I viewed Google I/O, Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) and the first Nexus tablet as Google's last chance to deliver a knockout in the tablet space before the onslaught of Windows 8 and Windows RT devices later this year. While the show was undoubtedly a success, I don't know that the market for $499+ Android tablets has a life after Windows 8/RT hit. We should see Windows RT tablets at $499, and Ivy/Haswell based Windows 8 tablets will handle the higher price points.

It seems that Google also realized this as the Nexus 7, its first Nexus branded tablet, starts at just $199. There's a huge market for tablets as a primary computing device, and I believe Windows RT/8 offers something unique and compelling for that usage model. At the same time however, there's decent demand for a tablet to augment your existing computing world. It's a far more specific usage model but one that really demands a lower price point. Users are willing to spend a lot for something that does everything in your life, but for something that's more nice than necessity, price matters even more.

The Nexus 7 is aimed at the latter. It's a device for users who need ultra portability and tons of battery life for content consumption. While Apple has been quietly empowering the iPad to be a content creation device, and dockable Windows 8/RT tablets will attempt to replace your notebook, the Nexus 7 is a more traditional ARM based tablet by default.

It's clearly Google that I have to thank because the Nexus 7 is the most solidly built ASUS tablet I've ever used. That's not to say that its predecessors were examples of shoddy workmanship, it's just that the Nexus 7 is damn near perfect. The back has a great grip to it. The whole thing actually feels like a well made book because of the soft touch plastic back. The book comparison is sort of hilarious because it's a feel that Amazon couldn't get right with its overly generic Kindle Fire. The book illusion stops once your hands touch the glass for obvious reasons, but man does it feel nice to hold.

The Nexus 7 feels considerably lighter than the Kindle Fire, but I still had to prop it up on something or hold it in two hands if I was going to use it for a long period of time.

The power button and volume rocker are placed much like they would be on a phone - at the top right edge of the device. The sole buttons on the device do feel a bit ambiguous, something I feel that I would get used to over time. I had the disadvantage of switching between several tablets during this review and never did get used to the position and feel of the buttons on the N7. That's probably the biggest gripe I have about the design of the device. In other words, there's not much to hate.

The Nexus 7 features two mics for noise canceling action (likely in support of Google Now). You get NFC, Bluetooth and 802.11n WiFi but there's no LTE option as of now. I know there's internal debate about releasing an LTE enabled version at some point in the future.

ASUS Tablet Specification Comparison
  ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity ASUS Transformer Pad 300 Series ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime ASUS Nexus 7
Dimensions 263 x 180.6 x 8.4mm 263 x 180.8 x 9.9mm 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm
Chassis Aluminum + Plastic RF Strip Plastic Aluminum Plastic + Rubber back
Display 10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 Super IPS+ 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 IPS 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 Super IPS+ 7" 1280 x 800 IPS
Weight 594g 635g 586g 340 g
Processor

1.6GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T33 - 4 x Cortex A9)

NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L - 4 x Cortex A9)

1.3GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30 - 4 x Cortex A9) 1.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L - 4 x Cortex A9)
Memory 1GB DDR3-1600 1GB 1GB 1 GB
Storage 32/64GB + microSD slot 16GB/32GB + microSD slot 32GB/64GB + microSD slot 8 GB / 16 GB
Battery 25Whr 22Whr 25Whr 16 Whr
Pricing $499/$599 $379/$399 $499/$599 $199/$249

Cost is the major selling point for the Nexus 7: for $199 Google will sell you an 8GB version with a $25 credit at the Google Play store, along with some preloaded magazines, books and a movie (Transformers: Dark of the Moon). It's tough to buy a new tablet and not buy apps for it, so the $25 credit is likely to be incredibly useful - making the effective retail price of the Nexus 7 $174. If you want 16GB of storage the price does go up to $249 however. Unfortunately even Google is not above charging $50 for $4 of MLC NAND.

The limited NAND capacity prevents the Nexus 7 from being home to more than a single full length movie or a couple of TV shows. Streaming video content isn't a problem, Netflix works beautifully on the device but there's no hope if you want to keep a ton of content local. Unfortunately USB OTG isn't supported for storage, so you're left with no other option for expanding local storage (short of rooting the device).

In every sense outside of portability, a 10-inch display is much nicer to look at than a 7-inch one in my opinion. There's less zooming in you need to do on web pages or magazines. Text in general is just easier to read and perhaps I'm getting too old, but there's something nice about everything being comfortably bigger.

Does the Nexus 7's form factor make it feel substantially better than using a smartphone? Yes, I'd say so. The same reasons I gave above for a 10-inch tablet being nicer to use than a 7-inch tablet are equally applicable to 7-inch tablet vs. a smartphone. There's this size/usability optimization curve that requires some soul searching to figure out exactly where you land on it. I suspect most people fall into the small smartphone + large tablet dichotomy, but the beauty of this current mobile revolution is the availability of choice. The Nexus 7 in many ways is very much like the 11-inch MacBook Air. A bit impractical for many, but those who crave portability are drawn to it. The Nexus 7 still feels like you're using a tablet, just a small one.

I needn't dwell on the benefits of a 7-inch form factor for portability any longer. If I'm wearing baggy enough pants I can even pocket the Nexus 7, something I simply couldn't do with the iPad. I'm more likely to carry the Nexus 7 with me than I would the iPad, but the comparison isn't quite as open and shut as that. The iPad offers LTE, the Nexus 7 is more portable, the iPad is easier to look at, the Nexus 7 is more affordable...the back and forth is endless.

Android 4.1
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  • bennyg - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    Maybe Google saw the gobs of cash Apple make from crazy high markups on storage once you lock your userbase out of choice in the matter.

    I'm glad Android has internal competition in the smartphone area for this reason. Time will tell if my decision to opt for 8gb is a bad one, but really since it has no camera I'll only ever run out of space when copying something onto it which puts me firmly in control and I'm fine with that.
    Reply
  • fmcjw - Thursday, August 02, 2012 - link

    Applaud mentioning that Google is charging $50 for $4 of NAND. Wondering why Apple is not reviewed with such analytic words.

    Brian's and Anand's writing are the only knowledgeable content on this site, with the rest being filler material. That said, still not lowering my ad-block on Anandtech, since Anand drools praise on Apple products, throwing money at a 117b dollar rich company which is:
    monopolistic (in behavior if not absolute terms),
    dictatorial (imposing business-driven restrictions on technology), and
    unimaginative (riding wave of state of the art tech manufacturing, always at the cusp of killing established business models with many players for its sole profit)

    IMO Anand is single minded and is narrow in his views. Yes, he appreciates "the best" tech, but is eager to distance himself from less obvious virtues and legacy concerns. It's also apparent he feels no responsibility and vision towards diversity, choice, and the underdogs in the industry, preferring the elite wherever possible, Intel over AMD, Apple over the rest. By being "objective" and focused on what he deems palatable and suitable, he is no different from Monsanto: technology in a vacuum, umbilical cord as leash.

    And once he is happily on Apple's leash, you can see how his values get whipped around.
    Reply
  • NoNeedForMonkeys - Saturday, August 04, 2012 - link

    I have not had to pay for cloud storage. The N7 is a play store front-end for media streaming. Google is heavily pushing streaming services over local storage.

    The USB port on this thing is compliant to MHL specs and future software should be able to enable HDMI adapters, but the software is not allowing full functionality yet. The USB port is also hardware compliant with USB OTG, it is just not enabled in software.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    What is there for a reviewer to talk about besides simply stating it doesn't have one? Which they all do. It doesn't have one, this you know already, you're either ok with it, or it's not for you. They know what they did and they still chose to do it. Get over it? Reply
  • Sined - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    To be honest, it's a bit unfair to knock on any Android Device for the lack of MicroSD card storage.

    Dan Morrill of Google's Android Team explains why:
    http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/11/18/impromptu-...

    It has to do with how USB Mass Storage works and how Apps and Media mingle in the same storage when dealing with internal storage only.

    Ideally, ALL Android devices should have SD Cards but Android hasn't matured in that department enough to have them on the Nexus Line.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    As I read that, he says they don't have a microSD slot because it would make settings up things harder ("where does the camera save pictures, where should that app be installed?"). I am glad that I only have android devices with microSD slots. I don't agree with the dumbing down of options he wants. If I wanted that, I'd go with iOS. :-) Looks like I won't get any Nexus device any time soon. Reply
  • leexgx - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    Samsung seem to do it right, the as the main 16gb mem (for example) is split norm 2gb and 12gb (that shows as an SD card)

    and ones with an SD card slot are shown as an second SD card slot
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    Yes, a shame that the phone slows down so much when you start filling up the internal memory though, its like it doesn't ring-fence enough for the OS. Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I don't think they've omitted the expandable storage slots for any one particular reason but more a combination of them... Usability + cost cutting + working out some technical aspects. Still, it's a compromise and he admits as much.

    I think the best compromise is what HTC did with the EVO LTE and what I believe Samsung did with the SGS3: internal storage is all MTP so apps, media, and the OS can share the space without strict partitions and you don't need to unmount from theOS to sync content, and the external storage is still good old UMS so you can work around MTP sync issues and/or have expandable storage for media.

    It's still a compromise tho, what Morrill states is true, not all apps are built to scan external storage or handle the disconnect of it elegantly. The OS handles it just fine in the case of music/photos IMO (since there's a media scanner) but other stuff can be hit or miss.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Anyone who buys a device like this with no storage option is just a fool. Let it burn. Reply

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