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The Nexus 7 Extended Review

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I’ve had the Nexus 7 since launch now. My previous review was of an extremely optimistic nature, and rightly so. After weeks of use, I have a much deeper understanding of the device now. This is my extended review of the Nexus 7, and Jelly Bean in general. I’m going to really dissect and criticize every detail now.

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I have been traveling a lot by plane recently. The Nexus 7 has been a great device for travel. Though I prefer the experience of iBooks* over Google Play Books, reading on the device is a pleasurable experience. 

*An example of iBook’s superiority is the page turn animation. iBooks reacts like real paper where it follows your finger in any angle. Google Play Books turns pages like they’re stuck on guide rails. Metaphors only make sense when they’re hyper realistic.

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The 7 inch size really is great for reading text. I can’t stress this enough - the iPad just feels silly now (for books).

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However, for consumption of news and more rich content (Google Current shown here), the iPad simply blows the Nexus 7 out of the water. Yes, the iPad apps are better, but the real problem is that a 7” display just feels too small for editorial layouts. Heck, even the iPad is smaller than a real magazine.

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The big question is, what is the right size for a tablet? Sadly, I think both directions will leave you wanting more. The 7” will compromise you in tasks like surfing the web, and the 10” size feels unnatural when reading plain text. I wonder if the rumored 8” iPad will be a nice balance but I do honestly believe that images and videos belong on a display no smaller than the current iPad.

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As I have said before, the Nexus 7 feels nicer in the hand than its Samsung counterparts but still nothing extraordinary. My first Nexus 7 unit actually had an issue where the display began to separate from the rest of the device and began to make a creaking noise. Not acceptable. Thankfully, Google was quick to send me a replacement unit. 

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Also, though I respect Google’s thinking behind the textured back, the whole experience is ruined by the plastic bezel. Mind you, I don’t have anything against using plastic, but I do have an issue with plastic painted to look like metal. The paint on the Nexus 7 also chips quite easily, revealing the black plastic underneath. What’s wrong with leaving it black plastic? On top of this, the paint that Asus has used feels almost rubbery and frankly, horrible to touch.

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After a few days of using the new replacement unit, I managed to scratch the display on something. I’ve owned every iPhone and iPad since the iPhone 3GS and I’ve never gotten a scratch this big on my iPhone, even when I’ve accidentally placed my iPhone in the same pocket as my keys. Something tells me that this isn't the highest tier of tempered glass. 

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These small hardware annoyances made me interested in what lies inside the device. Taking apart the device is really easy, just peel off the back with your finger nails.

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The internals are a mess. Lack of organization, poorly placed labels, and not to mention the fingerprints on everything. I’ve taken apart a countless number of products and I’ve never seen so many fingerprints in my life. I know, the device is cheap, but the insides sometimes reveals more about what kind of a company you really are.

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Something interesting you'll find inside the Nexus 7 is a perfect spot for a (rear-facing) camera, complete with mounting features. I wonder if they ended up removing this feature to meet the $200 price point. Seeing this hole does give me the same feeling as the fake buttons you get on your car when you didn't buy every option.

 
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Jelly Bean is the best version of Android I have ever used. Actually, it's the first version of Android that I would consider using everyday. There are still many complaints I have about Android, like relationship between the app tray and the homescreen. Not only is the ability to have icons for apps in two different locations confusing, it also lets you do really stupid things like have multiple icons that direct you to the same app. Why would the OS let you create a homescreen like this? It's just pointless.

 
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Despite being quite attractive visually, Android still has some unusual behaviors. For example, every notification creates a new icon in the status bar until you swipe them away. As you can expect, the status bar gets overloaded very quickly. Why would you want this? It's not helpful or functional and just plain messy.

 
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There are also many apps, even official Google ones that are confusing to use. For example, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get to my browsing history in Chrome. I'm guessing this feature doesn't exist. 

 
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But the biggest problem of all is the quality of third-part apps on Android. Some apps like Path and Instapaper are comparable in quality to iOS's but most are mediocre. 1Password is a good example, as is Twitter. 

 
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Despite these flaws, I really think Jelly Bean is a pleasant experience, particularly because of the features that use Google services. Google Now is a new addition that constantly surprises me. Here, you can see that the banner has changed to an illustration of Seattle when I was there. When I was at SEA for my flight back to Vancouver, Google Now gave me a currency converter from USD to CAD without me ever telling the service that I had a flight to Canada. Also, when you have a meeting with an address tied to it, Google will let you know what time you need to leave to arrive on time. Genius really.

All in all, I'm really excited for Android. iOS is still the superior operating system but Jelly Bean is very impressive. If the entire Android experience can be as beautiful, intuitive and clever as Google Now, the idea of owning an Android phone doesn't seem so crazy.