23/07/2012 12:29 | By David Phelan, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Google Nexus 7 review

How does Google's first tablet fare against the competition?

Google Nexus 7 by Asus (© Verity Burns, MSN)
  • Google Nexus 7 by Asus (© Verity Burns, MSN)
  • Google Nexus 7 by Asus (© Verity Burns, MSN)
  • Google Nexus 7 by Asus
  • Google Nexus 7 by Asus (© Verity Burns, MSN)
  • Google Nexus 7 by Asus (© Verity Burns, MSN)
  • Google Nexus 7 by Asus (© Verity Burns, MSN)
  • Google Nexus 7 by Asus (© Verity Burns, MSN)
  • Google Nexus 7 by Asus (© Verity Burns, MSN)
Verity Burns, MSNShow Thumbnails
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What is it?
Google's first go at making its own tablet hardware - a slim 7 inch screened beauty.

What's great
It's light, super-portable and it's available at an unbelievable price (£199 for 16GB version, £159 for 8GB).

What's not
It lacks the finesse of the iPad, there's no rear camera, no 3G capability, limited storage and no expansion memory slot.

The bottom line
If you want a tablet that's ideal for media consumption, less so for creation, this is highly likeable. And for the price it's hard for anyone to resist.

Read more about the new Google nexus 4 review

Main review
When Google releases its own hardware, it's something special. There haven't been many phones, and this is the first tablet, produced in collaboration with Asus, whose tablets are well-made and enjoyable to use.

The first thing you notice about the Nexus 7 is how light it is. Unlike Apple's iPad, this has a plastic back, which helps with the weight. It feels solid and well-built with very little flex or creaking if you twist it. The engraved word nexus at the top on the reverse, and the Asus logo at the bottom are discreet and look good. There's no front button - the home, back and recent apps are virtual buttons placed on the display itself, so they vanish when the screen is off.

See also: Google Nexus 10 review

The hardware has little else to distinguish it: headphone socket on the bottom edge with microUSB socket, volume rocker and power button on the right shoulder. There's a camera at the top of the display. And that's it. There's no rear camera, just as there wasn't on the first iPad. The front camera is for video calling, of course, but a rear camera for snapping shots and video might have found a wider audience. There's also no slots for sim card or microSD memory cards so you'll have to make do with the built-in storage - you can choose from 8GB and 16GB versions. This is less than or the same as the smallest configuration of iPad, and could become troublesome if you have a lot of big files, like video say, on board.

Google has gone some way to mitigate this by, for instance, making Google Play Store a rental only place, so a movie only resides on your tablet for a short time. Whether this will suit you more than buying a movie is up to you.

Google Nexus 7 (© Asus)

More worryingly, the lack of 3G connectivity means you can't surf the internet except in a wi-fi zone. Of course, many tablets lack 3G, but since this is so portable you'd have imagined it might have been a priority - you'll take it everywhere with you.

The Nexus 7 feels good in the hand, and works well as an ebook reader - it's obviously designed to take on the Amazon Kindle rather than the iPad. The display is no match for the iPad's Retina Display, but is far higher resolution than many machines out there, and it shows. Note, though, that the backlit colour screen is not as easily readable as the Kindle Touch's e-ink screen. If you want to read an ebook in sunshine and through sunglasses, the Nexus 7 really isn't much good. And neither is the iPad.

This new tablet has the latest Android OS, Jelly Bean. It's easily the slickest software yet from Android, with neat additions and extras. Many current tablets and phones will update to Jelly Bean soon but for now it's just about the only one. It feels accessible and easy to use, with much less of the geekery that Android is known for. Jelly Bean should be enough to win Google a wider audience for its tablets. Key to this is Google Now, a series of helpful cards which flick up on to the screen to tell you weather, local places of interest or public transport details which appear when you're near a station, say. It'll also show sports scores for teams you've searched for, or the time back home when you're abroad, to save those awkward moments when you call in the middle of the night. It's clever and easy to use.

This is easily the best Android tablet around, and the best small-screen model (though the beautiful PlayBook comes close). The software is outstanding, though this will come to other tablets, too. The reason to buy this is that it combines a very effective design with superb light weight, a speedy processor with decent battery life and, best of all, a hugely affordable price tag.

5 stars

Essential info:
Camera: 1.2MP front-facing only
Display: TFT capacitive LCD touchscreen, 800 x 1280 pixels, 7-inches
Dimensions: 199x120x10mm
Internal Memory: x8 or 16GB storage, 1GB RAM
Card Slot: none
Colour: black
Weight: 340g
Touchscreen: Yes
Audio playback: 3.5mm Ear Jack & Speaker
Processor: 1.3 GHz quad-core processor
Operating System: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Battery Life: 10 hours
Keyboard: virtual

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