The Media Guru
Feb 14, 2013



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My first Android device.

 

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When Google announced the Nexus 7 at that launch party in San Francisco, I had already added it to my want list… & when the prices were slashed, it became a no-brainer to get one. When you consider its specs vs price, the Nexus 7 is the most reasonably priced tablet on the market right now.

But only if you manage to get it at the US prices of $199/$249 (+ sales tax). Local (Mauritius) prices are outrageous – Rs 10.5k ($340) for the 16GB WiFi model. So when I discovered I was going to the US, there was only 1 thing on top of my buying list… :)

 

Specs

  • 7” 1280x800 (216ppi) IPS screen.
  • Dimensions: 198.5 x 120 x 10.45 mm
  • 340g (WiFi Only)
  • 1.2MP front-facing camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC
  • 16GB/32GB
  • 1 GB RAM DDR3
  • NVIDIA Tegra 3 (Quad-core 1.3Ghz Cortex-A9 processor, 416 Mhz GeForce ULP)
  • Android 4.2.1 (Jelly Bean)
  • 4,325 mAh 16Wh battery (9h video, 10h browsing, 300h stand-by)
  • Accelerometer, GPS, Gyroscope, Microphone, Magnetometer

 

Unboxing

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This is the box.

 

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This is the back of the box.

 

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Opening sliding the box.

 

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Inside the box.

 

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There, done.

 

Hardware

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The most important part of any tablet is its screen. It’s what you look at everyday. Everything else is secondary. The Nexus 7 has a 7-inch IPS LCD 1280x800 screen. At 216 ppi, you don’t notice the pixels, but it’s no “Retina” display either.

 

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Those specs look good on paper. That screen looks great on the above photo. In real life though, the screen has a massive flaw - the calibration is wrong.

A flaw which I noticed as soon as I installed Instagram. All the photos looked way too bright, the colours weren’t enough saturated. The problem with the Nexus 7 is that the gamma level is too high.

I have no idea why would they do this. Make the screen appear brighter? I know the logic – this is what you get for buying a $250 device, why complain? But the thing is that there is nothing wrong with the display itself, just that Asus never bothered to calibrate it. This DisplayMate article has all the details about what’s wrong.

& there is no way to fix this because Asus didn’t include any calibration settings in the kernel. No 3rd party ROM can fix this.

 

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Since Android tablets have on-screen buttons, the only distinct feature on the front of the Nexus 7 is its camera. A 1.2MP camera, which is decent enough for Skyping home.

 

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The Nexus 7 has a plastic back, which feels like leather & provides adequate amount of grip. While in the beginning, it felt heavy, I’m slowly getting used to its weight. :)

 

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At the bottom, there’s the speaker, the 3.5mm jack & the micro-USB port, which is weirdly inverted. The location of the speaker is not particularly good, but used with a cover, the sound gets reflected.

 

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On the right side, there’s the power & volume buttons.

 

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On the left side, at the bottom, 4 docking pins.

 

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The NFC antenna is right behind the Nexus logo. The Nexus 7 has no microSD slot, but I have the 32GB version which is more than enough. Also, you can use USB OTG to plug in external USB drives. I actually tried that while in the US to transfer photos, but it appears it doesn’t work with USB female-to-female adapters. I’ve already ordered a USB OTG cable. :)

 

Android

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As surprising as it may seem, I don’t have much experience with Android. Apart from the one time when I was dual-booting Android on my N900 and lately, trying to root a Galaxy S2, I’m pretty much an Android noob.

 

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The Nexus 7 comes with Android 4.2.1, updated to 4.2.2 today. First impression - it’s so fast!

 

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That’s the advantage of having a Nexus device – no custom skins, no crapware included. Pure Android. & my word, the Nexus 7 flies. Well to be fair, I’m comparing it to the only iOS device I have, an iPod Touch 4g, which is by far, the slowest iOS device ever made.

The UI on the Nexus 7 is fast. I can launch & switch between apps immediately & let it run in the background. There is no lag. With 1 GB of RAM, the Nexus 7 usually has half of that free when running no apps.

 

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I love the Quick Settings menu & expandable Notifications. I love that Android brings up a menu to open the same files with different apps. It’s brilliant.

 

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I can drag & drop videos & it just plays.

 

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Gaming has been fine so far with Temple Run 2. Although I prefer the iOS version as there’s less screen area to swipe.

 

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Did I mention it has Google Maps? With offline maps. With the built-in GPS, this is going to be very useful during my trips.

 

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There are however a few problems. The Nexus 7 comes with Chrome. It’s a good browser. But simply not as good as any desktop browser. The text rendering is weird - different font sizes on the same page.

The second problem is that when I zoom in or out, the text appears blurred. It might be a problem with the rendering, but it seems the browser is incapable of sharpening text at intermediate zoom levels. Eg. if I zoom at 50%, it appears sharp, but appears blurry at 54%.

& then there’s the issue of downloading from file hosts. I couldn’t download anything with Chrome. Fortunately, I can install other browsers on Android & Firefox did the trick.

 

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Another problem with the Nexus 7 is that not all apps run in their tablet-optimized mode. That’s BaconReader vs Google Reader. Fortunately there’s a fix, that requires rooting, to change the DPI of apps to get them in tablet mode.

 

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When I saw the color banding on this screen, I thought it was the display. But it was just Android not being able to properly render gradients.

 

Wrap-up

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As tablet worth $250, the Nexus 7 is an excellent device. I’ve ventured into the Android ecosystem at a time when Android has finally matured, so I’ve really no major complaints against the OS or the UI. The battery life has been great so far, with the screen sipping the most power (& it recharges under 3h!). I’ve enjoyed the fast browsing experience of Chome, but it still has huge areas for improvement.

Which brings me to the display. For everyone else, it might be good enough. But as a photographer, it’s simply unacceptable that a device with such a great screen was never calibrated to render photos accurately. If I had known of this problem beforehand, I might have had second thoughts at buying the Nexus 7.

Score – 7/10.

Having just updated to 4.2.2, I’m looking forward to rooting the Nexus 7 to run some of the more “interesting” apps, like AdBlock. Please post some of your favourite apps. ;)

 

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Gireek Ramrachheya said...

Nice.

A thing or two. The OTG feature; I tried it on Rikesh's Nexus 7; would work. Requires rooting.
Slowest iOS device ever? The 3G. There is NO beating that cause I've had both the 3G and iPT4 with me for a whole year. Big diff.
-I prefer file manager HD as the default file manager.-Flipboard

Manu Chan said...

 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.adblockplus.android&hl=en

I'd have suggested this but update 4.2.2  renders it pretty much useless since Google patched the fatal flaw on  which it's based. No root required though and the developers are trying to find a way to bypass it.

adarsh said...

had it for a couple of months now...and indeed i can't live without it. my PC use has dropped substantially. and the Nexus 4 is on its way too :)
i'm trying to keep unrooted for the time being so my app recommendations (apart from those on your homescreen) would be: feedly, evernote, cloudmagic, tunein radio

Yashvin Awootar said...

I cant live without mine too. It simply becomes your best companion and my wife sees it as a threat. A purchase you won't regret. I am not ready to root it yet unlike I did for my phone.
A very good gaming device, plays vids great and anywhere :-P
Just the sound quality isn't that great. For a few additional $, I wouldn't have mind a led notification.

Btw, what's that screenshot app you used? I tried a few without much success. The bloggers' club has got few nexus7 now :-)

Yashvin Awootar said...

Btw, 3hrs for a recharge? Using power adapter or usb?
Mine take much more. Over 5 probably while switched on.

carrotmadman6 said...

Screenshot app? Lol. Hold power+volume buttons together. :p

carrotmadman6 said...

Power adapter. But then the battery is so good, I'm usually charging when it's around 20%. Never had it run down yet. :)

Yashvin Awootar said...

Ah ok. I usually use it for 1 or 2 days (depending) till it drops to below 10% and then leave it on charge for the night.

Yashvin Awootar said...

No one told me this one! :P
I will try. Thanks!

Anooj Muljee said...

Is it the wifi version? I heard there's one which has a slot for sim too. Discussion on @yashvinawootar:disqus wall here: https://www.facebook.com/yashvinawootar/posts/118315588350656

BTW, another question: I see you've got the skin cover for your nexus. Did it accompanied your purchase? If not, I'd like to learn where to get such a cover.

carrotmadman6 said...

Yes, wifi only.

Cover was bought separately. You can find some on eBay.

nexus fan said...

have you guys noticed the price of the nexus 4 at Orange shop at Bagatel?
on the official net it cost $299 (about Rs 9000+), then i compared at bagatel!
i neatly vomited. it cost Rs 20199 the exact price of the nexus 4.
here is a link http://www.orange.mu/mobile-phones/
do you agree with this?
not enough transparent at all.

carrotmadman6 said...

Yes, that is perfectly "normal."


Since Nexus devices are being sold by unofficial channels here in Mauritius, the retailers are free to markup any price they want.

Ricardo said...

Glad to see you are a part of team Android now, for a browser I would recommend that you get dolphin browser, its a great alternative to chrome and MXplayer for your video playback. Cool article but the new Nexus 7 two is out and it blows the older model out of the water improving on its key flaws, I did a recent review on my blog. Looking forward to reading more of your post friend.
My Blog:http://diyrickytlc1985.blogspot.com/

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