This is not my first time around the block with a seven inch tablet, I reviewed the original Samsung Galaxy Tab (here), I review the Amazon Kindle Fire (here), and now the Google/ASUS Nexus 7 (here ((No, like really here — listen you are reading the Nexus 7 review right now, let me get back to it.)) ). I really didn’t want to buy the Nexus 7, but the more I read about it, the more it sounded like this probably would be the best seven inch tablet made to date. It had been a while since I used Android, so off I went.
I kind of knew what to expect from a seven inch tablet, but I was hoping for better hardware and smoother software. Both are things the Nexus 7 delivers on.
The Short Version
The long and short of it is that the Nexus 7 has impressive hardware, a solid OS, but ultimately doesn’t hold up to the iPad.
Now, I ask that if you disagree with me, that you continue to read the rest of the post. But if all you wanted to know is if you should buy it: not yet.
The Longer Version
The Nexus 7 is a truly good device. Solid in every aspect. For me, where it falls flat, is in giving me a reason to use it. It’s more awkward to type on than my iPhone or iPad. It’s easier to hold in one hand than the iPad, but not easier than the iPhone.
It awkwardly fits between my iPhone and iPad, and that’s not a good thing.
Let me use a car metaphor for you (because you love it when I do that). Imagine you own three vans: a “normal” 7-8 seat minivan, a 10 passenger van, and a 15 passenger van. Odds are that the two most used vans are the smallest and the largest. The 10 passenger isn’t that much larger than the minivan and isn’t that much smaller than the 15 passenger van. And so the 10 passenger van only has a 1,000 miles on it after 10 years.
The Nexus 7 is the 10 passenger van.
And here’s the thing about the Nexus 7, there isn’t one thing that is so demonstrably wrong about it that I can point to it and say: “haha, iPad wins”. Because truthfully the iPad doesn’t win, but neither does the Nexus 7.
I use tablets in two places: meetings and at home. For meetings the Nexus 7 has pretty much sucked every time for multiple reasons:
- Can’t get the apps I am accustomed to.
- The apps I do find are hideous.
- It’s too small.
But really none of that matters because I simply have cut most meetings out of my life, so I rarely have them anyway. The ones I do have, are often short and don’t warrant anything more than my iPhone.
That brings us to the one place I use my tablet more than any other place: home.
At home I use my iPad for the following:
- Web Browsing
The Nexus 7 can do all of this, but in my use it can only do two things better than the iPad: reading in bed, and reading with one hand. For every other task the iPad is better, but only marginally so. Text/fonts/typefaces, all look better on the iPad screen. But it’s not just because the iPad screen is a “retina” display, the Nexus 7 and Android choose typefaces I dislike for reading and then render those choices poorly.
There is no better example than Instapaper — which has the same fonts on both devices, shown in the same manner. Instapaper on the iPad just looks far more readable.
So yes, the seven inch tablet is easier to carry around and works better in one hand, BUT…
But my iPhone is even easier to carry around and works even better in one hand than the Nexus 7. Do you see what I am getting at here?
It’s not that the Nexus 7 stacks up poorly to my iPad, it’s that the Nexus 7 stacks up poorly to my iPhone.
The way I look at this is that I would choose a seven inch tablet over the iPad so that I could have a more portable tablet than the iPad. I completely understand why people would want this. So I carried the Nexus 7 with me everywhere I went. I had it tethered to my iPhone and ready to go. I paid for every equivalent app I had on my iPad — including the $10 MLB At Bat app. For the entire first two days I made an effort to do everything on the Nexus 7.
After that I didn’t think about which device I used.
Nine times out of ten, I reached for my iPhone over the Nexus 7. And for those times when I did, specifically, sit down to use a tablet: I grabbed the Nexus 7 and then felt like I was handicapping myself and then reached for the iPad.
It seems silly to buy such a capable tablet for the sole purpose of easier couch surfing and extended reading, but to me that is the Nexus 7′s strongest suit.
I wouldn’t fault anyone for owning a Nexus 7, but I will scratch my head at anyone buying one that already has an iPhone and iPad — because I can’t figure out a time when it is better to use than either.
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