Here’s another review courtesy of your average tech enthusiast. I’ve never liked the iPad. My main reasons are the locked down ecosystem, the size, the weight, and the cost. I don’t understand spending that kind of money for something that isn’t a real computer.
Instead I’ve taken to first using a Nook Color which I rooted and installed Cyanogenmod 7 and then a Nook Tablet that I rooted so I could use GoLauncher. Both of these options allowed me to use Barnes & Noble’s ereader as a 7″ Android tablet. The experiences were not great but good enough given the price that I was paying for the device. I’ve advocated for a 7″ form factor since before the iPad’s existence. If I want a device that is not my phone and not my laptop why would I want something with a screen nearly the same size as my laptop? Especially because I’m partial to 11.6″ laptop screens (I’ve had one since the early days of the Sony Vaio TR series from almost a decade ago). A 7″ screen is the perfect size and weight for that in between device.
Enter Google’s Nexus 7 tablet manufactured by Asus. It’s a great little tablet. Smaller and lighter than either of my Nooks and runs as smoothly as my wife’s iPad. It’s the first real tablet that is priced correctly for what it is. Personally I believe these devices should be sub $100 but I imagine that will come with time.
Google’s Jelly Bean version of Android, at least to me, is not that much different from any other version of Android post FroYo. There are updates and slight differences in usability as with the app drawer and notifications but nothing I feel worth mentioning. What’s the big deal with being able to flick away a notification? I always look at them, if I act on the notification it goes away, and if I don’t I just clear them out. I can’t think of a single time when I felt the need to leave certain notifications there while clearing away others. These changes are largely eye candy. They’re nice but in the end I don’t care as long as it works.
It’s much easier for me to concentrate on what I don’t like than what I do. I’m a complainer by nature. I’ll start with the sleep/awake button. It’s on the right side of the unit right above the volume rocker switch. Not a bad place for it but not a good one either. Historically, since the first iPods devices have been designed to either have that button on top or right on the front of the screen at the bottom. This and my Samsung Galaxy S III are the only devices I have where the button is in an awkward place. It’s much worse on the S III because it is on the opposite side as the volume rocker so when you’re pushing on one side you end up raising the volume as well. Hardware-wise I believe this is my only complaint. The rest of the hardware on this tablet is excellent. It has a good feel in the hand with a pleasant weight. Not too heavy but not too light with a dimpled back cover that doesn’t show finger prints or smudges.
Most of my issues are software related and I’ll start with the Chrome browser. I will never understand to my dying day why these devices don’t have a full and complete web browser. My tests are always to use the GoToMyPC and Slingbox sites. GoToMyPC, when logged in, will direct you to their Android app which is, of course, not compatible with this version of Android. So, I’m once again forced to use Teamviewer (again I like Teamviewer but it simply is not my preference). Slingbox directs me to their Slingplayer app which cossts $15. Why do I have to pay $15 for something I can do for free in a real browser. I simply won’t do it because it makes no sense. PLEASE GIVE ME REAL BROWSERS ON TABLETS AND PHONES!!!!!
Face to unlock is spotty. It’s supposed to look at your face to unlock the device as a security measure. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. You’re supposed to set it up in different lighting conditions where you are most likely to use the device and I have but it still sometimes does not recognize my face.
The Gallery app oddly does not rotate when you rotate the device. And, some of my pictures will rotate automatically when they are not supposed to. The picture of the Nexus 7 box that is posted along with this review will inexplicably rotate into landscape when the picture was taken in portrait. I don’t get why this app doesn’t work because it works properly on all my other Android devices.
How about a decent music widget? The one that comes with Google Play stinks and so does Amazon’s MP3 widget. With all this screen real estate it would be nice to have a large widget that shows what’s playing or that will allow me to choose something to play without launching an entire music app. This seems like it should be trivial to me but is not present on any Android device that I have. I wonder if there are any 3rd party widgets that will accomplish this. I’ll have to take a look.
Everything else seems to work as advertised. Although I’ve only been using the Nexus 7 less than 24 hours I can tell it’s the best Android tablet out there and really the only tablet you should be buying. No one should pay laptop prices for a tablet especially when they all have dumbed down systems that don’t allow you to do things that you can do on a computer. Not that these devices aren’t powerful enough either it’s just that the features and functionality are taken out to make the devices stupid simple. They’ve been dumbed down too much. People have been using PCs or Macs for decades now and can handle a little complexity.