Google Nexus 7 tablet: Preview


preview After months of rumours, Google has finally taken the wraps off its first self-designed tablet device, the Google Nexus 7, which was manufactured by ASUS. The device starts at AU$249 and is available to Australians to pre-order right now, but will it give Apple’s iPad, the existing Android market and Amazon’s Kindle Fire a run for their money? We take a look ahead.

Let’s just say it up front: Google’s Nexus 7 tablet looks like a flat-out rip-off of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, itself very similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook. It’s a similar size, has a similar screen resolution, a similar price point, and its promotional shots emphasise the same access to multimedia content through a similar online store. If it wasn’t for the Kindle Fire, we’d be questioning whether Google would have bothered making its own 7″ tablet.

Having said that, that’s absolutely not a bad thing. For starters, the Kindle Fire is still not officially available in Australia (although you can import it through a variety of means), while the Nexus 7 is — in fact, we ordered one this morning for the Delimiter office. It’ll probably end up as a reader giveaway, so stay tuned.

In addition, in Delimiter’s review of the Kindle Fire published in November last year, we found that the device was “the best-value tablet on the market”, and “a compact, affordable and high-quality option for web browsing, email, multimedia playback, reading eBooks, and running any of the hundreds of thousands of Android apps” available to Australians.

The Nexus 7 appears to bring most of the best features of the Fire into play again. The 7″ tablet has a nice big screen, the normal power button and volume rocker, a standard headphone jack and a back composed of nice rubbery material which looks like it would be nice to hold. In short, the design of Google’s new plaything makes it look as if it would be lovely to hold in the hand and consume content with. It’s also quite light at 340g.

The Nexus 7 improves on the specifications of the Kindle Fire and other 7″ Android tablets in a number of ways. Probably its hero features are its quad-core Tegra 3 processor, which will make it more than powerful enough to handle any multimedia content or games you can throw at it, as well as the fact that it’s the first tablet to run the next version of Google’s Android platform (Jelly Bean).

Jelly Bean will give the Android universe a number of improvements over the previous version (ice Cream Sandwich). For starters, Google’s ‘Project Butter’ is slated to make Jelly Bean’s user interface silky smooth and fluid, improving the frame rate of animations and making the interface feel a lot nicer than it does now — we still get the odd jaggy on Ice Cream Sandwich.

There’s a new personal assistant/information prediction feature called Google Now, and voice search has also been improved in Jelly Bean, as well as the ability to enter text into the device by talking. Widget management, notifications, app encryption and more are other features which will arrive with the new O/S.

Apart from these hero features, most of the Nexus 7’s features are pretty much what you would expect. The tablet has a 7″ 1280×800 back-lit IPS HD display (216 ppi), which is a higher resolution than the Kindle Fire’s 1024×600 resolution. This display sits under a pane of Corning’s Gorilla Glass, and there’s a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera for video calls. The device comes in 8GB or 16GB models, costing AU$249 or AU$299 respectively, and a 4325mAh battery for up to eight hours of active use is included.

Other features include support for 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, but no 3G or 4G mobile broadband, as well as a micro USB connection for charging and syncing; a NFC chip for mobile transactions or beaming data to other Android devices, a microphone, accelerometer and so on.

With its quad-core Tegra 3 CPU, Jelly Bean and its decent battery, we think the Nexus 7 will have pretty solid performance. Early hands-on tests of the device have praised its smooth interface, and we think most people will be very happy with that aspect of it. In addition, the device appears to have solid build quality, like the Kindle Fire before it and the smartphone entries in Google’s Nexus line — the Nexus One, S and so on.

My opinion has been for a long time that to compete in any realistic sense with Apple’s iPad, rival manufacturers need to offer Australians either new features not available on the tablet, a much cheaper price or preferably both. Anything else is going to come off as half-baked compared with Apple’s dominant device, which owns more than 80% market share (depending on who you talk to, even higher) in Australia’s tablet market. So the question thus becomes: Will the Nexus 7 be able to measure up to that mark?

In brief, my answer is no.

Unlike Amazon’s Kindle Fire range, which features at least a comparable and sometimes wider range of multimedia content than is available on Apple’s iPad (although, of course the iPad does have a Kindle app for eBooks), the Nexus 7 does not really offer anything which the iPad doesn’t. Apple’s ecosystem currently offers a much wider range of content than Google’s.

Sure, the Nexus 7 offers an alternative form factor coupled with what looks like a great overhaul of Android, but so far Australians haven’t really shown a huge desire for the 7″ form factor compared with Apple’s 9.7″ model. Remember, as far back as November 2010, Samsung launched its 7″ Galaxy Tab model in Australia. Delimiter gave it a stellar review, but the device sold poorly despite its great build quality and solid user interface.

The price differential between the Google Nexus 7 and Apple’s iPad is also not as wide as you might believe. We ordered an 8GB Nexus 7 from Google’s website this morning. Including shipping, the 8GB model cost AU$268.99. For just AU$429 including shipping, remember (AU$160 more), you can get a 16GB Wi-Fi Apple iPad 2, the previous model of the iPad which came out in 2010 and was discounted sharply when the new iPad launched this year. And if you want a 16GB Google Nexus 7, the difference will be even smaller.

Even if Google succeeds in pushing the Nexus 7 heavily through Australian retailers like JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and Dick Smith, ultimately that push won’t come for a few months and likely not until close to the end of 2012. By that stage, Australians will already be starting to prep for the next iPad, which should be detailed in early to mid-2013. And when it does, likely the current new iPad will go on sale as the iPad 2 did before it. What this timeline shows is that Apple is quite a ways ahead of Google when it comes to these product cycles.

In this context, I predict that the Nexus 7 is destined to be an also-ran in Australia’s tablet market: A nice, nimble, innovative product that nevertheless never came close to challenging Apple’s dominance. It’s a pity, because the Nexus 7 looks like a lovely little device. But it’s a cut-throat tablet world out there governed by Cupertino’s iron first and pricing power; you have to have Amazon’s massive content story even to get a look in. That, sadly, is just the facts.

TL;DR: The Google Nexus 7 looks like a lovely little device, similar to a Kindle Fire. But almost everyone will end up buying an iPad instead; because Google hasn’t moved the bar enough with this one to challenge Apple at all.

Image credit: Google


  1. $160 might not mean much to you, Renai, but it does to me. :)

    Besides after switching from a ‘lifetime’ of Nokia phones to a Galaxy SII in January this year, I’m a solid Android convert. I had no hesitation in ordering the 16Gb Nexus 7 at the crack of dawn this morning.

    My son whose been using Android phones for few years now never stops bitching about the closed system of the iPad he bought in the US in February and is now looking at Android tablets.

    By the way, Renai, did your receipt show the Nexus as having been purchased from Google Singapore? Mine did so I’m wondering why I was charged GST.

    Another thing, despite the receipt saying I wouldn’t be billed until shipping in late July, my credit card got hit immediately for the $318.00.

    • “$160 might not mean much to you, Renai, but it does to me. :)”

      This. The article is strangely dismissive of what is, in fact, a huge price difference – and that matters to a lot of people.

      Is it as good as the iPad? No. Does it need to be at this price point? In my opinion, no. I predict there are quite a lot of people who aren’t quite willing to fork out $400 and up for an iPad, but see the $250 sticker price on this device as less of a hurdle. All that’s missing is a bit of a marketing push from Google and this will sell like mad IMO.

      • I have a Galaxy SII, a notebook and a desktop. A tablet at this time is really an unnecessary purchase however I can justify (my partner might argue this point ;) )buying a Nexus but not an iPad (or similar product).

      • What? This is the first time I’ve ever asked this question…

        If you think my question has been answered elsewhere, maybe you could provide a link so I could read that discussion instead of just dismissing me out of hand?

        That would be much appreciated.

          • Huh. Ok, I see what you mean, that was a particularly useless argument.

            I guess I was wondering if anyone knew of any practical reasons why Google decided their tablet would be better off without expandable memory.

            One of the major applications I would use such a device for would be watching videos while travelling. 8 or 16GB doesn’t leave room for many videos once you take into account OS, music, games, etc. I guess I just like the flexibility that it would provide (which increases the perceived value for me significantly) and I’m not sure what trade-offs would be necessary, or what the rationale is, since it seems like expandable memory is a fairly common feature in Android products?

            I’ll desist now.

          • Looks like USB-OTG will probably be supported, which fixes that problem (if a little ugly, but definitely cheaper)!

          • “Update: I’ve had many emails and questions about whether USB-OTG (On The Go) is supported on the Nexus 7, and didn’t touch on it when I originally hit publish becuause I wasn’t entirely sure. I’ve now confirmed that USB-OTG is supported on the Nexus 7, and works on the current Android 4.1 non-final build that has been sampled. That’s encouraging, and I’ll test it myself when I get home and to my miniUSB OTG adapter.”


            (Copied from a WP post.)

          • AnandTech has an update on this and its not good news for people hoping to mount external drives natively (although there might be a workaround for this when rooted) . The worst news is the lack of MHL though :(

            “Since posting the Nexus 7 mini review, I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking about whether USB-OTG for storage was currently supported or would be supported in the shipping software load. I’ve done some asking around and believe I have the final word now.

            USB-OTG is indeed supported on the Nexus 7, however as anyone has used USB-OTG knows, whether peripherals or devices work is a function of the host OS and drivers. On the Nexus 7, using a mouse and keyboard is supported, and I saw Google using an Ethernet to microUSB adapter with the Nexus 7 (which I borrowed for my Galaxy Nexus) as well. Unfortunately mounting USB storage natively is not supported on the Nexus 7. Hopefully rooted users will be able to use StickMount with the Nexus 7 and make this work. In addition, MHL is not supported on the Nexus 7, which isn’t very surprising since adding MHL requires another package and would increase BOM cost.>/i>

  2. Ronson,

    That might be a credit check to make sure the transaction can be processed. It is possible the money goes quickly back. Of course bringing the expense into this tax year may be advantageous.

    • Gary,

      I thought card validity checks were only a dollar or two not the full purchase amount.

      It will be interesting to see if it does revert back into credit in the next few days.

  3. 7″ so it’s not a real tablet and it’s too big to be a phone ….. Pass!

    Even my most hardcore droid using mates all own iPads, says it all IMO!

      • Hmmm, might be worth another look I guess – I must admit that I do find a 10″ tablet to be a little large on the train sometimes but perfect for all other occasions.

  4. Unified OS (Tablet & Mobile Phone share the same OS), no expandable storage – they really following Apple footstep ey? But at that price point, who can argue for such a great spec-ed Tablet?

    • I can argue :) There are plenty of other Android tablets at that price available (they’ve been discounted down etc), and they’re not selling …

  5. I don’t think anyone expects this to out sell iPad but to predict its failure based on the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Tab fared poorly in 2010 is not a valid comparison.

    Firstly, that tablet was ridiculously overpriced and was the beginning of the lesson for Android tablet manufacturers that if they are to have any hope of success in an iPAD dominated market, their device has to be priced less.

    The Samsung Galaxy tab was released with an upscaled phone UI and with no tablet ecosystem behind it – there were no Android Tablet apps at that point, the Motorola Xoom with Honeycomb was not released for another quarter.

    Finally, Android had not reached critical mass at that point and mainstream awareness was not even remotely close to what it is today. In the time since the Samsung Tabs release, Android growth has been approaching almost exponential levels and uptake of Android phones is now exceeding sales of iPhone in many markets. Each one of those new Android users represents a potential Google Nexus 7 customer.

    With 400 million Android devices and an extra million every day, even if only a very small percentage of those users purchase this device, it will be a success. Not when directly compared to the iPad but probably enough to spur growth in the Android tablet market akin to the effect the release of the Nexus 1 had to Android phones.

    • You’re right, the original 7″ Galaxy Tab was overpriced, but it was still a great device with excellent build quality — virtually unparalleled for that time in terms of tablets. I think it was a device far before its time. In terms of build quality it outshone the Motorola Xoom, and the user interface was actually better than Honeycomb by far; at least in my testing of the various Android tablets. At the time, it wasn’t worth its initial $999 price; but it would have been worth between $600 and $750. It did receive subsequent price cuts to get rid of the stock,

      I know a lot of people don’t feel this way … but not that many people actually tested the original 7″ Galaxy Tab as I did.

      With respect to the Android ecosystem, you’re right of course; but then this argument also applies to all the other Android tablets on the market … which are not really selling at all.

  6. Sounds link you are not on G+ Renai. Feedback from users there might change your thought on how many pre-orders have already been placed for this device.

  7. Gotta agree to disagree Renai.

    Sure, it’s not gonna get a cult following like the iPad, but I think it’ll sell like the proverbial hotcake for the mum and dad market particularly.

    Speaking of which….I never bought my dad a birthday present. Where’s that link to the pre-order site….

    I personally won’t buy it, I’m too sold on the gut wrenchingly beautiful and powerful Infinity Transformer, but I know 3 people already who are seriously considering the Nexus Tab.

      • Maybe your mum and dad, bud. Mine both hate the iPad :D *tear* so proud….

        Seriously though, my dad wants an Android tablet to be able to do basic presentations really easily on TV’s….unfortunately, with no HDMI out and no obvious DLNA support, I don’t think the Nexus will be any good :( Unless I’m missing something?

          • Nope. Dad can barely use the Desire I gave him- keeps wondering why the screen turns off when he holds it to his ear….

            But he just hates Apple. Prejudice is a bitch when you’re old and grey!

          • My dad is an android fan boi and even he admits my iPad provides a far better experience than his POS Xoom.

            I’m still amazed at the lack of ICS updates available for Telstra droid customers, it’s pi$$ poor and google needs to take back control of its OS so updates aren’t withheld by carriers wanting to sell you the latest price of gear!

          • “google needs to take back control of its OS so updates aren’t withheld by carriers wanting to sell you the latest price of gear!”

            +1 million

        • There’s still talk that HDMI out will be achievable using MHL like the Galaxy Nexus.

          I’m happy to predict that this will be a resounding success for Google. Not necessarily in terms of units shipped but in moving developers to get over the derivative fragmentation fanboi nonsense.

    • Nope, not unless you want to use VOIP via your WiFi.

      This is a WiFi tablet only, no sim card which is needed to make normal mobile phone calls.

  8. Curious that no-one has yet mentioned the US version of this device is $200 for the 8GB and $250 for the 16GB, Australia gets stiffed on pricing again!

    Also no mention of the included $25 Play Store voucher?

    • Mmm, yes Daniel, but:

      The $200/250 price of the US versions doesn’t include state sales tax. Depending where you bought it in the US, it would be anywhere from $220 to $238 for the $200 version.

      So, not really screwed, just a bit higher for a smaller market- nothing that anyone in Australia severely objects to.

  9. Have to disagree with you on this one Renai.

    I’ve had the Nexus 7 for almost three weeks now and my iPad has been used only once. (And that was because the N7 was on charge).

    The 7″ screen really makes no difference for what most people use a tablet for. Web browsing and email are fine. Zoom on this speedy beast is smooth.

    Sure a bigger screen would be nice, sometimes, but I made a conscious decision to go 7″. (I travel a fair bit).

    The screen has a better resolution than the iPad 1 or 2. (Not the new iPad, but it’s close).
    The Tegra 3 processor is VERY quick. 3D games run smoothly.
    For reading, browsing and checking and sending email, I can’t complain.

    And, it is so much more open than iOS. Want to browse photos/movies/files on the LAN? No problem, just browse to them and open them. Download odd files? No problem, it doesn’t complain and you can then do what you will with them. Change the launcher/appearance/keyboard input? No problem. You can even customise individual apps.

    The aspect ratio is better for videos than the iPad, though the iPad IS better for looking at photos.

    The app store is very good, most common titles are on Android now as well as iOS.

    Apparently it’s sold out in JB HiFi in the first day or so. A definite contender to the iPad and they could always make a larger version if they wished. Sorry Apple.

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