Google Nexus 7 - Apps, Screen, Battery Life and Verdict
Games and Apps
The Google Nexus 7 tablet uses a quad-core Tegra 3 processor and has 1GB of RAM. It's the lower-cost version of the CPU, seen previously in the Asus Eee Pad Transformer 300, but it's nevertheless powerful.
What's the difference? There are three main versions of Tegra 3 at present, and this is the lowest-end of them. The others offer higher clock speed (up to 1.6GHz), a more powerful GPU (520Mhz instead of 416Mhz) and faster RAM. However, at present you'd be hard-pressed to notice much of a difference. Top-end 3D games like ShadowGun and Dark Meadow run perfectly - as cost-saving compromises go, the low-end Tegra 3 is one that's very easy to live with. In the Sunspider benchmark, it scored a respectable 1732ms, which isn't too much slower than the Transformer Prime with its non-low-end Tegra 3 chip.
The one downer is that we found the Nexus 7 isn't compatible with everything yet - although this is to be expected of a new device that is not based on something similar. And, the standard caveat still applies: Apple's iPad offers a much better games selection.
Video and Media
More notable is the lack of Google services that are supposed to be the backbone of the Nexus 7 tablet experience. In the US, Nexus 7 owners get to use Google Music to stream their music collections from the cloud, as well as the option to buy TV shows and magazines from the Google Play store.
Wanting to big-up these services is the main reason why Google decided not to include expandable memory - the less you can store, the more convenient streaming is - and so it's easy to label the Nexus 7 as borked tablet from the off. Of course, it isn't, though. With a few swipes and clicks, you can install Netflix, Spotify, BBC iPlayer and apps that'll stream movies and music from a home NAS box. If anyone's missing out, it's Google.
These Google services are expected to launch in the UK in the short-to-mid term, the delay caused by a lack of deals with record companies and movie studios here. At present, you can rent films for around £3.49 (£4.49 HD) and buy ebooks.
If you already have your own digital movie collection, you're unlikely to be impressed by the Google Nexus 7's native video playback skills. Almost all of our test files refused to play using the built-in media player, including a vanilla SD-quality Divx file. The one unexpected exception were our high bit-rate 1080p MKV files, which all played without a hitch
Patchy playback is far from a deal-breaking problem, though. With a decent third-party media player the Google Nexus 7 has enough power to play virtually anything at full pelt.
Contrary to appearances, the Google Nexus 7 tablet uses multiple speaker drivers behind the single speaker grille. They're too close together to produce any sense of stereo and they don't produce quite as weighty a sound as an iPad. Maximum volume is decent given the tablet's size but louder material does start to sound a little strained when cranked. An acceptable performance for the Google tablet, but not a great one.
The 7 inch screen of the Nexus 7 works in its favour too. It's an 800 x 1,280 pixel widescreen display, using an IPS panel. The raison d'etre of this screen type is to improve viewing angles far beyond what you get with most laptops or desktop screens - where the image all-but disappears when you turn the screen the wrong way.
Display quality is good, with a sharp image and commendable (if not searing) top brightness. What we find most impressive about the Nexus 7's display is that is packs in as many pixels as last year's (and many of this year's) 10.1in tablets, resulting in 215 dpi pixel density. That's a bit less than the new iPad's 264dpi, but mighty impressive nevertheless.
There are a few minor quibbles, though. Colours are not super-vivid and the luminosity of the backlight becomes quite visible in dim rooms when the screen is held at angle, turning blacks a little grey-ish - AMOLED screens don't display this effect. They also offer better contrast than IPS displays like the Nexus 7's, but they have their own share of problems.
Set to playing an SD-quality Divx file at full charge, and at 50 per cent brightness, the 4326mAh battery on the Google Nexus 7 lasts for over eight hours. This is fairly pedestrian among well-known tablets as a whole, but is impressive in such a small device. Many seven-inchers can't match it - the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 lasts for six and a half hours, for example. Like most tablets from big-name manufacturers, you're not given any access to the battery unit.
Google seems to agree with us - taking photos with a tablet just isn't all that attractive. The Nexus 7 has a user-facing camera, for video chat, but there's no sensor on the rear. There's also no dedicated camera app, further reinforcing that even the camera that's there isn't for taking photos with. Skype does come pre-installed, however.
The front camera is a 1.2MP jobbie, and using a third-party camera app we found the shots it produces are packed with chromatic aberration, and lack any refinement or detail beyond the very basics. Do we need any more than this for a video call camera? Absolutely not.
We'll put our cards on the table - the Google Nexus 7 is fantastic value for money. This budget tablet suffers from none of the limitations usually associated with low-cost Android devices. The screen's good, the processor is great and there are no Google goodies left out.
Yes, the non-expandable memory and lack of a video output are disappointing, but we value the good parts here over the slightly increased flexibility of something like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. Google and Asus have come up with a winner, and both the rumoured Amazon Kindle Fire 2 and iPad mini will have to pull something pretty special out of the hat to keep pace at this price.
The Google Nexus 7 tablet is one of the best tech bargains of the year. This 7 inch Android tablet is priced so aggressively that every low-cost tablet maker must be terrified. Just as important, it doesn't look or feel cheap either, thanks to the powerful quad-core processor and the texturing of the rear. It's not perfect, and that not all Google services are available in the UK yet is a shame, but this is undoubtedly the best sub-£200 tablet we've seen.
Scores In Detail
- Battery Life
- Screen Quality