Nexus 7 – Design, Connectivity, Screen and Audio
We’ve seen Google Experience Nexus devices before, most recently with the Galaxy Nexus, but now Asus has built the first Google Nexus tablet. It’s called the Nexus 7, referring to its 7in screen size. This, along with its sub-£200 price, puts it into direct competition with the Kindle Fire and several other similarly sized tablets. However, with a 1,280 x 800 IPS screen, quad-core Tegra 3 processor, and being the first device on the market to run Google’s JellyBean (Android 4.1) OS, the Nexus 7 immediately puts itself above the competition.
Also read: Google Nexus VS Kindle Fire.
Nexus 7 Design
The Google Nexus 7 is a slim, sleek and pleasantly curved tablet, which looks every bit as attractive as the pictures suggest. The nicest aspect is its soft-touch, patterned back. Rather than going for a glossy, slippery finish, Asus has chosen to go for a slightly rubberized rear that’s lovely to the touch and provides excellent grip. To be honest, rather than feeling cheap compared to metal-backed tablets, this makes the Nexus 7 feel more premium – we’d go so far as to say that Asus’ own slightly-too-smooth Transformer Prime could do with some of this finish.
The Nexus’ front is covered with toughened Corning glass. This isn’t of the Gorilla glass variety, yet it should provide comparable protection. Build quality throughout the tablet feels superb; it’s very impressive how well-made the Nexus 7 is considering its low price.
It’s also very slim at just over 10mm and, more importantly, incredibly light – even for a 7in tablet. Weighing a mere 340g, it’s more than 20 percent lighter than the 413g Kindle Fire. Google wanted to give the impression of an average paperback book, and with its grippy rear and light weight that’s exactly what Asus’ Nexus tablet has achieved. Unlike most 10in tablets, this model is comfortable to hold one-handed for extended periods of time, and in fact it’s probably the nicest one we’ve held, period.
Nexus 7 Connectivity
This is where you’ll find the only evidence of a few corners being cut, as there’s no dedicated video output or microSD card reader on the Nexus 7. This means that, just like with the iPad, Kindle Fire and new Motorola Xooms, you can’t expand the tablet’s memory. As such, if you’re planning to store any amount of music, movies or apps locally rather than streaming from the cloud, we would recommend going for the 16GB version of the Nexus 7.
What the Nexus 7 does have, however, is a microUSB port, which can be used to connect anything from peripherals to external storage using an adapter (though the latter might require a bit of hacking). It’s joined on the tablet’s bottom edge by a headphone jack, which was placed there to avoid the cable accidentally falling over your screen when holding the tablet in its portrait position. However, this can occasionally be a little awkward when you’re attempting to rest the Nexus on a surface rather than holding it.
There’s actually one other connector on the Nexus 7, though it’s pretty subtle and therefore a little difficult to spot. Those four metallic dots on one side are not a battery meter, charging system or microphone array, rather they’re actually capable of transferring data. Asus is remaining tight-lipped about its exact capabilities, but we’ve learned it can transfer stereo audio and could be used in a future speaker dock.
On the wireless front, meanwhile, the Google Nexus 7 offers Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth, but there’s no 3G option. What you will find, however, is NFC, which is still a relative rarity on mobile devices. Near Field Communication is a short-range wireless transmission system that’s used for all kinds of handy tricks, including swipe payments and transmission of media to other NFC-enabled devices. As a practical example, if you’re reading an e-book you can touch your Nexus 7 to another NFC machine to transfer it over down to the exact page number you’re reading.
Nexus 7 Screen
The screen on Asus/Google’s latest tablet is actually pretty special. It’s a 1,280 x 800 IPS affair with near-flawless viewing angles and bright, vivid colours along with blacks that are deep and detailed. Sharpness is truly excellent. Where many cheaper 7in tablets sport resolutions of 1,024 x 600 or lower, the Nexus 7’s HD Ready 16:10 display gives an almost Retina Display density of 214PPI.
Asus has gone for a new screen process similar to that used by Samsung among others where, rather than having three layers ‘glued’ together (panel, touch layer and glass cover), it utilises a laminating technique to merge the touch layer and glass cover, resulting in a screen that’s only 0.7mm thick compared to the usual 1.2mm – one of the reasons the Nexus 7 is so thin despite its powerful components.
Aside from reducing reflections (though the glass display is still plenty reflective), the integrated screen also lets more light come through from the LED backlighting, with a transparency of 94 percent compared to the 86 percent average. Combined with a brightness rating of 400nits, this makes the Nexus 7 the brightest 7in tablet going.
Last but not least, this unique process has also improved touch sensitivity. Along with Jelly Bean’s interface being claimed to be up to 23 times faster than its Ice Cream Sandwhich (Android 4.0) predecessor, the Nexus 7 is the most responsive Android tablet we’ve yet had the pleasure of using.
Getting this kind of display quality and responsiveness on a device starting at £159 is a rare treat, easily beating out many tablets that cost hundreds of pounds.
Nexus 7 Speaker and Microphones
The Nexus tablet’s speaker is tastefully integrated at the tablet’s bottom if you’re holding it in portrait mode. Audio quality is decent enough as tablets go, with relatively clear high and mid ranges, an audible maximum volume level, and just the merest hint of bass.
Obviously, for music and serious entertainment headphones are still a must, but for casual use the speaker is more than adequate. Our only niggle is that it’s easy to accidentally cover the speaker grill when holding the Nexus 7 in landscape.
Unlike most tablets, the Nexus 7 doesn’t just have one, but two microphones. This is mainly so that if you happen to be covering one from the way you’re holding the tablet, the other will still pick up your voice clearly.