I’ve had the Nexus 7 in my hands for about twenty-four hours now, and I’ve been playing with it a lot. It’s my first tablet, so I can’t compare it directly to the iPad or earlier Android tablets, but I can say that I am very happy with it, especially for only $200.
The physical size is pretty nice. It’s definitely much more portable than a ten-inch tablet would be. I can even fit it in my front pocket. While I wouldn’t want to lug it around in there all day, it is convenient for transporting it short distances without tying up your hands. And it’s light. I don’t notice any issue with weight
Its most immediately impressive quality is just how fast it is.
I hate interface lag with an intense passion. That’s why back in prehistoric days I loathed my Razr when everyone else raved about them — the interface was, to me, completely unresponsive. While I haven’t owned any other tablets, I have tried them out in stores, and tried out tablets that others own, and I was always let down by the way Android tablets performed. Even the highest end pre-ICS tablets had noticeable interface lag, even when doing something as simple as swiping between home screens. None of that on the Nexus 7. The Android team did a phenomenal job with their “Project Butter”.
As far as the seven-inch form factor goes, I’m still a little up in the air about it. Depending on what I’m doing with it, my impression alternates between “Wow, it sure is nice to have all this screen real estate in a handheld device,” and “Hm, it just feels like I’m using a giant phone, how awkward.” I think having tablet-optimized apps makes a big difference here. Flipboard, or the new Google+ app, or MLB At Bat (which was was pleasantly surprised to find has a totally different and much better layout when on a tablet) feel very natural at seven inches. Scaled up phone apps (TweetDeck, for example) are a bit off-putting. Another part of it is the home screen interface. Android has a “tablet style” home screen and a “phone style” home screen. The Nexus 7 uses the “phone style” home screen, which re-enforces the “big phone” feeling.
I love the bigger keyboard though. My big inaccurate fingers cannot type well on a phone’s on-screen keyboard, so I always use something like Swype or SlideIT to type word-at-a-time. On the Nexus 7 I can easily type with two thumbs (in portrait orientation), or four fingers (in landscape orientation), which vastly improves my typing speed and accuracy.
So what am I using it for? So far, for reading and video. I still prefer my e-ink Kindle for extended reading of novels, but the Nexus 7 works much better than a phone for news reading (over breakfast, for example) and web browsing. It’s also a nicer size than a phone for watching Netflix, or watching the Phillies lose (yet again), when a full-size computer is not around. So I guess for me it’s falling into the slot of a device which, when available, is generally preferable to a phone, although it’s not as portable. So the phone is still best for texting, e-mail, calendar, etc. on account of its extreme portability (and data connection), but the tablet wins for media consumption, and isn’t that much less portable.
A lot of people have been making a big deal out of Google Now. I think we’ve been seeing a lot of Google Now comments in relation to the Nexus 7 because it’s the first Jellybean device that most people have been able to get their hands on. In my opinion, Google Now is awesome, but it’s much more useful on a phone than a tablet, on account of the phone being with you at all times.
Also, since I’ve so far avoided putting my corporate account on the device, I have no policy restrictions and have for the first time tried out the (relatively insecure) Face Unlock feature that was introduced with ICS. It’s a pretty cool novelty, and it works surprisingly well, except in low light. If you haven’t tried it out on your ICS or Jellybean device, you might want to.
I’m not a huge casual gamer, so I haven’t tried out too many games on it yet. I played a few minutes of Angry Birds Space and Temple Run, but I don’t have much to say about the gaming potential of the device quite yet.
But, on the whole, if you were thinking of getting a Nexus 7, I’d say go for it. You only have reason to avoid it if you already have a ten-inch tablet, you can’t spare $200, or you have an irrational hate for Android.
Disclosure: I am a Google employee, but I don’t work on the Android team, and I paid in full for my device.
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