Last year due to unfortunate consequences, I lost possession of both my notebooks. No it's no due to theft or robbery but for some other reason. So being a life-long computer geek like I am, it is inconceivable for me to live my life everyday without a mobile computer of some sort. I must have at least a tablet computer for myself. The Apple iPad quickly came to mine, especially the affordable iPad mini selling in Malaysia for just under a thousand ringgit. However around December last year, the iPad mini just arrived on our shores so the demand for that tablet was incredible so much so that they ran out of stock within hours. And since I can't wait for the 2 weeks delivery time plus I don't have a credit card any more for the online purchase, I decided to get myself an Android tablet instead.
There's virtually dozens of Android tablets in the market today. Finding a quality one which gives value for money is quite a challenge however. So after much research I set my sight on the Asus Nexus 7. A flagship 7" Google tablet made by Asus. When looking for an Android device be it a smartphone or a tablet, always look for the Nexus model (such as Asus Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, LG Nexus 4) since they were developed closely with Google. Among the benefits of a Nexus branded device is that they comes with stock Android OS with no nonsense manufacturer UI like Samsung's TouchWiz, HTC Sense or Motorola MotoBlur. A stock Android OS is always the first to get the latest update from Google, is fast and responsive and doesn't take so much storage space.
It took me less than a day to decide on Asus Nexus 7. I wish I could wait for the iPad mini to come in stock but alas, the RM700 price factor is just too irresistible. I save about 299 ringgit for Nexus 7 instead of iPad mini. The one that I bought is a 16GB WiFi only model. It doesn't come with any memory card slot and there's only one lousy front-facing camera which is meant for video chatting not taking pictures. For the 3G model, I will have to fork out another 400 ringgit at that time.
Performance wise, the Nexus 7 is powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor which is quite fast and energy-efficient. With moderate use (one movie, Internet browsing and social network) the tablet lasted the whole day. App selection-wise, the Android marketplace (Google Play) has over 700,000 apps to choose from which is not as many as Apple's App Store but quite sufficient to make you spoilt for choice. Furthermore, most of my favorite apps that I have on my iPhone like Instagram, WhatsApp, Springpad, Twitter, Foursquare, Evernote and Dropbox is also available in Google Play so that's another pull factor to switch to Android.
The Nexus 7 is my second encounter with an Android device. My first encounter was unfortunately with Samsung's Galaxy Y smartphone which was shitty all around and made me hate Android the first time. Nexus 7 however is a different league altogether compared to Galaxy Y. The OS is awesome, the screen is big and the overall experience is really satisfying. Moral of the story here is: never buy cheap Android devices with small screens. They're horrible and totally not worth it despite their low price point.
What I like about the Nexus 7. The screen is big, well 7" is definitely not huge but just right for me. 10" is too big and I don't really want to carry a big-ass tablet everywhere I go. The processor is fast. Up until today, I am yet to find an app or a serious game that it can't handle. Even graphic intensive games like Modern Combat 4, Real Racing 3 and Need for Speed runs smoothly on the Nexus 7. Asus really did one heck of a job with this tablet.
I love Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean). The user interface is clean and smooth and the black blue Holo theme is beautiful. There's no lag between transition and the animation is quite delightful. I like the stock Android keyboard. It's fast and the size is just right. No Swype nonsense for me. I prefer the good old QWERTY keyboard.
My favorite browser, Chrome came standard with Nexus 7. I love how it syncs with Chrome on my desktop and also my iPhone. In fact one of the advantage of Android devices is seamless integration with most Google products; Chrome, Blogger, Calendar, Contacts, Gmail, Drive, Photos, Keep and many more. There's no iTunes to sync and backup all your apps but there's a record of all the Android apps you've ever purchased or installed in the Google Play website so re-installing them on any Android devices is just one click away. I like the simplicity of the drag and drop USB connection between Nexus 7 and my PC. Whenever I want to watch a movie, I just copy and paste them in a folder in my Nexus 7. If the stock Android player can't play it, there's always VLC media player which can play just about anything. If I wanna read an ebook or a PDF file, I'll just have to open my preferred ebook reader (such as Aldiko) and my Nexus 7 will turn into a nifty ebook reader and I'm set for hours of reading pleasure.
So far I have only highlighted the good points about Nexus 7. As awesome as this tablet is, it is not without a few shortcomings. As with other Google's Nexus line, the Nexus 7 only have on board fixed storage space and no slot for external memory cards. So if you bought a 16GB model, you'll be stuck with that capacity, not unlike the iPhone or iPad. I hate the fact that this tablet doesn't have a decent rear-facing camera. The 1.2MP front-facing camera is shit and you don't want to Instagram anything with that shameful camera.
Another point for contention for this Android device is the complexity of the rooting process. While I can jailbreak my iPhone with just one click, I had to jump through hoops and install a couple of drivers to root my Nexus 7. Even after all that and 3 times trying I am yet to successfully root my Nexus 7. I don't know whether I did something wrong along they way or Google put in a secret code to stop me from rooting my device, the point is I can't root my tablet and get all those wonderful apps and games. The rubber-like back cover is good for my grip but I still much prefer a solid steel or aluminium back like that of an iPad. I think it's downright ugly, the back cover although I managed to forget all about it after some times.
Apart from that few downsides, the Nexus 7 is overall, an excellent tablet that is a worthy competition to the iPad. It has just about the right size for me (7 inch), it's blazing fast, lightweight and mobile and features a decent battery life, quality built and definitely value for money. While it won't replace a notebook altogether just yet, a compact tablet like the Nexus 7 is suitable to bring along for trips and vacation where you don't want to burden yourself with a bulky notebook and worry about it's security along the way.
It's also cheaper than the iPad although the lack of rear-facing camera could be the deal-breaker as of today since the competition (iPad mini) is in stock albeit 299 ringgit more expensive than the Nexus 7. Still, if you don't mind not having a decent camera on your tablet, the Nexus 7 would be just right for you.
At the time of writing, I still can't afford to get myself a proper notebook so my Nexus 7 is indeed my current laptop replacement. Although this tablet survived a few 'drop tests' courtesy of my children with barely a scratch, I bought the Asus-made Nexus 7 sleeve/cover anyway for protection for RM98 at Low Yat Plaza. A separate wireless Bluetooth keyboard is an essential companion for any tablets if you're a serious writer (blogger) like me or you just love to write stuff on your tablet. Sure, the standard virtual keyboard works great but just with any other tablets, it'll hog almost half the space on your screen and you won't get to see much of what you are writing. A decent Bluetooth keyboard like the Rapoo model that I have here costs around RM80 on the market. So a wireless keyboard and a stand with your tablet is the perfect companion for budding writers or part time blogger like me.