Wednesday, Google announced a brand-new Android tablet that not only features Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but a quad-core Tegra 3 processor wrapped into a compact tablet that costs just $199.
So, what’s the twist? At 7″, the Nexus 7 is being promoted strictly as a content consumption device as opposed to a content creation device that many productive types are searching for. It doesn’t exactly stand out against third-party tablets like the Transformer Prime or the Sony Tablet S, but it does indeed give the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet a run for their money.
During the unveiling, I joined Chris Pirillo and John McKinlay on our YouTube Live stream to offer some personal commentary to the announcement. LockerGnome’s founder, Chris Pirillo, ordered a 16 GB Nexus 7 ($249) within minutes of the announcement. He’s not alone. Craighton Miller, another member of the LockerGnome team, placed his order during the event as well.
What could cause such an instant “take my money” response from two fairly frugal geeks? Simply put, it was the right price for the right gadget. A Tegra 3 processor in a budget tablet is hard to come by, and everything Google announced today regarding Android 4.1 Jelly Bean answered some of the lingering concerns facing potential switchers.
Shipping in mid-July, the Nexus 7 sports a 1280×800 7″ display with an impressive pixel density of about 216 PPI. While it might not be a Retina display, it certainly delivers a significant boost in density over the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets, both featuring 169 PPI.
The Nexus 7 boasts a significant active battery life of up to eight hours and over 300 hours stand-by. That’s no small figure, especially considering the power under the hood.
At the event, Google explained that a patented 4-PLUS-1 CPU design allows power to be pushed to the CPU when it’s needed and pulled when it isn’t. That means your battery doesn’t drain as much when you’re doing small tasks like surfing the Web or reading a book.
The device itself is fairly sleek and easy on the eyes. The back features sizable Nexus and Asus logos and a patterned grip across a plastic exterior. The front of the device looks a lot like a shrunken iPad. A black bezel, front-facing camera, and a scratch-resistant Corning glass covers the entirety of the front.
Volume controls can be found along the right side of the device, along with a slender power button which doubles as a locking mechanism. You won’t find any hardware home button on this tablet. As with most Android tablets, the control buttons are controlled by software and located in a static location on along the bottom of the screen in either orientation.
The Nexus 7 sports a quad-core Tegra 3 processor. This may not be a first for an Android tablet, but it is a strong contrast to the Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 dual-core processor found in the similarly priced and sized Kindle Fire.
One of the questions standing out in my mind is whether or not Android 4.1 Jelly Bean will take full advantage of all four cores. Either way, this is as close to future proof as you can get at this price in the tablet market today.
Graphics is another power point with the Nexus 7. A 12-core GPU gives enough graphics processing power to the Nexus 7 to open the door to more full-featured games on the platform. In short, this is no slouch of a tablet. In fact, the official Nexus 7 site declares it a tablet “designed with gaming in mind.”
Asus has put a lot of great features into the Nexus 7. In addition to impressive central and graphics processing, the tablet also includes some extras such as NFC (enhanced for Google Beam), accelerometer, GPS, magnetometer, a gyroscope, and a built-in microphone for video conferencing and voice search/dictation.
Wireless b/g/n and Bluetooth are standard features on Android tablets.
With 1 GB of RAM, it certainly has enough memory to handle most basic consumption tasks required on the platform. You probably won’t be editing much video on it, but you could still play some fairly advanced games available on Google Play.
A 1.2 MP front-facing camera makes video calls and Google+ Hangouts more interesting. There is no back-facing camera, which can be a disappointment if you happen to be one of the few folks who prefer to take photos with a tablet.
The Nexus 7 lacks 3G/4G capabilities, giving it limited functionality on the road. This is strictly a content consumption device, so its place would likely be next to your couch rather than on the road as your primary communication device.
A stereo headphone jack and built-in speaker along the back of the device makes for a pretty standard device for audio/video entertainment.
The Nexus 7 isn’t a true competitor in the high-end tablet market, but it does pack enough power to fit the needs of most users. You can browse the Web on Google Chrome (the default browser in Android 4.1), check email, listen to music, watch movies, and enjoy any of the 600,000+ apps available on Google Play.
If you’re looking for great bang for your buck, this could be the “best” tablet on the market today. Just don’t expect the “best” experience across the board. It would be difficult to put the Nexus 7 against the Transformer Prime, but it does a great job of putting the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet to shame.