As we booted up the nexus 7 for the first time, a pleasant multi-colored X showed up in the center of the screen to welcome us to the Jelly Bean experience. In this article, we dig deep into nexus 7 to see how it compares to bigwigs of the tablet market.
Armed with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), the Nexus 7 is the first device to receive the latest version of Android. One of the coolest features of the Jelly Bean is the introduction of Google Now. A swipe up from the home screen brings the Siri-like virtual assistant, which you can query with voice commands about several things --including the weather, local restaurants and general knowledge.
We asked Google Now 'Who is the president of the USA?' and it brought up a card with the president's name and picture from Wikipedia. The nice thing is that the answers about local restaurants and pubs are highly localized, which is due to Google Maps having a rich knowledge of localities in major Indian cities such as Bangalore. For more complicated queries, Google Now does a search and puts the most relevant answer at the top.
Google's search is obviously top notch, and for many complex queries you find the desired answer as a search result, but it would be jaw dropping if they could convert those results into a eye-catching format, considering Google's understanding of semantics is astounding.
Another noticeable difference is the speed of Jelly Bean, as it zips along no matter how many apps you open. In our regular usage, we have several apps running and a live wallpaper running in the background, and the Nexus never breaks stride. This is definitely helped by the fact that stock Android is running on the Nexus 7, as compared to the heavily skinned Androids HTC and Samsung use, which make the device more sluggish.
A highly touted feature of iOS 6 was the offline Google Maps feature. We tried using it out, but it's not very useful as it can only download a small portion of the map. Hence, you will be able to use the offline map in a small district (we used it in HSR Layout, Bangalore), but that's not really helpful when you're venturing into the city and need directions on the fly.
Form Factor & Design
Although the Nexus 7 is nothing revolutionary in terms of design, it feels good and light in the hand, as it weighs a measly 340g (versus 652g for iPad 3). With a body made of glass, metal and plastic, it doesn't feel as refined as an iPad, but the matte plastic finish of the back gives a reassuring grip when holding. Also, the effort to make it so light does pay off as holding it up for long period of time is not as tiring as holding up the heavier and bigger iPad.
The Nexus is slightly thicker (0.41 in) vs the iPad 3 (0.37 in) , but you barely feel it at all. The only gripe we could find about the design was that the power and volume control buttons were slightly hard to locate and press on the side of the Nexus 7 frame.
Display & Graphics
The Nexus 7 has a rich HD display of 1280*800 display, and a rich level of color saturation. We tried loading some HD movies onto it (Pan's Labyrinth 720p) , and found that the contrast was really good and clarity was astounding. While the iPad's Retina display still outshines the Nexus 7 display, watching movies and reading e-books on the Nexus was enjoyable. We were able to zoom far into the text without realizing any pixelation.
Now, we come to the graphics on the Nexus. With an Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad-core chip powering it, the graphics on the Nexus 7 are out of this world. We installed a graphics-intensive game called Dead Trigger, and it rendered the 3D models of zombies smoothly without any glitches or lag. Temple Run also ran seamlessly on the Nexus 7, while it lags heavily on most basic Android phones.
Processor & Memory
As mentioned earlier, the NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-core chip really shines on the Jelly Bean, making multitasking a breeze. For example, i was able to open up 10 apps simultaneously, including a couple of games, and keep swapping between them without a hitch. Apps run in the background with minimal memory usage, as the operating system automatically optimizes the use of 1 GB RAM and multi-threading to ensure the user never feels he has to slow down.
The only complaint we had was that the internal hard disk memory is restricted to 8GB or 16GB sizes. There is no expandable memory slot, and we're wondering why, as it would not have really affected the pricing range of the device.
Productivity & Connectivity
The new on-screen keyboard uses the screen real estate well, and Google's keyboard prediction engine has become much more efficient. We installed an app called SwiftKey for Android, which provides a jaw-dropping keyboard prediction engine that learns as you type, and typing out blog posts and documents was almost as quick as doing it on a PC keyboard!
One of the biggest headaches we faced was the lack of Adobe Flash support in JellyBean, which Google has abandoned in favor of HTML5. However, majority of websites still only with Flash, so it was quite irritating to browse the web without it.
Android's stock browser has now been replaced by Chrome, which is a ridiculously fast browser, faster even than Apple's Safari. We felt the biggest drawback of the Nexus 7 was the lack of 3G support, which means you can only use Wi-Fi networks, which is highly inconvenient since the Nexus is a mobile device, and almost 99% of apps need some kind of data connectivity. A way to get around this, which we use often, is to tether the 3G connection from our smartphone to the Nexus.
However, this is also not efficient as your phone's battery gets drained out in no time. Apart from that, the Nexus does provide Bluetooth connectivity and a useful microUSB slot which is a universal standard for tablets.
So in Conclusion..
No other tablet can beat the Google Nexus 7 at value for money. Priced at US $199 for the 8GB version, it packs a meaty configuration for an unbeatable price. Of course there are some features it loses out in comparison to the iPad, but that's the compromise you will have to make if you want to save $300.
While there has been no official announcement of its release in India, reports have said that ASUS will bring the tablet to Indian shores in the next few months.
If the price of the Nexus 7 remains consistent in India, there is no doubt that it will give the biggest bang for the buck in the market. For users satisfied with a 7-inch tablet, there is nothing else better than the Nexus 7 in the market right now.
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