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Google Nexus 7 Review: A Gaming Platform

I've been doing a lot of research lately and have been getting a ton of ebooks in the process. My eyes sometimes get tired from reading on a computer and it's not as nice as reading a book, but carrying around a whole bunch of book is not great either. So when I heard Google was coming out with a new tablet I was excited. I was convinced after reading Ars Technica's glowing review.
Figuring it would pay for itself in two to three years at the rate I buy books, I ordered it and received it yesterday. And in one day I already saw all I needed to see.

Flawless. But in the days of iPhones and iPads, it has to be flawless. Anything less is not even considered. The Nexus 7 resembles the first few iPhones with a glass surface bordered with a metal bevel. The back is rubberized and curves nicely in the hand. The dimples in the rubber give it a nice look and also make it pleasing to the touch, giving it a nice solid feel. There are three physical buttons: power and volume up and down, and there two jacks: a mini-usb for charging and syncing and a headphone plug.

The screen is very narrow and long. It makes the Nexus almost feel like a large phone than it does a tablet. Unlike the Nook Simple Touch which is wider and fatter this long shape makes it an odd aspect ration. When reading it feels like everything is a poem, which just a few words per line.
The screen was a huge disappointment for me. From reading the Ars review I was expecting something close to the retina screen on my iPhone but the pixel density is very low. It's about as sharp as my white Macbook, not even the density of something like the new Macbook Airs. This made reading on the device headache inducing. The text jiggles due to the edges of the letters not being sharp enough to create a good image. The screen has a very noticeable blue tinge. In fact, I'd say the screen suffers from show-room syndrome. It seems to have been designed to look good in a brightly lit showroom under florescent lights. The screen has poor contrast at low brightness, and by low I mean anything less than staring into a flashlight intensity. I didn't try reading it in direct sunlight, but it seemed bright enough to do that.
The screen seemed optimized for video playback and at that it shined. All high quality video I saw (from the Crackle app and the Ted app) was fantastic. Curiously Google's own YouTube app didn't display high quality video and seemed blocky and pixelated at times.

The Nexus 7 has a nice speaker in the back that gave it a good quality mono sound. It's not great, but adequate and very clear. You can also plug in a pair or headphones and get perfect stereo sound. The speaker is loud enough to play music to fill my room and typically I lowered the volume to 1/4 its total to get a nice quiet but noticeable audio. The audio exceeded my expectations for such a small tablet.

It's fast. The responsiveness to touch was great. I noticed no delays, the system was solid and well polished. The settings are a bit hard to get to and the messages are a bit cryptic but for an Android new-comer like me, it behaved quite nicely. The tablet seems powerful enough to do everything I tried to do with it and more. Everything from scanning for viruses, to loading apps, to even Google Earth renderings occurred very fast. If anything I found some of the controls too sensitive. It tilted the image very quickly which made me wish I could damper those settings. It's touch was so sensitive across the screen that many times it responded to the lightest touch, which meant a lot of incidental touches.

The Nexus 7 was disappointing here also. The included YouTube app didn't play videos in high quality and it's vertical display was odd with more screen space for comments and information that the video itself. The Google Play books reader very minimal with almost no options to change text size and only two display settings: white text on black or the reverse. Both the Overdrive and Kindle apps were better with text. but it is clear that this tablet was not designed for reading. There also is no built in camera app either. The Android system was good, but since it's the first one I use, I can only compare it to iOS. The coolest feature was that it could read some books to you.

I wasn't able to test the camera because there was no camera app.

The battery seemed adequate but due to the tablet being sort of only good for video, I couldn't test reading time, which is what I wanted to test.

The Nexus 7 tablet is a glorified game-boy. It seems perfect as $200 angry birds platform and coupled with a blue-tooth controller, I'm sure it's great for emulators too. For reading this tablet is useless. The screen is so bright it hurt my eyes after reading on it for a few minutes. The contrast on the screen means it only looks good on a high brightness setting so you have to read it in a very bright room (no reading at night next to your loved one). This tablet seems to be exclusively for watching videos and playing games, if you're not doing that, then everything from its hard to reach brightness settings, its extremely narrow form, expandable memory and poor pixel density make it just an expensive toy. It seems to be the tablet for those that used a Nook Tablet and went: "but I want to play more games on it" and "reading is boring." Who knows? Judging by the top Android apps, playing games seems to be what people are doing with these devices.

Verdict: Unless you're looking for a gaming platform, Skip.


  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)


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