An odd Nexus

The Nexus series of devices occupy a special place in the Android family. These are the ones that are supposed to be designed in direct collaboration with Google and in many ways are considered the ‘official’ Android flagbearers — the ones that showcase all that is good in the world’s most popular mobile operating system.

Although most Nexus devices have tended to skirt India — the Nexus One was never released in India, the Nexus S was removed from the market after a short period of time, and we are still waiting for the Nexus 4 — the first Nexus tablet, the Nexus 7, has landed on Indian shores. Made by Google in collaboration with Asus, it has been making waves all over the world and is being seen by many as perhaps the best seven-inch tablet around. We had a chance to find out just how good it was. and came away with mixed emotions.

Plain Jane
We will be brutally blunt — the Nexus 7 will not bowl you over with its looks. It comes across as a relatively plain-looking device with the seven-inch display dominating a totally button-free front. Just above the display is a 1.2-megapixel camera, which incidentally is the only camera in the device. Turn the tablet around and you get to see a dotted back, with the Nexus and Asus brand names displayed prominently.

On the right of the device are three buttons for increasing and decreasing volume, and for switching the device and display on and off. The device is made totally of plastic and although not the slimmest at 10.5mm, is very light at 340 gm. It will slip into most handbags and overcoat pockets without too much hassle, and thanks to the dotted back, is comfortable to hold. All in all, solid rather than spectacular. Don’t expect to go turning heads with this one.

Superman interiors
Don’t be fooled, though, by the relative simple looks of the Nexus 7. Lurking behind them is some very good hardware and software. The seven-inch display may not look as spectacular and bright as on some other high-end tablets, but it has a 1280 x 800 resolution and a ppi count of 216 (higher than the much-hyped iPad mini).

And making sure that the tablet performs at a sprint rather than a jog is a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad core processor, backed up by 1 GB of RAM. There is 16 GB of non-expandable storage as well for keeping your data and apps. In terms of connectivity, there is Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS (the 3G version of the tablet has not been introduced in India yet).

That, of course, brings us to the software of the Nexus 7, which we really think is its core strength. Like all Nexus devices (for a while at least), the Nexus 7 runs the latest version of Android — at the time of writing, it was the only device in the country to have received an update to Android 4.2. And again, this being a Nexus, what you get is the ‘pure’ version of Android — there are no layers placed over it like TouchWiz or Sense. This is simple Android at its best, with a number of customisable homescreens and an icon-driven interface.

Terrific performer, odd price
When it comes to sheer performance, the Nexus 7 is perhaps the best Android device — phone or tablet — that we have used. From playing high-definition games such as Shadowgun to running HD videos and photo-editing apps to browsing the Web, the tablet handled everything we threw at it with elan. It comfortably lasted a day of hefty use on a single charge. The sound quality was not the greatest we have seen, but the display more than compensated with its detail — we just wish it had been a tad brighter.

Top that all off with the near-guarantee of being among the first to receive android updates over the air, and the Nexus 7 becomes a very formidable proposition even in the highly competitive Indian tablet market.

Money matters
What might stop it from being a total rockstar is its odd price tag. The Nexus 7 has been brought to India at a price of Rs 19,999, which is almost twice that of its dollar conversion equivalent in the US, (Google is selling it for a mere $199. Of course, even at Rs 19,999), it is by far the most affordable quad core processor-driven Android device in the country, but many users will complain at the absence of 3G, a rear camera, expandable memory and calling facilities — especially as these are available in similarly or lower-priced tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and Reliance 3G Tab. And as we go to print, rumour is rife that the iPad mini will also be available shortly in the Indian market at Rs 21,990 for its 16 GB, Wi-Fi only version.

All of which makes the Nexus 7 tablet a bit of a mixed proposition. Those looking for great design and stacks of features might want to steer clear of it. However, if you are looking for the real unadulterated Android experience that is unlikely to get dated for a while, this is it. We really wish we could fathom the rationale behind its pricing, though.  

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