle. Your eyes just seem to glide over it. The hardware boost it has gotten over the previous Nexus 7 is impressive as well, with a faster processor and double the memory. The touch screen is smooth and responsive. There have been reports of some people having trouble with multi-touch on their units, but so far at least mine has been problem-free.
The rear-facing camera is surprisingly good for a tablet, though I don’t think it’ll sway anyone away from their phone cameras any time soon. If you do need to grab a quick shot or record a quick video with it, it’s plenty good enough at 5MP. The front-facing camera is 1.2MP, good enough for video calls and not much more.
I shot a few seconds of sample video on the rear camera to give you an idea of what it’s like out of the box. Someone more familiar with producing video could do a lot better, I’m sure, but my example should be typical of what the average consumer will produce. You can check it out at the end of the post.
I did have one significant problem when I first started using the Nexus 7; I had to reboot it after it hung up during the initial update process, which was a pretty unnerving thing to have to do. Thankfully it was also the last problem I’ve had with it. It booted up fine after that, finished all of its updates, and has been working like a charm ever since. My only other complaint is a somewhat tinny sound quality from the speakers.
It impresses me most just how much you can really get done with the Nexus 7, thanks both to the hardware capabilities of the device and advances in Android over all. It feels much more like a productivity tool than my iPad does, though it is possible that having a newer iPad would change my opinion on that. I’d definitely recommend it as a buy. It’s available at many major retailers or from the Google Play store for $229 for the 16GB version or $299 for the 32GB version.