Review: My Sordid Fling With The Nexus 7


I will give Google credit, their propaganda hype machine is starting to rival that of Apple Inc.  I’ve had the Nexus 7 for two and half days now and I must say I am far from impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Android and have been a user of the ecosystem since day one back in 2008, but I am not in love with, nor would I date this device.  I am sure some of you will think I am nuts, but just because you put the name Nexus on it doesn’t make it the best thing since the advent of the wheel, and if you’re still reading this I will explain why.

The Google Play Hype

I will keep this short and to the point.  All of this talk about ‘oh, it’s optimized for the cloud’–Play Movies, Books, Music, etc.  This is totally incorrect, because the same services can be used in the same manner with other devices running Android.  For arguments sake, I will use the Samsung Galaxy 2 7″ tablet which falls into the same price range and can be had for fifty dollars more than the Nexus 7 8 gb variant.

Where’s my storage?

I have 8GB of total storage of which only 5.3 GB is actually available for me to use out of the box due to the space that the operating system takes.  Separate install partition anyone?  If you’re not going to give the full 8 gigs then at least give me the option to easily expand the tablet.  After I installed three games (Spider-man, Final Fantasy and Mass Effect) I was left with slightly more than 2 GB of remaining storage on the device.  Yes, I know this device is optimized for the “cloud”, but let’s suppose you’re in a location with no wifi and you’re bored out of your gourd, or in a place with poor cell service –assuming you have a phone that has wifi or bluetooth tether enabled–to transfer files to and from the cloud then the storage or lack thereof becomes a serious problem.  This wasn’t a real issue with devices like the Kindle fire unless you decided to root and flash a custom rom, in which case an ereader instantly becomes a full fledged tablet. Barnes & Noble had it right with how they partitioned and set the Nook up, which is what Google should have done with the Nexus 7, in my opinion.

My Screen Is An Underachiever

Aside from the bad pixels–which our chief editor can attest to personally— and separation from the bezel issues, the screen on the Nexus 7–with its “high resolution”–just doesn’t wow me.  When watching movies and playing games on the device I find myself saying “wow, they could have done a lot better than this”.  I watched the same blu-ray rips on the Samsung Galaxy 7 and the colors were a lot more vivid on the Samsung even though the Samsung has a lower resolution than the Nexus 7.  While playing games on the tablet, I found that the touch response was abysmal when playing games that needed to swipe side to side in landscape mode.  Sometimes the controls worked, but most times I was left with an erratic character that would just not respond and take punishment.  However, non-gaming on the device, basic use of apps, etc. was pretty amazing.

The Experience

The one thing I love about the Nexus 7 is the blazing fast interface and what Google has done with Android 4.1.1, the interface really is as smooth as butter, and the battery life on it is insane as I was able to get about two days out of one charge while doing moderate web surfing and some light gaming.  I was a bit concerned that the power of the Tegra 3 processor would cause a substantial power drain, but I credit the Kernel engineers for doing a truly bang up job with this device in that regard.

Is it more weird to want to take a photo with a tablet, or to pull one out to pay for a Slurpee?

But as has been the case with this device, every positive has a negative, and I have quite a few negatives when it comes to this device.  My first problem is the camera and Google essentially regulating when and how I take pictures with the lone front facing camera.  As it stands aftermarket camera apps like ICS camera and vignette do not work with the Nexus 7, so you’re essentially stuck with a camera that is to be used almost exclusively for video chats and posting on sites like Google + until a third party decides to write an application for it.

My other real beef is the inclusion of google wallet, to which I will say; is it more weird to want to take a photo with a tablet, or to pull one out to pay for a Slurpee? Yes, I am aware you can uninstall/ disable the app, but why the heck was it even included?  Google wallet will only work if it can gain verification from its back end to release the funds, meaning you need an internet connection.  So, if you don’t have a device to tether, wifi connection or happen to be in a bad service area then its inclusion is pointless.

It sounds like a stretch I know but to me the only thing it has going for it is its price.  And with a price tag of $199, it kind of makes sense that this tablet performs the way that it does.  I can say that I would not recomend it to anyone over a Samsung device unless the extra $50 + tax is a real issue.  I would say go for the tablet with card expansion and legit cameras but to each his own.

About Darryl Barnes

Darryl Barnes is an IT professional with more than 15 years experience with both open source and proprietary solutions. With a key focus on Android development, Linux, BSD and Perl scripting.
  • drewstiff

    It’s my understanding that you don’t need a data connection when using Wallet at the checkout so it should be usable.

    • SteveB

      Yeah, people seem to give Google Wallet a lot more credit than it deserves really. It’s not that complex of a system, and does’t require an Internet connection anymore than your credit/debit card does.

      It simply uses your phone as an authentication device, the same thing as if you swiped your card through the terminal.

    • Darryl Barnes

      I believe you’re correct drewstiff I used it on my rooted nexus a couples of times and the two times I tried it with NFC only google wallet wouldn’t acknowledge that a transaction was made. This was good because I used the same $10 initial setup to purchase $50 in merchandise.

  • Gridlock Manifesto

    It’s funny you say you were concerned about the processor draining the battery Darryl because I read a few reviews that sad the battery life was horrid and I assumed it was the processor. I use my Galaxy 10.1 for watching TV almost exclusively, but the size is too large for convenience. If I had a 7-inch tablet I could keep it in my pocket, not worry and get more TV out of the Dish Remote Access app and Sling Adapter my Dish coworker gave me. I love using the app because I watch more TV than just at home when I watch on the go and I like getting more out of my Dish service.

    • Darryl Barnes

      The battery life surprised me I watched a few movies and left it off the charger for the 2.5 days I used it and still had about 20% battery life or so when I plugged it back in.

      • Gridlock Manifesto

        I read one bad comment about battery in a review, but have read many, many now that say it is great, so I’m not worried at all now. Thanks for bolstering my confidence Darryl.

  • Mail

    Though I have two Nexus 7s, my use (or share ‘our’ use) profile is very different to yours, Darryl.

    Consequently I’m happier :)

    In the scenario you outline, through your examples, the utility you describe is for something used away from home. It is here that the weakness of the device is most prominent and something with which it is difficult to disagree.

    A large screen phone with 3G would have more consistent connectivity. A device with more storage would let you take more with you. The Nexus 7 is not really a ‘travelling’ device if you want these options.

    In our use scenario they are used around the house more, at the home of friends and relatives and in the car for entertainment on long trips. We don’t have movies or massive games stored on them.

    Around the house they access the home server with our photos, music and movies. They are great in these settings and can store a reasonable number of photos and music files.

    Who needs 10, 000 songs or photos on one portable device, really? From the reports I’ve read, this ‘feels’ good, but just has no practical utility. The absolute major of users never actually use this capacity.

    That said, expandable storage *not* being included on a device with no 3G function is just plain weird.

    I enjoyed your post enormously. Though I can’t comment on the discussion about the screen quality, it’s a fairly balanced review given the environment you were covering.

    For us though, in the environments we use them in, they’re pretty spick devices.


    • Darryl Barnes

      Thanks for the reply Patrick, I just feel as though if I am paying $200 dollars for something I need to use it anywhere or it’s not the greatest. I own 5 other tablets and a bunch of tech so I was just being objective.

      “Who needs 10, 000 songs or photos on one portable device, really? From the reports I’ve read, this ‘feels’ good, but just has no practical utility. The absolute major of users never actually use this capacity.”

      If I am on a road trip (I travel a lot) with my sammy 7 inch tab I had 4 16gb SD cards filled with shows and music that I could swap out as I moved around and hung out in my hotel room. it makes a world of difference. In regards to the screen it’s just not as sharp as it should be IMO.

  • Amdroid850

    the main idea of the review: let’s put nexus7 into hot tub of water… see! it’s not working! me dissapoint

  • ddevito

    Sounds like sour grapes. If you want storage on a tablet than you’ve missed the point. The new schol is cloud storage, you don’t need all that storage.

    Stop trying to make an android device a computer replacement. Mistake #1

    • Darryl Barnes

      “Stop trying to make an android device a computer replacement. Mistake #1”

      I knew exactly what I was getting into and since the N7 doesn’t have 3/4g you need to be in wifi area to use said cloud lol. it’s a catch 22

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  • Anonymous

    “Darryl Barnes is an IT professional with more than 15 years experience with both open source

    and propitiatory solutions. With a key focus on Android development, Linux, BSD and Perl

    Are you sure you mean “propitiatory” solutions?

    • Darryl Barnes

      Thanks didn’t pick up that typo. it’s supposed to be “Proprietary” I filled that in from my Gnexus and auto correct does strange things. Thanks

  • Tom Nguyen

    how hard is it to install camera launcher. it’s my 1st tablet and I managed to do without an issue. to me, you sound like a whiney little girl!

    • Darryl Barnes

      sorry I only kept the device for two days before I gave it away to a friend for free (yes people benefit off of the tech that I no longer want) . But no I am not whiney, quite the opposite actually as I could care really less, because at the end of the day I buy tech like most people buy toilet paper. So it didn’t hurt me one way or another to spend $236 bucks, And then give the device away. My economy is always great. But yea I tried vignette and I tried another camera app.. I wasn’t going to research Jelly Bean camera apps to find something that should come stock on a device. So once again you missed the point.

  • psypher246

    None of his issues worry my much as most of it doesn’t even work anyway in my country and storage is not my worry, will just get the 16GB one. But thanks for the headsup that a lot of space is wasted by the OS. What worries me is his experience with the screen. Can anyone agree/disagree with his findings?

  • Dan Strong

    What a poor review, not because it was negative but because I don’t think you understand the use of the machine.

    If you love android so much, what’s not to like about this? It’s a beast of a tablet for very little money on the best android version yet.

    Strange review…

    • Darryl Barnes

      “If you love android so much, what’s not to like about this? It’s a beast of a tablet for very little money on the best android version yet.”

      Because for $50 more I can get a real android 7 inch tablet that does more? I own 5 android tablets… the review is not strange if you have other devices that you use on a daily basis to pit them against. with me the best tech always wins regardless who makes said tech. And believe I understand the use of the device, but it’s my prerogative to not like it’s limited use. if you like it that’s fine. Just because Google says it’s the best thing since the wheel I don’ have to agree. But saying that I don’t understand it’s use is folly on your end.

  • mrLogan

    I bought the nexus simply after comparing the spec to the price. I have a HTC desire and previously had a 10 inch android tablet (Advent Vegas) which was ok but never really wowed me.

    I have been constantly suprised every day by just how good the tablet – android – (and importantly) google combination have become.

    Let list just a few of the pleasent suprises that greeted me.

    1. On first start up it asked me to choose my wifi connection and then asked for the password to my google account (i.e. it already had my google email address simply because I had ordered it from the play store!). All I had to do was enter the password and everything else like my gmail account etc was already set up for me.

    2. The battery life is awsome for a device as powerful as this. Never had a device that lasted even half as long.

    3. Jelly Bean is soooooo much better than 2.x android o/s. Seems like the first real competition to apple ios.

    4. widgets rock! For example : simple traffic light which is programmed with a specific destination. shows green when the traffic is clear and red when it is bad and shows the current estimated time to your desitination in the current traffic. Simple , small and increadibly powerful. Need to get to a setting quickly, no problem just make a shortcut to it.

    5. The combination of googles voice services and search tools make it literally childs play to search the net. From picking up the tablet you can find what you are looking for in under 5 seconds! Borrow someones and try it yourself if you don’t believe me.

    6. Android market place and others provide an almost infinate supply of free games, books, movies, music

    7. £15 to spend on the store straight away.

    And finally I don’t want an iPad anymore (I never got one because I thought they were too expensive)

  • paul4id

    This would have been a killer device had they implemented a SD slot (something that costs next to nothing to implement considering all modern SoCs already have in-built SD support right on the silicon).

    • Tom Nardi

      It isn’t a cost consideration. Google’s intent is to leave off external storage on Nexus devices going forward, it’s something we’re just going to have to deal with.

      • paul4id

        Whatever it is, it’s a stupid decision that means I won’t be buying any Nexus devices.

  • David Crowell

    Google Wallet does not require an internet connection. I think that’s been covered. I still don’t think it’s all that convenient in a tablet. A phone? Sure. I’ve used GW on my Nexus7 twice – at CVS. It worked fine. I got strange looks from bystanders.

    The camera? They left out a “real” rear-facing camera because: a) to hit a pricepoint b) taking pictures with tablets is silly anyway. That’s what your phone, or standalone camera are for.

    The Nexus 7 (16GB) is my first tablet. I like the size. I like the fact that it comes with vanilla Android 4.1 and will get timely updates until it’s obsolete – unlike many others.

    As an iPhone user, I like this tablet. It does well against iOS. My next phone will be an Android device.

  • Miquel Mayol i Tur

    I have just discoverd your blog, and I Love it.

    2 suggestions for articles,

    1.- a list of Android devices with PUBLIC DRIVERS, blobs or open source and a claim for every device to do it.

    2.- A suggestion for a Android MB design with PUBLIC DRIVERS and internal USB 3 bays where to plug cheap mini USB pendrives acting as X86 HDDs, with a Gparted alike tool and a config tool to select where apps should be installed as default. As you develop too, porting gparted to Android and making a config tool to change where to install apps as default, would be great apps.

    thanks in advance for your work and opinions

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