Thursday, 2 August 2012

Google Nexus 7: First Thoughts

My Google Nexus 7 tablet arrived a couple of days ago and I thought I'd write my first blog entry in a long while to share my initial thoughts on it.

The first thing that grabs you on getting it out of the box is its size. The Nexus 7 is about the same dimensions as my third-generation Kindle. Unless you have very small hands, you should be able to hold it comfortably in one hand - making it a quite different beast to Apple's iPad.

After unboxing, the next step is to charge it. The Nexus 7 will charge from a PC's USB port via the supplied micro-USB to USB cable, but for best results use of the mains power adapter also supplied with the tablet is recommended. Before plugging in, you will need to attach the power connection pins appropriate to your locale to the adapter.

With my Nexus plugged in and charging, I powered it up to complete the set-up procedure. Taking a leaf out of Amazon's book, Google will preconfigure the device with details of your Google account - assuming that you bought it from Google Play. Hence, set-up was almost as simple as just entering my Google account password. I say 'almost' because a critical part of set-up is configuring the wireless connection. If your wireless network uses MAC address filtering like mine does, you'll come unstuck at this point, because the tablet doesn't advertise its MAC address here, nor does it seem to provide any way of skipping this step or backing out of the set-up procedure. I searched in vain for a MAC address on the packaging, then resorted to temporarily disabling filtering.

Aside from this minor wrinkle, set-up was straightforward. Within a few minutes the Nexus had downloaded an OS update, installation of which necessitated a reboot. Then there was the customary updating of installed apps, familiar to any Android user. Then, finally, it was time to play!

The Nexus' hardware certainly seems well-suited to running Android's latest incarnation, Jelly Bean. The user interface feels snappy and responsive. The display seems to be extremely good - sharp and clear - both for text-based applications and for things such as HD movies. I've no idea how it compares with the latest iPad. I would imagine that the iPad is superior, but at twice the price you'd expect it to be! The Nexus is certainly good enough in this respect for my purposes.

I'm also encouraged by the battery life - currently at 41% after two evenings and a morning of fairly intensive use that included plenty of Internet activity as well as game playing and viewing of videos.

You get the standard set of apps on the device to start with, but of course can easily download more via Google Play - for which you currently get a very welcome £15 of credit. Less welcome were the two pieces of free content that came with the tablet: a Jeffrey Archer 'novel' (removal of which was pretty much my first priority after set-up) and the movie Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. The latter served its purpose as a way of assessing display quality, but I can't see myself watching any more of it, to be honest!

All in all, I'm very pleased with the Nexus. I wouldn't consider myself as falling within the obvious target market for a tablet and therefore wasn't seduced by the iPad, figuring that I couldn't justify spending that much given the use I would make of it (and also being put off by Apple's 'walled garden' approach). But the Nexus is very pleasant to use for email, social networking, casual web activity, gaming, etc, and seems to offer excellent value for money at the moment.

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