Nexus 7: The Full Australian Review

When Asus demonstrated its ME370T at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it impressed a lot of people. $US249 for a 7-inch, Tegra 3-powered tablet was looked like mind-blowingly good value and I, for one, couldn't wait for it to come to market. All went quiet on the ME370T-front for months, before it was finally revealed that the tablet had piqued Google's interests, too. 7 months went by, but finally we have the Nexus 7. You know the hype, you've seen the keynote, but what's it really like for Aussies to use?

What Is It?

The Nexus 7, despite being put together from a hardware perspective by Asus, is Google's first foray into a Nexus tablet. The Nexus line -- for the uninitiated -- is intended to be a "pure Google" experience, originally designed for developers, with none of the manufacturer's crapware slowing it down. To see that design ethos applied to a tablet is very exciting.

It's a 7-inch, rubber-backed tablet powered by a 1.3Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 and 1GB of RAM. It comes in both the 8GB and 16GB storage variants (we tested the 16GB) and it weighs just 340 grams. The screen is a 7-inch, 720p IPS display, the device is Wi-Fi only and doesn't come with a MicroSD-card slot

If you buy it from the Google Play Store, the 8GB model will set you back $249, while the 16GB model will cost $299. If you buy it from retailers, however, you'll be paying $318 for the 16GB model.

What's Good?

The first thing you notice about the Nexus 7 is the clever design. Google said that they wanted to make something that had the portability of a paperback book with the intelligence of a great tablet. It wanted to give users the ability to get around and use a tablet without tiring a user's arm out. In this area, they have definitely succeeded.

The brown, curved, rubberised back panel fits into the hand nicely and it stays there too, thanks to the tiny, grippy dimples all over the back. The 7-inch form factor is perfect from a portability standpoint, but it's not so tiny that it's frustrating to watch, read and browse on when you get home to use it on the couch or in bed for the evening. In this way it almost flawlessly straddles the tablet and smartphone form factor.

When you actually get down to using it, the new version of Android, known as Jelly Bean, rewards you with super-fast performance coupled with smooth operation. Google tweaked a lot of things between Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean -- right down to new window animations -- and that care really shows.

New features in Jelly Bean include Google Now, which predicts your life as it happens and tells you what you need to know about getting around and enjoying yourself before you even ask; overhauled search including upgraded voice, which is amazing for searching through all of your apps and pulling relevant information; resizable widgets which let you take customisation to a whole new level, and new page animations which make navigating around the device a really simple experience.

One of the best things about the Nexus 7 is how easy it is to get it going. Because it's pure Google, you don't have to run around tending to bloatware from manufacturers during he set-up process. You set up your Google account or sign-in with one you've already got, and that's it. You're placed onto a pre-configured home screen environment that is geared to what the device is meant for: enjoying content. Your home bar contains a folder full of Google's own apps like Earth, Plus and Currents, and it sits right next to Chrome, Music, Movies and the all-important Play Store.

Recommended apps, books and movies are intuitively presented on the second screen to the right, and it's already got a few free books embedded on the device's home screen to encourage you to start exploring content right away. All this comes together to make a really welcoming experience for a beginner tablet user and it's really awesome. I feel like I could give this to my grandparents and they'd know what they were doing with minimal instruction from me.

I mentioned that it comes with all of Google's apps pre-installed. That's a nice touch because it couples these apps and services -- like the languishing Google Plus social platform -- with an enjoyable user experience. People are more likely to explore the device they're having fun on, and by integrating these services seamlessly into the device, it's likely to increase adoption and give Google Plus much-needed traction. To be honest, if this was my every day tablet it would probably have me using Google Plus a lot more than I do now.

Underneath all of this UI-goodness beats the heart of the Nexus 7's 1.3Ghz Tegra 3 processor. If you're into mobile gaming, the Nexus 7 is for you. With a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and a high-definition, 1280x800 IPS screen it begs to be played with.

It scores just under the Asus Transformer Prime TF201 in our Quadrant tests, but that's ok. The way the Nexus 7 puts rubber to the road doesn't disappoint, and the fact that you'll have to spend twice what the Nexus 7 is worth to get your hands on a TF201 will override any sour feeling you have about the spec differences.

The screen displays near perfect whites, too. When compared to the blueish hue of the Galaxy Nexus or the mild yellow tinges of the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy S III, the Nexus 7 is great read on. The display isn't perfect, though, and we'll get to these flaws in a moment.

What's Bad?

I've got high praise for a high-resolution IPS screen on a cheap tablet. It was one of the better points of the Kogan Agora tablet I reviewed a few weeks ago, and the Nexus 7 is no exception: bravo to Google and Asus for putting it in there. The problem, though, lies in the way the display is lit and how it reproduces colour.

The device is deplorably dark. We've had ours running at full brightness, and while it's very usable indoors, it's barely visible in full sunlight. All you're left looking at is a black bezel with your fingerprints all over it. I know I can't expect the Retina Display of the new iPad in a sub-$300 tablet, but it'd sure be nice if it were just a little brighter.

Speaking of the bezel, it can get a tad obnoxious when you're browsing, reading or playing things with a lot of white space. It's not as intrusive as the enormous black bezel on the BlackBerry PlayBook (which are forgivable because they have a purpose), but it can still get on your nerves.

Battery life is also a tad disappointing. You'll likely be charging this thing everyday thanks to the full brightness required to use it outside. I got between eight and nine hours of battery life.

What's really disappointing though is the fact that so much of what the Nexus 7 is meant for -- reading, browsing and intelligently figuring out your life -- doesn't work in Australia. Take Google Now as an example.

It's a clever little feature that's like a personal assistant. It tells you useful things without you having to ask, but the information it gives you is severely limited to what Google actually has available in Australia. Driving directions work fine -- it was able to tell me where I was and how long it would take me to get home in traffic -- but I don't drive to work. Where are the public transport directions (for cities other than Melbourne)? What about the flight information? Where are my sports scores?

Take Google Play as another example. Google has been very upfront about the fact that Australians still won't have access to magazines, music and TV shows in the Play Store. These are things the Nexus 7 is meant for, and without them the whole experience can come off feeling half-baked and disappointing.

The price on this tablet is great, but as a result you're left without a few things that can get annoying if you're in the market for a full-featured tablet. It doesn't have an option for expandable storage for one, and though the a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity is good the lack of 3G-connectivity is irritating. You won't be getting a rear-facing camera on the Nexus 7 either and the front-facing camera is fairly forgettable. There's been a few issues raised about the build quality, too.

Should You Buy One?

It's tough to compare the Nexus 7 to anything else currently available in the local market in the local market, simply because it's one of the first low-cost tablets that has actually made it here. In the US, this device is intended to compete with the first-generation Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire is a tablet that was never meant for Australia, but the Nexus 7 is on store shelves as of next week.

It's clear, though, that Aussies love a bargain, and the price point of this tablet is perfect. $318 for the 16GB version is a genuinely good deal. It's got fantastic hardware, a killer operating system and fits perfectly into the life of someone who has a smartphone and a laptop or desktop computer, but doesn't know what they'd use a tablet for.

Make no mistake that the Nexus 7 is intended as a media-consumption device though. Don't be under the false assumption that you'll be able to get a lot done with this. Google will argue that there are plenty of productivity apps on the Android platform so that people can put together documents and presentations, etc, but at the end of the day it's like pulling teeth to actually use them. Best to keep this tablet in the entertainment and browsing realm where it belongs and excels.

If you've been holding off buying a tablet because of price, hardware or software concerns, take a serious look at the Nexus 7. Despite a few flaws (which are easily overlooked anyway), the Nexus 7 is a great tablet worthy of your time.


    If there's no iPad mini annoucement I'm having one of these!

      Stay tuned Scott, I'm writing a piece addressing the iPad Mini right now!

        Just read it Luke... And I'm thinking you're wrong on this.

          I'm happy to be proven wrong if they do release it, Nads. More than happy, but the words came out of Steve's mouth during his tenure and that backflip - while not impossible - would be difficult.

    I'm kinda tempted, but the lack of 3g is a big minus for me. Google now predicts my life! Great! Except that what it predicts is "you will spend the next 10 minutes trying to pair your nexus with your phone so that you have net connectivity".

      Seriously? If you have a current phone surely you have Wifi hotspot? I set up my Wifi hotspot on my phone, and it took me 30 seconds. I then added that SSID into my TF201, which took me another 30 seconds. It's set and forget. I've never had to change it. I have a shortcut on my phone launcher to activate my Wifi hotspot that I push, and the tablet automatically connects to that in under 10 seconds without me even touching the tablet.

        I agree. I bought the Galaxy Tab 7.7 3g, and have a Telstra 3g SIM in it that gives me 8gb to use in a year. Most of the serious downloading I do at home an my WiFi. Since I bought the Tab, I have upgraded my phone to an S3, which comes with 1.5 gb of 3g Data. Again, most of my serious traffic is done at home, so I never get near using all of that data. Lately I have been wirelessly tethering my Tab to my S3 when I am out and about. It works perfectly and I won't be renewing the SIM in my Tab when it runs out.

        Now that the Age Newspaper finally has an App for Android, my wife is using the Tab a lot more. I think we will probably get the 16gb model of the Nexus 7 for her pretty soon.

    Would be nice to have a comparison. Whether its slipped the mind or for some reason not seen as comparable...the galaxy tab 2 7.0, in my mind, is a decent competitor. $299 for a 8Gb version...its does have a lower screen res 1024x600 i think but at that size its still decent. Its only dual core...but it does have expandable memory and there is a 3g variant available too. For those wanting the extra space it is an excellent alternatice from what ive seen and it is running (atleast) ice cream sandwich. Is there any possibility of seeing a side by side comparison or shoot out? Thanks. Nice review too :)

      So.. $50 more, lower res, slower spec, older OS, slower updates... is all that worth trading for an SD slot?

      If you need 3G, that's understandable, though then it's $400+.

    If there is no 3G, how would Google Now work anyway?

      It works when you're connected to WiFi. So far it has told me how long it was going to take to get home and the weather at my location.

        So it will be quite limited if I am on the road. But then again I can't decide if I will be carrying my tablet for something like finding where's the nearest cafe - might as well fire up the phone.

          I feel Google Now will be much better suited to phones than tablets for this reason. I'm mainly using mine for books and movies outside of the house and genera
          Web browsing at home.

          Got a 3g phone with bluetooth? my ipad is a wifi one, I bluetooth it to my sgs2 and net surf that way.

            Yeah, as I said previously.. you can do that. But the advantage of a 3g tablet is that the net is just there. It takes me a good 5 minutes to get my phone and ipad to play nicely. That's worth it if I'm settling in for a good long session, but a big disincentive to casual use.

              Well I don't want to sound like and asshole, but your doing something wrong. If it takes any more than 30 seconds to sync your phone and ipad you're doing something very wrong. Also, who wants 2 data plans? And do you have home internet with wi-fi? If you settling in for a long session, where are you doing that away from home? I can't see how people want a home internet plan, a phone plan and a tablet plan? Surely you can do all your heavy downloading on home wi-fi and use your phone for tethering away from home? That's just my opinion...I don't get it to be honest...maybe you can shed some light one the situation for me? I just know I would hate to be paying another monthly fee for another data plan that I can probably forgo by using data i'm already paying for.

                BuckE182, I am not doing it wrong, promise. I have Bluetooth off by default to save power, so I have to go in and turn it on, on both devices (I could leave it on, but then I'd have to recharge more ). I do not have home wifi. I don't have any plans bc I'm overseas 4 months every year. So I use prepaid everywhere. Work for downloading anything bigger than 20 mb. The tablet with 3G is my only net connection. Btw, you misunderstood: I said tethering is great for long sessions, but bad for short.

                  If you have to turn on bluetooth for your wifi everytime you are doing it very wrong. Thats the whole point. I have my bluetooth off as well and it only takes 30 seconds max. You gotta go find out what you did wrong.

              Can't you just set up a hotspot on your phone and avoid Bluetooth altogether?

    I'm posting from mine right now and have to say I'm really enjoying it. It fits great in my hands and the screen looks good. Something not mentioned is that there is some screen flicker when brightness is high, but apparently this is a software issue related to tegra 3 and not a hardware defect. Interested to see if you guys had this problem also.

    Your comparing apples to oranges. Just get one. It is miles ahead of what apple would bring out for an ipad mini.

      So you want to compare a device that exists with a device that does not exist. Bravo!

    "If you buy it from retailers, however, you’ll be paying $318 for the 16GB model (unless you order from EB Games)."

    EB Games is no longer selling the device for $298. It is $318 just like everywhere else.

      I preordered yesterday at the store in Chermside and they assured me that I will be paying only$298 when I pick it up.

        Ah excellent! Strange that they've stopped advertising at that price.

        On their website they are advertising that their first shipment is out of stock and 2nd shipment is due early August at $318. Each EB store probably has the numbers of their initial allocation already so if you find a store that hasn't pre-ordered all of their units you will get one at the pre-order price of $298.

          I bought mine from Google last week for around $318, it was $299 for the tablet but then I had to pay for postage. The good thing about buying from Google though is that you get $25 of credit to use on the Google Play store, so it's worth it. Do you get that credit if you buy from EB?

    "... fits perfectly into the life of someone who has a smartphone and a laptop or desktop computer, but doesn’t know what they’d use a tablet for." Please explain? It doesn't make phone calls and is useless as a productivity tool, so exactly how would it fit into my life at all?

      Mine's main use will be a 7in gps for the motorbike

      I agree MotorMouth. In my opinion all tablets currently available are only useful for media consumption (iPad included). I think the new windows 8 tablets might change things for the better.

      Don't get me wrong though, the Nexus 7 is still a great looking tablet and would probably have considered getting one if I didn't already own a Motorola Xoom.

        Woah, haven't considered that. I thought I'd just have this lying around the house for random usage. I might seriously consider that too now

      I bought one solely for reading and content consumption while on public transport. A phone is too small to be a reading device for ~an hour, and a laptop can be unusable on a packed train. This fits in as something which is easily held in a single hand like a paperback.

      Not everything has to be for productivity. :)

    Preordered mine from EB Games at Toombul (Brisbane) a few days ago @ $298. Just got a call from them saying its ready to pick up. Will have it in less than an hour. Win!

      Please check if the unit come with the defects (screen separation and/or creaking noise when pressing the screen) or not.

        No defects that I can see. Screen is sitting flush. Pressed it quite firmly around the whole screen and no creaking noise. Will update if that changes but all looks good :)

        Only charged $298 also (as expected) I questioned why the price went up just for kicks and the manager advised she didn't know but everyone that pre-ordered from EB at the lower price, would def. get it for the lower price.

        Awesome tablet. Watching a video on it and it looks great! It's snappy, screen size is perfect (I had an iPad 2 and even after getting used to that, this is perfectly fine), speaker has a decent volume, it's light enough to hold comfortably with 1 hand, screen is bright enough to use outside (could be better but on the right angle, really easy to see), Overall - It's awesome.

          Ok after playing with it a little more - the screen doesn't creak in the slightest but if you look super close you can see 1 side of the screen is up probably like 1/4 of a mm. It look me 5 seconds and no effort or tutorial to get the back cover off and if I had my mini screwdrivers at work I could easily fix it and plan on doing this when i get home but unless you were really looking for it - its that close to perfect you wouldn't even notice the screen is up that tiny bit.

            its good to hear this from you! mine still in transit, should be with me by this monday. finger cross to the build quality for mine.
            by the way, some said that tighten up the screw cant fix the problem forever, it will be back after sometime. some said 5 mins, some said 2 hours, and some said no happens after that. if you read more about this case, this may causes by the "thickness of soft sponge". they said, it is too thick. someone replace it with a thinner one. no problem occur so far.

        Just got mine from FedEx. Looks flawless, at first glance.

      Ipad Excluded, lol fanboy ive never had a problem playing any videos on my ipad on any website... So it should include the ipad, no need to get petty now, its just a fact...

        Cool thanks for the info. I'll look into it a bit more.In all honesty I don't think I will bother fixing it. You cant notice it unless you look for it. If it gets worse or bothers me i'll take it back to EB!

    I am so happy that they are available in the stores....... NOT still waiting on my pre-order from the 28th June surely I cant be the only Aussie that doesn't have a shipping order yet ??

      I got mine on Tuesday. Despite the fact I put in multiple cancellation requests. I wanted to cancel after hearing about Music and Video services being unavailable here

    "The device is deplorably dark. We’ve had ours running at full brightness, and while it’s very usable indoors, it’s barely visible in full sunlight."

    What is this "sunlight" you speak of? It sounds painful.

    No 3G and no expandable storage are still dealbreakers for me. Plus the fact I can't get magazines or music or TV Shows through Google Play...what the hell else are you supposed to use the tablet for if you can't get that stuff? Without those features there's really nothing this can do that my phone can't...the only advantage is the bigger screen, but that's not enough to justify me dropping ~$300 on one.

      You can get all that from places other than Google Play.

      Music you can get from your own collection from your PC or through Rdio/Spotify/TuneIn etc

      Magazines you can use Zinio or another app from the Play Store that gives you access to a full magazine catalogue.

      TV shows are tricky but again you can sideload from your PC. there are some apps available in Australia but mostly all are US specific. You can access all the TV catch up services through the browser though.

      Movies and books are accessible through Play Store.

      Also, it's worth noting (but perhaps not outwardly condoning) that you can get a torrent client like tTorrent on Android and just torrent everything (that you already own on other platforms of course).

        Sure it's possible to get most (not all) of that stuff through other alternative methods, but really it's making you jump through hoops and adding extra steps to the process that should be un-necessary.

        Again, I'll state that there seems to be nothing this tablet can do that my Android phone can't already do...aside from the bigger screen, which is not enough to justify the price. I really do want to enter the tablet market but this isn't going to convince me to take the plunge just yet. Nothing has stood up and made me say "Wow, I need to have that".

        If this was a "Nexus 10", with as 10 inch screen, expandable storage and 3G/4G, I would have said shut up and take my money. As it stands right now though, there's really nothing else out there, so I'm going to need to wait for more details on the Surface to see if that will suit what I'm looking for.

          Many TV shows are available via YouTube, despite the questionable legality.

          To be honest, do you really use the 3G and will you get magazines or music or TV shows through google play? Some people complain too much but they do nothing of things they complain.

            Yes, I will use 3G. Tethering to my phone is an un-necessary step if you just want to check email. And yes, I would get magazine and TV Shows through Google Play if I could.

    All of the specs on the Google page (and elsewhere) states that the wifi is only B/G/N, however the review specifcally states "...and though the a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity is good the lack of 3G-connectivity is irritating..."

    Can anyone confirm if it is B/G/N or A/B/G/N?

    Another downside, no Adobe flash plugin for JB 4.1.1

      Not sure if it's relevant, but flash works fine on my 4.1.1 Galaxy Nexus

      Have you tried downloading it from Google Play?

    YAY it has arrived at my Gold Coast Store :D

    I can't believe you didn't mention the appalling performance of Chrome browser in your review. Coming from using Windows Phone Internet Explorer and iPad Safari, I just couldn't believe how crappy the Chrome browser was. Add to the fact Chrome is awesome on windows, my daily browers, it was quite a disappointment

      See I thought the opposite! I thought Chrome on the Nexus 7 was tops while Safari for iPhone is a bit average...horses for courses I guess.

        Well, i guess it depends what how we score it. Chrome for Nexus tablet is great at rendering most pages.

        But it's just too damn slow on some pages. Try pinching in and out, try scrolling pages. The responsiveness is so bad (takes seconds in some pages), coming from WinPhone and iPad, that it puts me off immensely.

        Also, try going landscape. You can't

          You can go landscape in Chrome though. Try unlocking the orientation in the notification pane.

      Yeah totally disagree with you on this too.
      After using Chrome on my OneX I hate going back to Safari on my iPad.
      I find Chrome a million times better.

    So this tablet is primarily designed for 'media-consumption' but in Australia you can't buy any music, TV shows or magazines on it; you shouldn't plan on using it much for work as the apps available for it are 'like pulling teeth' to get anything done, and most of it's Google Now features don't work here in Australia either.

    But somehow, despite a legion of problems and shortcomings, it's still "a great tablet worthy of your time". WTF?

      Not to mention it only has 16GB of storage with no expandable memory. I could just about fill that with just my music collection and a few movies. A "Media consumption" device you can only put a limited amount of media on is badly designed. I mean it would it have killed them to put a microSD slot on it?

        Why would you listen to music on a tablet though, I mean, seriously! The other device in your pocket is quite capable of doing that and in many cases does it better.

        This device will be filled up with my regular apps, a few movies and TV shows that are swapped out regularly via WiFi when i'm at home.

          I wouldn't listen to music on it, but that's exactly part of my point. It doesn't do anything my phone doesn't already do. The only advantage is the bigger screen, and that's not worth 300 bucks.

    I have Google Now on my Galaxy Nexus and it shows public transport options for Canberra. So it's not just Melbourne, but point conceded that there's poor support for this kind of thing in Australia.

      But Google Transit for Canberra can be a bit dodgy sometimes...

      Not even for Melbourne...

    No xpandable memory is poor thought on Googles part, recently I bought an ainol elf2 for my daughter and the 8 gig was filled with games, ebooks, audio books and the odd movie in no time. Thank god for the micro SD slot supporting 32gig. Also at sub $150 this 7" tablet is very well made and does every thing it said it would do out of the box. Sure the nexus 7 has the brand name but I think I will buy another ainol instead

    anyone tried reading comics on it? @ this stage holding out for a 10" but interested in what ppl have to say :)

    I'm planning on buying one very soon. I'm sick of lugging my 2.5kg laptop to uni and back everyday, when all I use it for is answering emails, internet browsing/online uni materials and reading comics. I've been waiting for an android wifi only tablet to come into my price range, and for my purposes, the Nexus 7 sounds absolutely PERFECT. Plus, it'll match my Galaxy Nexus, giving me that warm fuzzy feeling of having a matching set.

      i got the same reason as you to get this tablet. :D

    I think it is the perfect travel tool. It is fast, easy to read and easy to use. I had a 7 inch Android tablet before and the Nexus 7 is so much faster and cleaner. I did order it from Google Play as I need it for travel and the Ipad is just too clumsy, heavy and cumbersome for my use. It fits into the glove box of my car, the pocket of my jacket and in the wives handbag. My wife want one and anybody having seen it want one. I think Asus and Google did a fantastic job!

    Am I missing something here? I'm from Melbourne and we STILL don't have public transport timetable information in Google. That article you linked to was from almost a year ago. I don't think it's coming...

    Would kill for some decent protective cover options?
    What is everybody using to keep their Nexus scratchy free during travel?

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