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Google Nexus 7 (2012) review

 Review: September 2012  

Last updated September 2013

Rating: 3 stars

In a nutshell: The Google Nexus 7 (2012) is a cute little tablet with a pin-sharp 7 inch screen, an insanely fast quad-core processor and the Android Jelly Bean OS. It's good value for money if you're looking for a compact tablet and are happy with just Wi-Fi.



Even though we've seen a ton of Android tablets in the past two years, the Nexus 7 is the first Google-branded tablet to appear. Or should that be Asus-branded? Whether you call it the Asus Nexus 7 (which is technically correct) or the Google Nexus 7 (which sounds cooler), this is probably the hottest tablet around that isn't called "Apple".

The Nexus 7 looks very much like a big phone. Its screen is about twice the size of a large-screened phone like the 4.8 inch Samsung Galaxy S3, and it weighs about three times as much as the S3. That makes it too big for a pocket, but much more portable than a full-sized tablet like the iPad. Perhaps surprisingly though, it's not as slim as the iPad, although at 10.45mm it's not exactly bulky. 7 inches is a big enough screen to do a lot with, but at times may feel cramped. If you plan to do a lot of work or some serious gaming/video play, then you should opt for a 10-incher like the iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. But for those who are prepared to live with the constraints of a 7 inch screen, the portability advantages are significant.

It may have only 7 inches of screen to offer, but it's a sharp and colourful screen. 1280 x 800 pixels (216 ppi) may not come anywhere close to the new iPad's Retina display, but it's more than HD and that's pretty good in our book. Being HD means that you can watch HD video and even watch YouTube in HD.

Because this is a Google-branded tablet, it ought to have the very latest version of Android installed, and thankfully it does. Yes, Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) is here, offering a little bit of tinkering with the home screen and some new notifications. Is that all, you ask? Well, not quite, because Google Play (formerly Android Market) now offers 4 million ebooks, HD movies and videos, and over 600,000 apps and games to download. Android comes packed with all Google-flavoured things, including gmail, Google Maps, Google+ and the super-fast Chrome web browser. There's no flash support on Chrome, but there's a youtube app and other ways to access video online.

The other feature that's new with Jelly Bean is Google Now. Google Now is a kind of personal assistant that tries to mimic an awfully discreet butler. It brings you things you didn't know you wanted and tells you the answers to questions even before you've asked them. For instance, cards may appear telling you what the weather is doing or what the traffic is like on the way home. It can even tell you when the next train is arriving when you're waiting at the station. If you don't mind the slightly sinister feeling that you're being watched, this can be a mildly useful feature.

Now, perhaps the area where the Nexus 7 excels is in performance. With a quad-core Tegra 3 processor plus a 12-core GPU and a full gigabyte of RAM, this is the Usain Bolt of the tablet world. What to do with all this speed? Well, it's handy for web browsing or browsing maps, but what this kind of power is really for is gaming. But while there are some great games around for Android tablets, there aren't many that actually necessitate the kind of power that the Tegra 3 offers, nor are there any that look better on a 7 inch screen than a 10 inch.

We've previously criticised the cameras that are fitted to tablets for being (a) not always very good and (b) pointless, because who's ever going to take a picture with a large slab of plastic? Well, the Nexus neatly sidesteps this problem by not having a camera. Or rather, it has just a front-facing camera - the kind that is normally referred to as a "second" camera - which you can use for self-portraits or video chat. We think that's a sensible choice.

When it comes to connectivity, the Nexus 7 has the usual Wi-fi, Bluetooth, and micro USB capabilities, plus NFC as a bonus. But still, there's something missing. What can it be? Ah, yes, it's the old-fashioned 3G network connection. So, you don't need to worry about a phone contract or trying to download data over a grindingly slow mobile broadband network. But on the other hand, if you're not in a Wi-Fi zone, then you're completely stuck. We think that missing out this basic feature limits the functionality of the device and will limit its appeal. Remember that Jelly Bean's big new feature, Google Now, won't work if you're not connected to the internet.

Google's blurb for the Nexus 7 invites us to think about battery life in terms of chapters read and movies watched. That's probably because if you think about battery life in terms of the 4325mAh battery capacity, the Nexus 7 doesn't have anything like the capacity of the competition. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a 7000mAh battery, and the new iPad's is even bigger. Anyway, you can watch somthing like 10 hours of movies before your Nexus 7 dies, which is quite respectable.

We thought we were going to love the Nexus 7. Judging by comments on the web, a lot of people do. Sure it's got a lot to like - a compact lightweight build, the delights of Jelly Bean, a nice though compact display and insanely fast processing power. But the downsides? The cramped display, the lack of anything to really use that Tegra 3 processor for, the lack of a microSD card slot, the lack of 3G. And of course, the fact that you can do much more with an iPad. Even an iPad 2. We know it costs less, so if you won't miss the 3G, and if 7 inches is the right sized tablet for you, and if you prefer Jelly Bean to iOS 5, then sure, go for it.

Update (September 2013): The price has now fallen and that makes the Nexus 7 much better value. But as the tablet ages, its shortcomings become even more apparent and we would recommend the new Google Nexus 7.

Google Nexus 7 (2012) features include:

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Google Nexus 7 (2012) user reviews

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Average rating from 8 reviews:

Reviewed by Ryan from Wales on 11th Dec 2013
My mother has had a Nexus 7 ever since they first came out believe me it's no IPAD but is still great value for money when you look at the other tablets available for the same price recently updated it to Jellybean 4.3 which I'm pleased to say runs smooth I had to disable 4.2 as it was bug prone so to sum things up if you're on a budget then there's little to match it if money is no objective then go for the "forbidden fruit"

Reviewed by spence from uk on 22nd Jul 2013
had tablet for 2 months. will no longer charge. gone back to shop for repair. not impressed.

Reviewed by Tris from UK on 14th Apr 2013
I've been using the nexus 7 now for 6 months.I have to say this is a very capable device. It does everything to a good standard and its very customisable due to jellybean. Its nice to hold and use due to the soft texture backing. It has a decent screen and runs well. I own the 16gb model. I didn't opt for cellular as I can tether it to my lumia no problem. The other side of the coin is that android apps seem to have a lack of tablet optimised apps, they work OK but they could be better. The build quality of the nexus seems good at first until you have had it for a while. Mine has started to split on the backing and the micro USB is very wobbly without being misused. In short it really does only have a 12 month life if used for work as I do. It doesn't have the pollish of apple..... But then again it is cheaper. If you are not really on a budget and want a tablet that is well built, reliable, and has good apps then I would still recommend the iPad mini.... But if your on a budget then the nexus is a good choice. Truth is though there are tablets out there now that offer nearly what the nexus does but with the option of expandable memory at the same price or more often cheaper.

Reply by Tris from UK on 16th Apr 2013
Another thing to mention is the 4.2.2 update isn't as stable as 4.1.2. I keep having crashed app and browsing problems often. I'm sure Google is working on all this with the next update.

Reviewed by NCR from UK on 7th Jan 2013
*This is a first impressions review, I'll be back in a few months to give an update.*

I bought the Nexus 7 direct off Google Play and it arrived as promised within 2 days. Right out the box I thought it looked like a good quality item, it powered up and I was ready for me to sync and log in to all my apps and accounts. It effortlessly downloaded all my applications from the Play store while I was arranging home screens, changing the wallpaper, setting up widgets, etc without any notable slowing down. The only time it has slowed while multi tasking was when downloading a very large game, the 890mb Let's Golf 3. While that was downloading I was setting up a bluetooth keyboard and opening a word processing app and I got some noticeable lag. I must stress that I have not had any lag at any other time and there were several apps open in the background at the time. Overall after 3 days of tinkering and using the Nexus for internet, games, movies, music, word processing and email I am very happy that I went for this over an iPad. It does everything I need and much more for 200 less.
I must state that I am an Android phone user (Desire S) so am a fully fledged member of the Google (and Amazon) eco system so this works seemlessly with all my accounts and tethers to my phone for when I'm out and about. It's great to be able to chose where to buy apps from so you can compare prices. In the long run this tablet will save me money because I'm not to concerned over having the latest mobile phone, as long as it has tethering and it's Android 4 then I'm happy.

The Nexus 7 is a very good and useful device, one that I hope will give me years (or at least 1) of enjoyment before upgrading to the new one in a year or so.

Portability is great and the range of cases, keyboards, etc that you can buy offer great options to suit your needs. The glass front seems solid and the black textured plastic back looks nice although it's not as grippy as I'd expected. I've had none of the manufacturing issues that others online have mentioned.

My rating is 4.5 stars, excellent but not perfect because I think the screen could have been better. My phone has 250+ppi where this has 216 and you can see the difference when looking at photos. This is probably the only area that the next Nexus 7" tablet needs to improve.

Reviewed by Ben from uk on 6th Jan 2013
I have owned the nexus 7 for two months now, the speed of the thing is quite amazing, going on the net is a doddle great for watching movies and keeping the kids entertained. To make it 3g you can tether it to your phone( I own an s2) to use it outside. The downside is the volume button is a bit fiddly when its in a case.when its been used heavily the battery drains within 4 hours, it also take a while to charge up. I still think the nexus 7 is awesome

Reviewed by Karen from UK on 2nd Jan 2013
Worked for 6 weeks then refused to charge or turn on. Am in the process of awaiting its return from service centre but was told by retailer this was a common fault.
I would not recommend it as I am very disappointed by the reliability.

Reviewed by JOBS from UK on 10th Oct 2012
If you are happy with the functionality then buy it! It has no problems. So easy to use. I sold my S2 for this and I now use a Nokia 6303i and this. Couldn't be happier with that decision.

Reviewed by Yasser Abbass from UK on 19th Sep 2012
This tablet is amazing. I just got the 16GB one yesterday and although it would be nice to have expandable memory in the form of a micro SD Card, I can't complain.

Android Jellybean is stable and smooth. Most apps still run which is great. Plug and Play is amazing and fast for copying movies and pdf mags. I hated having to use itunes which would end up crashing for larger video transfers (owned an ipad2).

Thumbs up google for this one. Really nice size and fits well in the hand. You have different apps that can let you view the pdf mags and also videos which run perfect when watching.

Screen is amazing and battery life so far so good.

Buy this tablet people, it is well worth it and value for money!

Reply by Mark from UK on 6th Apr 2013
You can add external memory by downloading the app Nexus Media Importer which I think Costs less than 4 and getting a USB on the go cable from Amazon for less than 2. I load up a 32gb flash drive with movies and music and watch them by opening the app. It's brilliant! The Nexus 7 is the best tablet on the market for me.


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