I've had so much fun with Google's original
Nexus 7 over the past year, it's hard to believe the tablet was
designed in just four months
. That sounds like something only Tony Stark could have done, cobbling together his first suit of Iron Man armor and emerging victorious from the caves of Tora Bora. Much like Tony's MK I armor, Google's first stab at a 7-inch tablet was just the warm-up for bigger and better things to come. And now, one year later,
Nexus 7 2.0 is here
As soon as I opened the box, I could see how OEM (original equipment manufacturer) Asus had stretched the new device, making it a little taller than its predecessor, and shaved 6mm off the side bezels, creating a sleek shape that demands to be viewed in landscape mode. Picking it up, I immediately felt how much lighter it is—weighing a mere 10.23 ounces compared to the original's 11.99—and turning it over to find the old textured plastic replaced with a matte black finish. The horizontal Nexus logo, as well as a pair of rear-mounted stereo speakers—more on those later—confirmed our suspicions on how Google would prefer us to hold the tablet.
Google wasn't kidding when they announced that their new Nexus 7 would be sporting the sharpest 7-inch screen in the world. In fact, it's one of the sharpest screens currently available on ANY handheld device, with a whopping 323 pixels per square inch, which is only beaten by the iPhone 5's 326 ppi retina display, and a handful of other smartphones. The Nexus 7 puts the iPad's meager 264 ppi retina display to shame, to say nothing of the current, non-retina iPad Mini (163 ppi). But all those stats still didn't prepare me for what I saw when I turned it on—the sheer intensity of the 1920x1200 High Definition display capable of playing 1080p video, as well as providing a flawless 178-degree viewing angle for anything you might want to watch on it.
You would think that the amount of juice needed to power all of those gorgeous pixels would drain the battery down in an instant. However, battery life is actually quite robust, allowing for countless reading hours, and up to 9 hours playing games, or watching HD videos. Another cool feature, if you've got the right set up, is the addition of Qi wireless charging right out of the box, and even though I wasn't able to test it, I've read that it works with the Energizer Inductive charger, Nokia Fatboy, and more.
Now, about those speakers… the new rear-facing stereo speakers on the Nexus 7—complete with Cingo audio software courtesy of Fraunhofer,the inventors of the MP3 audio format—are capable of playing back High Efficiency AAC audio codecs for surround sound. The new Nexus 7's speakers stand out in stark contrast to the single speaker found on the original, and are able to deliver such rich, full sound, you may want to consider headphones as a courtesy to those around you.
Google and Asus have also taken the liberty of adding a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, that can also shoot 1080p video at 30 frames per second. While the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini now both have 5MP auto focus cameras, I still feel that Apple's iSight camera is an engineering marvel. I've rarely taken a bad photo with the cameras on either the iPhone or iPad, and when I have, it was always due to user error. In the time I spent with the Nexus 7 camera, I had to white balance constantly, and pics tended to be grainy, especially in low light. Still, the addition of any camera besides a front-facing one is a huge plus.
It wouldn't be a Google product launch without the arrival of a new Android OS, so of course the Nexus 7 comes with Jelly Bean 4.3. A marked improvement over 4.2, the new OS also adds several features, the most notable of which is the ability to add restrictions to different user's profiles. Designed with children in mind—who, let's face it, make up a rapidly growing portion of the tablet using population—this feature limits the amount of time and level of access users have to specific apps including games, books, and movies, as well as the Google Play Store. It's also the first mobile platform with OpenGL ES 3.0, which when paired with Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 processor and 2GB of ram, makes for stunning handheld gaming graphics.
I've been hearing a lot about how indispensable
is ever since the release of this excellent tablet—not to mention
Google's Chromecast streaming device
, and their Moto X Smartphone, too. With all the new features packed into the Nexus 7, it's hard to believe Google was able to keep the price so low, with a modest $30 price increase between generations. The 16GB model retails for $229, the 32GB for $269, and there's still a $349 32GB multi-network LTE model on the way. For that kind of money, there isn't another 7-inch tablet currently available that can beat Google's new Nexus 7.
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