Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Google Nexus 7 - The Future of Tablets?

First impressions

I finally got a chance to hold and play with a Google Nexus 7 tablet at my local Staples store.  Manufactured by Asus, the Nexus 7 is the first Google experience tablet available.  Equipped with a quad-core nVidia Tegra processor, Jellybean OS, front-facing camera and quality touchscreen display, this tablet offers a lot of computing power at a very attractive price ($199 for 8GB and $249 for 16GB).   Interestingly, despite robust sales, is very difficult to find these tablets locally.  In fact, at Staples, the N7 wasn't located anywhere near all of the other popular tablets.  I found it tucked in its own little corner near the notebook computers.

In terms of form and fit, the N7 seems to resemble other 7 inch tablets.  It does have a very nice textured back which makes it easy to hold and its form factor feels really good in the hand. The display is nice and bright and similar to other Asus displays that I've seen.    In terms of weight, it is quite light and a welcome relief for those of us who have been dealing with larger tablets in the past.

Digging Deeper

Two things that are readily apparent by examining the N7 are its lack of a rear-facing camera and SD card slot.  With only 8 or 16 GB of memory, depending on which model you buy, this tablet is clearly aimed at those who plan to be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi most of the time (a la the Kindle Fire).  

I believe that these limitations are fatal flaws that may impede sales once the initial popularity of the device starts to fade.  My main 7 inch tablet these days is a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, and I find both the rear camera feature and the micro-SD card slot to be invaluable features that increase its functionality and productivity potential.  Recent news that Google plans to add 3G to the N7 in the near future may increase its longevity as a pure media consumption device.

However, even with those significant limitations, the N7 is an impressive device at its price point.  Its Jellybean OS seems to be an incremental upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, with a smoother UI experience  ("butter", as Google calls it) and some nice new features.

Final Thoughts

With the introduction of the Nexus 7, it appears that the 7" tablet segment is finally starting to heat up again.  Amazon will be releasing refreshes of its popular Kindle Fire tablets soon and Apple is reportedly its releasing its iPad Mini tablet in October.  I predict that the 7-inch form factor pioneered by Samsung's original Galaxy Tab, the B&N Nook and Amazon's Kindle Fire will eventually become the most popular form factor for tablets.