Nexus 7 Unboxed

Nexus 7I ordered a Google Nexus 7 tablet on Monday. It arrived today, Wednesday. Yes, they shipped it 2-day Air.

Why a tablet? I wanted something a bit smaller than a laptop for travel. I have an Acer Netbook, but it’s so underpowered it’s no fun to use. I’ve gotten so I can (and do) rely on my Android phone for many of the things I do while travelling, so maybe the Nexus 7 can replace it.

My wife had tried a small tablet, a Archos 7.1, largely on my recommendation, and it was a disaster. It was broken out of the box and it took several calls to them to get it replaced. Even the working model was not ready for prime time, locking up frequently, refusing to charge, endless loops of updates and generally unusable. My son, Bryan, the Android guru, with several rooted phones, has it now and I believe might have made it work, but we never see it, so it’s probably gathering dust.

My Logitech Revue, an Android-powered set-top box, is also less than spectacular and underpowered. It barely does it’s job, but at $99 I guess I can’t complain that much.

On the other hand, the Android experience with phones has been quite satisfactory. I have heard good things about the Nexus 7 as well and Google has given oodles of them out at their industry conferences and to employees, so if it was a dog, someone would have called wolf by now.

So I had been watching the Nexus 7 for a while, wishing for it. I had a small windfall come in the other day and it turned out to be within $4 of the cost of the Nexus 7, so I ordered it.

So, how do I like it? How does it perform? Well, it’s early to tell, but so far, it’s been pretty painless and with having used my Droid Incredible, the learning curve is pretty small. It came already knowing my email address. I had ordered it through Google Play and my Google Wallet, so that’s not much of a surprise. I had to look up my Gmail password to get it to log in, though. One of the first things I did was to get Lastpass and Dropbox installed and working, so that I could get things working without running back and forth to another computer or my phone. I had an open public access on my wi-fi running, so that worked immediately, but I keep the password for my secure wi-fi in my Dropbox, so that came in handy immediately.

Home screenThey must want to promote the Nexus 7 as a competitor to the Kindle and Nook, because it’s opening screen went to an E-book library widget, complete with a few free books to get you started. I got rid of that quickly because it annoyed me. Not only did the choice of books not appeal to me, either does the idea of buying any. I’m just not an E-book person and as clear as the screen is, it’s too small for my liking for reading. For email and web browsing, it’s fine, though.

The on-screen keyboard was very basic and also irritated me. I quickly installed Swiftkey 3 which immediately told me that I should be using Swiftkey 3 Tablet version. It wasn’t free, but became my first purchase using the $25 Play credit they give you with the Nexus7. I’ve been using Swiftkey on my phone for a while and find it easy to use and very good with it’s suggestions as you type. I can often type most of a sentence once it figures out what I’m saying just by accepting it’s suggested words.

I spent quite a while installing apps and making things work. The beauty of Google’s Android (and for that matter ChromeOS) being cloud-based makes it super easy to have access to all your information and resources without needing to copy things from another computer. I recently began using Google Play Music and instantly had the ability to play any of my songs.

I don’t see using it much for music, though. The built in speaker is pretty weak and not very loud. I’m sure it is much better with earphones plugged in. Of course, it would really shine with some stereo bluetooth earphones. I haven’t tried any bluetooth accessories yet, but it should be the way to go with not just sound, but keyboard and mouse if you want to do any heavy typing.

One thing I did try was video. Several videos are available when you get it, including a Transformers movie, but I also installed Netflix and checked it out with that. It’s a small screen, but it would be ideal for riding on a plane or back seat of the car. It does a fine job on your typical Youtube video as well.

It’s too early to give it a complete endorsement, but it seems to be a tablet that finally is ready for consumer use. Part of that might be the latest version of the Android OS which has a lot of effort put into tablet features. One of the first updates it did was the update to Ice Cream Sandwich Jelly Bean 4.1.1. But so far, it’s been as easy and comfortable to use as my Android phone. If you’re used to an Android smartphone, you can pick up a Nexus 7 and feel right at home.

I’ve put a few photos of the unboxing up on my Opera albums.

Posted in Tech Stuff
4 comments on “Nexus 7 Unboxed
  1. Day two with the Nexus 7: I spent a lot of time using it today and got a lot of apps installed on it. Then I wiped it all out by rooting it!

    Why root it? After all, it had the latest, greatest Android OS in it already, Jelly Bean. Well, I read up on it and it seemed like it was safe to do and if I got into trouble, it could be easily restored. Plus after only one day with it, I didn’t have a lot of customization invested in it. But the main reason: USB host mode.

    USB host mode uses a special USB cable to hook a USB storage device (flash drive or SD card) to it and be able to read or write files to it. The cable would work fine to use devices like a keyboard or mouse (which can also be used via bluetooth) as it is, but requires root access to run the driver for the host devices.

    Being able to plug in a USB stick would be huge if you wanted to watch movies on it without filling up the internal memory.

    So I went for it and had no problem doing it. The rooted tablet came out looking like it did right out of the box. You had to look deep into the settings screens to find the differences. So no damage done and in fact, an improvement to it.

    So I got lots of practice setting my favorite apps back up. A lot was restored automatically through Google, but far from all of it.

    Further impressions: Battery life is good. Under very heavy use – nearly continuous as I played around with it – it lasts at least half the day. Charging on the little wall charger that comes with it is quick. Fully charged in a hour or so. Plugging it into a USB port on a laptop takes much longer. It seemed like if you were using the tablet, it merely kept up with it. But the instructions tell you to expect that.

    I read an ebook on it: the user manual for the Nexus 7.

    Watched a live stream on Ustream with no problems. Did a lot of web surfing and email, all routine. It’s oddly familiar from using my phone for these things, but much more comfortable.

    The feel of the unit is satisfying. It has a good heft to it, not heavy, but solid and definitely not cheap looking. The back has a good, non-slip texturre to it and the edge all the way around is metal. If it were an iPhone, they’d use it for the antenna 😉

    The face of the screen is kind of a fingerprint magnet, but most touch screens are. A quick wipe with a soft cloth brings it back to shiny-new.

  2. I went looking for a case for the Nexus 7 at WalMart today. All I want is a simple sleeve that zips up and gives a little protection. Not asking for much. I found one on the Web Site and went to buy it. But in the store it cost nearly twice as much as online. I found another one that I liked and the guy in the store assured me that it would fit any 7-inch tablet, even though it said it was for a Nook.

    I got it home and tried it, but it was such a tight fit I was afraid it would rip.

    I ordered the first one I looked at online and requested in-store pickup. I went in and got the same one I looked at earlier, but for only $17. It’s sort of a hard shell, even though it zips and it’s bigger than I like. I think I’ll be taking this one back too.

    I’m still looking into cases. There is one I’m considering on Amazon. I may order it.

    I don’t want much, just a simple sleeve that zips around it. Neoprene or ripstop nylon with a soft lining would be ideal. I don’t want to use it in the sleeve, just store it there. They make them for laptops and larger tablets, so it’s just a matter of time until I find one.

  3. I ordered a case from Amazon tonight.
    Seems like it’s what I am looking for. We’ll find out. It was only $19.95, but shipping and tax brought it up to $30. Seems like Amazon adds shipping first, then figures sales tax. That’s just wrong…

  4. The new case arrived today. It’s a keeper. It’s almost exactly what I wanted. It’s thick and cushion-y, with a padded inside that has nubs that keep some air space around the tablet when inside. It’s just the right size, not snug, but not sloppy and it zips up easily.

    There is a side pocket with a hidden zipper on the outside. It’s deceptive in size, being bigger than it looks, but all I am keeping in it right now is the little USB adapter cable that also arrived today.

    The cable, called a OTG cable, has a end that fits the jack where the charging cable plugs in and has a female type-A USB connection on the other end. It’s what you need to plug in a external USB device like a keyboard or mouse, or most practically, a thumb drive.

    Since I rooted the tabled and installed the host mode driver, it worked immediately with all the thumb drives I tried.

    This tablet is so handy, it’s quickly becoming my favorite place to read email and check Facebook. It’s easier on the eyes than the screen on my phone, which now seems oddly small by comparison. It’s fun to turn on the wi-fi hotspot on my phone and get email anywhere, but around home, the access is good right off the router.

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