Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hands on First Impressions: Google Nexus 7


The first Nexus 7 was something of a revelation. This device, above all others, redefined the Android tablet experience as being one for a 7" sized device. The 10" screens are now the territory of the tech enthusiasts, but the Nexus 7 is a recognizable name amongst non-enthusiasts. The price of the first device raise a few eyebrows for undercutting Google's manufacturing partners; the second one holds the launch prices of the first generation while improving the experience of the device. Based on this alone, the second Nexus 7 should build on the success of the first.

The old device was svelte, almost monolithic, but I wouldn't have called it attractive. The new generation is not only (slightly) thinner on the edges, it's thinner in thickness overall. However, it its slightly longer; not so long that it wouldn't fit in a cover designed for the first generation, but potentially might be a snug fit. Another area where some cutting has occurred is in the weight department; not so dramatic that you would notice it right away, but perceptible if you hold the 1st and 2nd gen devices side by side.

The back of the device has a rubberized texture, but it's not textured as with the previous generation, and the surface is harder. I prefer the tactile sensation of the new version; the first generation looked slim, but it didn't feel quite as svelte in your hands. Some people would feel otherwise, as the older device's cushy feeling back surface made it easier to hold for some, but overall, the second generation's slimmed down aesthetics remind you of the first generation, but now all grown up.

The screen is excellent, but truth be told, so was the screen of the first generation. The increased resolution (1920 by 1200) is beautiful and bright, but truth be told, side by side with the old, if you took a casual glance, you might not be able to tell one from the other. Side-by-side with the first gen Nexus 7, the differences don't jump out at you. Put it beside a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 or Tab 8 and the difference in screen quality becomes much more stark. Another difference between the Google devices and the Samsung devices is the way that colour is rendered. I find the second-gen Nexus to be fairly neutral compared to most Samsung devices, which over saturate colours too much for my liking.

I find the lack of expand SD card memory infuriating; Google won't provide it on their references devices because of what they are citing as conflicts with the ability to run multiple profiles on the same device, which is really disingenuous considering that they will let their partner manufacturers use the micro SD card slot regardless of said stability and security concerns. I'm not feeling it, Google; if you are going to take something away from the consumer, you had better give a benefit in return. That's a cardinal rule of product marketing, and so far, I'm not sure the benefits shine through. At the very least, the Nexus tablets have not charged the extortionist rates that Apple does for moving up in on-board memory. In theory lockable profiles is a real benefit for families with children, but my personal feeling is that Google has to do more than their usual methods if they want his feature to stick. iOS isn't an airtight environment, but Apple has done much more than Google has to make it a kid-friendly environment.

The front camera is the same as before, but there's an additional 5mp rear-facing camera, the same unit as on the Nexus 10, but without an LED flash. For all of the ridicule that is heaped upon people who use their tablets as cameras, not having a back-facing camera would be a big missing feature hole considering how often people post pictures alongside their status updates on Facebook and Twitter. I would call the results that you get to be "feature phone" quality. There's not much to write home about with the front-facing camera other than it is serviceable for Skype and other video conferencing programs.

The question, then... the new generation or one of the remaining first generation devices at a discount? Tough choice. If you aren't a power user, the first generation device will remain relevant and usable for the foreseeable future.The first generation tablet is great for people who are always on the road and who would prefer to not carry something too expensive and dear with them. The older model fits the bill, and vastly out-performs all of the other budget 7" Android tablets on the market. However, all things considered, the second generation device is being introduced at the same price as the first, but with more performance and features; even at the higher 32gb tier, it's still cheaper than the entry-level iPad mini. 

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