01.Nexus family grows
Price: starting at $249 (16GB) / $299 (32GB)
Buoyed by the success of its first stab at the small-tablet market earlier this year with its Nexus 7, Google has upped the ante with a three-pronged attack on the mobile market. An updated version of the Nexus 7, made by Asus, is joined by the Nexus 4 smartphone from LG and the Nexus 10 tablet by Samsung.
The scheduled New York city media event for the triple launch was cancelled at the last minute, overshadowed by the devastating Hurricane Sandy, leaving Google to announce the new Nexus family on-the-quiet on Google’s official blog. Weighing in at 340g and 10.5mm thick, the Nexus 7 is arguably the strongest Android-based competitor for Apple’s new iPad mini.
The new Nexus 7 is notable for it’s new 16GB starting capacity - double that of the previous version - there’s a 32GB model also. Both have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, it’s also notable for what is left out — the 802.11 Wi-Fi is 2.4GHz only, not 5GHz, and there’s no 3G/4G version for Australia yet, though a 32GB version with mobile data has been released overseas.
Also, like its predecessor, the new Nexus 7 still doesn’t have a rear camera, though it retains the 1.2MP forward-facing camera. On the plus side, it has a micro USB port and the bright 7-inch IPS screen displays 1280 × 800 pixels, which equates to a very high-resolution 216 pixels per inch.
One thing the Nexus 7 has that many tablets lack is near-field communication (NFC). This lets it share files easily using “Android Beam” between compatible devices and pay without touching at sites using NFC point-of-sale payment systems.
Our Nexus 7 came with Android 4.1, codenamed Jelly Bean (actually OS 4.1.2). A downloadable system update took this to Android 4.2, a “new flavour of Jelly Bean”, according to Google. A big advantage of this, which the iPad mini doesn’t have, is support for multiple users. Jelly Bean 4.2 also has a new 360-degree panoramic camera mode called Photo Sphere, so it’s a pity there’s no rear camera on the Nexus 7.
A very handy but officially undocumented feature is the ability to take a screenshot. To do this on the Nexus 7, press and momentarily hold the down-volume button and the power button at the same time (similar to the iPads which use the Home button and sleep/wake button).
Overall performance is good. Scrolling and switching between apps is smooth. Our benchmark tests confirmed it to be the fastest Android tablet we’ve tested.
The Nexus 7 comes with a good range of Google apps and there’s plenty more on the Google Play Store. The claimed battery life is up to 8 hours, though this will vary with type of usage.
Backed by speed, high-resolution displays and the greatly improved range of apps and multimedia content available, small tablets are coming into their own. Though a 7” screen might seem a tad on the small side at first, you soon get used to it and the portability and convenience of a “pocketable” tablet can’t be beaten.
A mere seven inches might not suit large-format documents such as magazines and newspapers as well as a larger tablet — for that Google has the Nexus 10 — but most general uses it’s fine. Google’s Play Store offers a great range of content and if you like Android the Nexus 7 is the small tablet to beat.
For more information about tablet computers, see Mobile computers.