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A quick peak at the Google Nexus 7

While the debate about whether Samsung copied Apple or Apple copied Samsung rages away in California, Google has decided to put its paw in the water with a low cost tablet of its own. Before our mobile expert Blair McClelland publishes a full, indepth analysis of the tablet within the next couple of weeks let us take an early peak at the Nexus 7.

Putting the App Store to one side, Apple’s killer sales tactic with the iPad was Steve Jobs’ total lack of fear when it comes to putting a high price on a product. The initial iPad was quite good, but when prices averaged around £500, the Chinese-Taiwanese army of me-to-manufacturers set to work creating a variety of similar products for a lot less cash.

Around the time these new tablets were being manufactured in volume, at the start of 2011, Apple launched the iPad 2 and that was all she wrote. “Nine times faster and three times thinner”, said Jobs. The fat lady sang several lullabies and warehouses across the world had stock sitting in them which would not possibly compete with Apple’s new gizmo. The companies that had produced the tablets set about marketing in the only way they know how – price cutting. But Apple’s model is not built on price – it’s built on quality, reputation and the complete Apple eco-system.

That begs the question, “Does any other company have the brand, reputation for quality, vision of the future and huge bundles of cash with which to fight Apple ?”

The answer is ‘yes’ if your name is Samsung or, in this case, Google – and so the Nexus 7 was born. Before we go into detail about the new product, our experience with it and our gut feel as to whether it can succeed, here are some shots that set the scene around what could be Tegra 3’s finest hour to date.

Order Monday afternoon and it arrives Tuesday morning. Packaging is simple and attractive - while the whole unpacking experience says 'quality'. Given that Asus had 4 months to turn Nexus 7 from dream to production reality - it's an impressive offer.

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Size-wise, Google's Nexus 7 is in a completely different class to the iPad. Much more 'pocket-size-portable'.

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Edge on, design has been kept to a minimum - with fewer buttons than many phones. The outside rim is brushed metal and the reverse has an appealing 'textured plastic' feel with Asus and Nexus embossing.

Having moved from zero to hero in around 4 months, Google have gone on record to say that no other manufacturer could have delivered this level of result in the time available.

Asus’ chairman, Jonney Shih, claims that his engineering teams felt ‘tortured’ and, to help ensure success, Asus deployed top engineers at Google sites around the globe. This integrated the design process between the two companies and allowed them to have a genuine 24-hour design process.

Taken at face value, we’d assume that Asus engineers in Asia Pacific (APAC) would hand over to Europe (EMEA) and then the Americas – before another 8 hours passed and APAC was back on the case. Impressive stuff.

While there is no doubting Apple’s power in the market, Google’s operating system is now close to 1 million activations a day across the globe. It’s hard to imagine any business engaging with new customers at that rate and, with the liquid flux development available to open source projects, you have to wonder if new products like the Nexus 7 are more ‘there to cash in on software sales’ or ‘to provide direction on what’s possible and where Apple might be weak’.

The familiar connectivity of these devices will alienate less people that Apple's traditionally proprietary approach

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Booting your Nexus 7 brings one tiny moment of doubt - when you see the cross for the first time and wonder whether something might have gone wrong with your new toy - but the actual experience was silky smooth for a first time user

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It's all about fast connectivity - so you hit up a router almost immediately upon booting

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The interface is simple and obvious, the touch screen Apple-like in its responsiveness

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We only hit a snag when accessing the web. While access speed is fast and the screen is clear and bright - the unit does not seem to automatically change orientation for web browsing - which was a big surprise given its Invensense MPU-6050

.Given that the electronics which understand movement and orientation etc are experiencing a huge boom – it was a surprise to turn the Nexus 7 sideways and for it not to spin the screen into the much more useful landscape mode. a little research on this subject (carried out on the Nexus 7, naturally), revealed that you can install an app to force orientations.

Ultimate Rotation Control is available on Google Play for just 99c (around 65p in old money), which begs the question “Why not simply pre-install it?”

The answer probably lies in Google’s pricing for the Nexus 7. At just £159, it’s hard to understand how they have managed to make this tablet possible at all. Here’s a quick look at the technology you get for your money:-

  • ARM Cortex A9 Quad Core Processor kicking along at 1.2GHz
  • nVidia GeForce ULP running at 416MHz with its 12 core architecture
  • 1GB of DDR3 Memory
  • 8GB Flash Memory
  • 7″ backlit IPS display with scratch resistant glass and a 1280×800 resolution that refreshed at a rock solid 60Hz
  • You get b/g/n compatible Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • There is a front facing 1.2 mega pixel camera
  • The unit comes pre-installed with Jelly Bean (4.1 version of Google’s Android operating system)

The device is available now for just £159 on the Google Play store, but you can’t get around the shipping charge – so don’t expect much change from £170.

The only question remaining for us was, “Can Microsoft mount any kind of sensible challenge to this new generation of well made, well supported, well priced portable computing solution?”

Keep your eyes peeled on Kitguru, our mobile expert Blair McClelland has the Nexus 7 in hand and a full, indepth analysis will be forthcoming within the next couple of weeks.

KitGuru says: Buy a really cool phone and the price is often subsidised by your connectivity contract. The Nexus 7 works straight out of the box, so you can only assume that there is no profit in the product. On that basis alone, it’s got to be worth considering. The sub-£200 end of the tablet PC market has, until now, contained some very questionable products – which the Nexus 7 will blow comfortably out of the water. If you can get your hands on one – we’d recommend you give it a spin. This is quite possibly the most useful device the Asus mobile team has produced to date.

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