Nexus 7: A Road Warrior's best friend

Maps, video conferencing, voice to text, a great screen, Jelly Bean, and more make this Android tablet the one to beat.
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor

I've been writing about mobile gadgets for more than 15 years so when a new "shiny object" appears, I'm usually the first to grab one. Well, the same holds true for the Nexus 7, which I purchased and then wrote about moments later. I apparently held off long enough to avoid hardware issues, but thankfully my delay still had the Nexus 7 in my hands on July 21st.

As you have probably heard by now, Google initially had a bad batch of Nexus 7 devices, with the left side of the screen not being attached. Thankfully, my device didn't ship with any hardware defects. That said, the only hardware defect was the packaging of the Nexus 7, which left me challenged … and laughing. I had heard horror stories about opening the package, but I figured since I open packages daily, it wouldn't be an issue. I couldn't have been more wrong, with the packaging challenging me and leaving me laughing for about 10 minutes, before I finally got the Nexus 7 fully removed from the box.

Nexus 7: Perfect out of the box

I mentioned above that I've been opening gadgets for years. What comes with opening is usually the painful configuration and first startup experience. I have to say the Nexus 7 has one of the best ones I've ever experienced. In my case, I turned the device on and was immediately greeted with a request for a Wi-Fi password to the network that I had in my house. I was then shown my Gmail ID and asked for my password. After inputting my password the device configured GMAIL, pulled all of my calendars, contacts and even my apps, onto the device. It really couldn't have been easier.

I then launched Chrome and was blown away by the speed of the browser, not to mention the speed of the device in general. Seconds later I was interrupted by a prompt telling me that a new version of the Jelly Bean OS (Jelly Bean version 4.1.1) was now available. This part in particular made me smile since most devices didn't even have Jelly Bean yet, and Google's own was already receiving an update.

Video conferencing done right

Everyone always talks about how amazing FaceTime and Skype are. I'm a huge user and fan of both, but the Nexus 7 is the one to beat now. I was using the Nexus 7 in a hotel room, tethered to my iPad, since the hotel Wi-Fi was too slow, and all of the sudden I heard the sound of chats coming in. I looked at the Nexus 7 and not only had it logged me into Google Talk, but it was also receiving chats. I then saw the camera icon and figured "it can't be this easy". Well, it was and a quick click of the camera icon had me doing a video conference with a co-worker--see below.


The quality of the conference call was spectacular, even over a hotspot. I was also offered the option to manipulate the images of my outgoing video stream, though there's no real business purpose there.

Maps on steroids

If you're an iPhone user, you have no idea what the Maps experience from Google is really all about. Instead, we've been forced to use the built-in Maps application, which pales in comparison. In the case of the Nexus 7, simply launching the Maps app immediately finds your location and then pops up a pop-over that features Local restaurants, cafes, bars, attractions, and more. The Maps app also takes a guess at where you are and offers you the option to "check-in, review or view details", all at the touch of a button.

Siri has some catching up to do

Siri has been making headlines, but Google's dictation features are lightyears ahead. Not only does it grab every word almost perfectly every time, but it types out the words as you're speaking. I was doing this in front of a colleague the other day, and he was shocked at how effortless it was. Unlike Siri, we didn't get any kind of wait indicator, and it seemed to work flawlessly every time.

The screen is beautiful

Everyone talks about how amazing the Retina screen is on the latest iPad. Well, when you take a closer look at the Nexus 7, you'll soon see that Google isn't that far behind. Granted, it's a 7-inch device and not the iPad's size, but the screen definitely impresses. Speaking of the screen, Google ships the Nexus 7 with a copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which streams in seconds and definitely shows off the beauty of the screen.


So far I've been really impressed with what the Nexus 7 has to offer. The only thing that hasn't worked as well as I had expected is Google Now, but that's probably because I haven't been using the Nexus 7 as much as I should, so that it can learn more about me. I did expect it to know some things since it could technically read my calendar and contacts, but perhaps that's not how it's designed to work.

Since I have an iPad and an iPhone, the Nexus 7 is a nice-to-have for me. However, I'm going to try to leave the iPad behind a bit more and see how much of a power user of the Nexus 7 I can become. I'm also thinking of swapping out my iPhone for either a Galaxy Nexus or a Galaxy S3, since I really do appreciate the integration with Google's universe.

With a rumored iPad mini coming, discounts on the Nook, and other tablets on the way, the Nexus 7 is sure to have some competition. As you can see from the article above, though, Google did a great job with its own Nexus 7, and is definitely the Android tablet to beat.

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