Andy Kelk

Digital Technology Leader


Gadget review : Google Nexus 7

About a month ago I got myself a new toy – one of the new generation of Google Nexus 7 tablets made by Asus. Since I’ve been using it for a while I thought I’d write up a few thoughts on it and the progression of Android tablets.

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There’s plenty of Android tablets (and phones, and phablets) out there but the iPad still remains the king when it comes to perceptions, usage and sales. I first dipped my toes in the Android tablet waters a couple of years back when I borrowed a Motorola Xoom from work – at that stage it was running Honeycomb. I tried to use it for a few weeks but found it didn’t fit my usage patterns well. In the end I was just using it to read eBooks; so I bought a Kindle and ended my tablet experiment.

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A lot has changed in the Android world since then – the hardware comes in a bounty of sizes, the tablet-only Honeycomb OS has merged with the phone version, the user experience has improved hugely and there have been significant advances in app support. The Nexus 7 comes with Android Jelly Bean (now at version 4.3). I’ve been an HTC phone user for the last 3 years and I have always liked the Sense UI; but using pure Android on the Nexus 7 has been eyeopening – I’ve even gone and changed my phone over to CyanogenMod to get get a similar experience there.

As for the Nexus, the hardware is a joy to use; the screen is bright, clear and crisp – I’ve yet to test it with an HD movie but games and web browsing work well; the processor is also up to the job and everything flies along with no lag or stutter. The size of the unit also makes it easy to carry and take out and about – useful when kids need to be entertained on the move.

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The biggest plus on the software side is having multiple accounts. Everyone who uses the tablet can have their own account with their own apps and settings. The real winner though is the restricted profiles you can set up. This means that the kids can have their own accounts which only have access to certain apps – now they can play games and I don’t have to worry about them getting up to mischief.

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The screen size is also perfect for little hands and the navigation is intuitive enough that they can explore in their own time. My only frustration is the number of games which ship with banner ads or links to other apps which inevitably get hit by accident and lead to interruptions.

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The only other niggle I have with the Nexus 7 is the placement of the power/volume buttons. They’re positioned behind the screen on the top right of the tablet and I find that it’s hard to locate them by touch alone. A few times when I’ve wanted to turn up the volume I’ve ended up turning the screen off instead which is annoying.

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Overall I’ve really enjoyed using the Nexus 7 and I’m sure it’ll continue to get lots of use.


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