Google Nexus 7 by Asus

Blog Jan 3, 2013

£159, gave the Google Nexus 7 a five-star rating back in Issue 298, but this was before Amazon and Appl


We gave the Google Nexus 7 a five-star rating back in Issue 298, but this was before Amazon and Apple launched their similarly sized tablets in the UK. But despite the stiffer competition, the Nexus 7 has held its own.

There’s a 3G version available for £239, but if you can live with Wi-Fi only, the 16GB model we’ve reviewed here costs just £159.

The Nexus 7 is shaped more like an e-reader than a tablet. Hold it in portrait mode and it’s just the right size to hold in one hand. The wider tablets, like the iPad Mini and Kindle Fire HD, are a stretch even for large hands, and just don’t feel as comfortable for single-handed use. It’s heavier than Apple’s larger device, though, by 32g.

Despite shaving 15mm off the width of the Kindle Fire HD, the Nexus 7 has the same screen size and resolution. All you’re losing is some of the black casing around the edge. The screen itself is excellent: bright with superb contrast, making text look razor-sharp. It responds quickly to finger controls and is silky smooth to use.

The only thing we don’t like is that Google hasn’t adjusted the size of the keyboard. If you hold the device in a landscape format and compare the size of the keyboard to the iPad Mini, it has the same four rows of keys but in less space, which makes the Nexus much harder to type on. The Kindle Fire HD, too, has devoted more screen space to keys.

If you’re already a Google user, you’ll find everything set up. Just tap in your Google account details and your email will appear in the Gmail app as soon as you open it, your calendar will be full of appointments and, if you’re signed into Chrome on your PC, it’ll even have all your bookmarks at the ready. Setting up the other devices in this test involves some fiddling about with downloading apps and configuring email accounts. You’ll still need to do this with the Nexus if you use services from other companies, but with Google’s own, it’s a dream.

The device runs Android 4.1.2, the latest update of Google’s Jelly Bean operating system. While previous versions of Android haven’t been as slick on tablet devices as iOS on the iPad, Jelly Bean has completely won us over. Google has put a lot of energy into making the interface fast and smooth in this version (a project it codenamed Butter), and it’s completely paid off. Android on the Nexus 7 feels even smoother than iOS on the iPad Mini.

Because it’s a Google-sponsored device, you get Android exactly as its maker intended it. Compare this to Android on Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and you’ll appreciate the benefits this brings. There’s no hard sell of products through Google’s well-stocked Play store, so you can customise the Home screen exactly as you like it, putting your favourites on the front page and scrolling to panels on the left and right to add special widgets and app icons. You can keep these in folders, as with iOS, or you can simply scroll through a large list of options from the App menu.

There are two things we love about the Google Nexus 7. The first is its price: £159 is fantastic for a tablet of this quality. It’s been suggested that Google and Amazon are selling their tablets at a loss, but while Amazon needs to recoup money by persuading you to buy content from its app store, Google just wants you to use its services and spend more time on the web. This removes the hard sell you see on the Kindle Fire and makes for a better user interface.

The other thing we love is the screen. It’s beautiful, with more vivid colour than the Kindle Fire and a higher resolution than the iPad Mini. Bundle all this together and you’ve got an almost perfect 7in tablet that fully deserves our Gold Award.