Notes on My Nexus 7

I bought myself the latest generation of Nexus 7 tablet as a post-Christmas gift, and I’ve gotten a couple of people asking me what I thought about it.

Briefly: I like it a whole lot, and in fact would probably say that of all the tablets I have or have tried, it’s probably my favorite. It’s fast, has an excellent 1080p screen, and really is the right size for travel and for my personal set of hands. It was also relatively inexpensive (under $260 for the 32MB version, which makes it $240 less than the most recent iPad mini with the same memory), which doesn’t hurt. I’m also reasonably well integrated into the Google ecosystem, as opposed to the Apple ecosystem, so in terms of the basic apps that I use on a day to day basis, this tablet is better tuned for that.

(Please don’t imagine this is me trying to start a Google vs. Apple war — I have a recent generation iPad, use it frequently and am working on a video game that will initially appear on the iPad before it goes to Android.)

The only reservation I have with the Nexus is not about it, but about me, which is that when I read magazines off it from Next Issue, the text is usually too small. The text, I should note, is perfectly sharp and clear on the Nexus screen; it’s just tiny, and my eyes get cranky these day when I have to look at tiny text. I end up using my iPad or Nexus 10 for magazine reading. If you have better eyes than mine, this will not be a problem for you.

(update: wait, remembered one other thing — the power and volume buttons are a little too flush with the side of the tablet, making them harder to use than I would like. This may aslo be an issue of personal taste.)

With that caveat noted, the Nexus 7 is otherwise just about perfect for me. It’s become my travel tablet, and I also end up carrying it around the house with me from room to room. If you’re in the market for a smaller tablet, I can definitely recommend it to you.

58 Comments on “Notes on My Nexus 7”

  1. Full size iPad has hands down been the best tablet for reading magazines & books based on screen resolution and the aspect ratio, but I prefer other platforms for everything else, so just ended up going back to paper magazines and Kindle Paperwhite. :(

  2. I have a nexus 7 (2012 model, older than what John mentions here) and I think that the 2013 model is far and away better. You can still find the 2012 model refurbished or otherwise on sale for relatively cheap but go with the 2013.

    I use an iPad at work and I like it better for typing emails and other productivity tasks. I use the nexus 7 at home and it works well for web browsing and playing games. I think the nexus 7 is going to be my new travel companion too.

  3. Vedichymn:

    I find a ten inch tablet too big for book reading, myself. It’s one reason I got a seven incher in the first place a couple of years ago (I got a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, which was perfectly fine, and which I gifted to my daughter when I got the Nexus 7).

  4. I have a first-generation Nexus 7 and I love it. I was interested in the second generation one, but I remember reading about some problems that it had when it launched. Did you have any weird glitches? If so, did they go away after software updates or do you just live with them?

  5. I’ve had a Nexus 7 since last July and it’s my favorite tablet. I gave my son my iPad. It’s the perfect size to hold in one hand, and makes for an excellent e-reader, because it doesn’t get heavy like an iPad if you are reading for hours. The fast Snapdragon processor handles anything you can throw at it.

  6. I have the 2012 Nexus 7 and love it. The only problem I have with it is relatively weak wifi reception. How does the new model do with that?

  7. I think at some point phone and tablet vendors (or perhaps their software people) will have to realize that old people might want to use their phones as well.

    The new google maps drives me nuts with its perpetually tiny fonts. Even the “big font” available from google labs is barely readable.

  8. The Nexus 7 has become one of my few cold, dead hand tech objects, (ie you have to prise it out of my cold, dead hands if you want it). On really long journeys, like long haul flights, i use an external battery pack and that way I can make it last all day. I mean, all day.

  9. John, have you rooted or done any tweaks to change it from stock/off the shelf?
    (If you have, what apps pushed you to do it?)
    Are you running Jellybean or KitKat?
    (How will we geeks get our vicarious techpr0n thrill without details!?)
    Or does this even matter to you, as long as it just works?

  10. I have a Nexus 7 and find it great for book reading, but when I want to surf the web via a tablet, I’m more likely to reach for my iPad. Of course, if I actually want to author anything, I’m more likely to reach for my laptop.

  11. Rob Core:

    I don’t root things because my own luck with fiddling with tech (VERY VERY BAD) contraindicates it. Also, for what I want to do, Nexus stock Android (it’s KitKat) is fine.

  12. Have you tried writing on it with a Bluetooth keyboard and Google docs? That seems to me like it could be a great portable system for traveling, allowing you to even write sans keyboard when you just have to get something down but don’t have anywhere to set up proper desk space.

  13. The first N7 had some issues, the new ones seem not to (nothing widespread that is). I agree with you on size. For me it was a retina iPad Mini since all my other hardware is Apple and since I sold my iPad3 so the outlay was $150 net. I also agree on text size issue. iOS has a universal setting that any apps using the system text rendering will inherit which allows you to control text size. Perhaps KitKat has a similar setting?

  14. I have the 2012 model and absolutely love it. As a college student, the Nexus just fills all my needs as far as school and play. Yes, that means I write papers on it even though the keyboard takes some getting used to. You can adapt to almost anything with practice.

  15. I found I’ve enjoyed mine (2nd edition) even more once I got a decent case for it, for two reasons: I don’t worry so much about dropping it, and it has one of those smart magnet doohickeys that wake it up/put it to sleep when you open/close the case.

    One weird glitch that I’ve had with mine is when I try to open Launcher, it quits right away giving me a “Launcher has stopped working” message. The thing is, this only happens when I’m holding in portrait orientation. If I have it in landscape, no problems.

  16. John: Do you have a case you like? I sprung for the official Nexus 7 Case from Google and was disappointed to find that one corner pops out after 5–30 minutes. (They did refund my money.)

    daveruddell: What case did you get?

  17. Dave Branson:

    It’s very rare that I’m someplace where my Chromebook or Dell Ultraportable are too large; they even fit on airplane trays.

    Chris Tierney:

    I’m not currently using a case with it.

  18. Another supporter of the Nexus 7 (I have the 2012 model). I still keep my Kindle DX charged, but it is now the bathroom reader, because the Nexus is the right size for my work shirt pockets, and for my safety vest. I did spring for an external battery, but only for long flights, otherwise it lasts all day.

    I do choose to convert pdfs with Calibre or read them on my DX, because the text is too small on the Nexus.

  19. I broke my first gen N7, and now have the new one. Love them. I’ve got a Fintie case that hugs the corners.

    If I had to do it again, I would get an Asus Memo pad HD 7. Its based on the original N7, and it has a microSD slot. For my purposes, it would be fine and it’s $150.

    We got one for out 15 year old, and she loves it.

  20. up until very recently, I’ve been using a HP touchpad running WEBOS (The Kindle app on this device is still my preferred reading platform) also the browser is rock solid. I received an IPAD mini and like it for everything else (so the touchpad is now on the shelf- I can’t justify having 2 tablets with me just for reading)

  21. I’m curious if you’ve tried an iPad mini. And if you have how do you find the difference between the 7″ screen on the Nexus and the 7.9″ screen, and size and weight, compare for your needs?

  22. Ah..the eyesight. There is an app for Ipad and Android that is supposed to help you regain your vision. It is called GlassesOff. I have not tried it but am looking into it to see if it is valid. Supposed to help you get 20/20 vision or better. :)

  23. I didn’t know I wanted or needed a tablet until I was given the 2013 version of the Nexus 7 for Christmas a month ago. I find myself using it a lot more than I thought I would, primarily for browsing Twitter and the ‘Net in the kitchen while waiting for pots to boil. It fits my hand perfectly. I echo Scalzi’s gripe about the default text being too small (and my eyes are some 20 years older than his). It takes a little maneuvering with thumb and forefinger to get it large enough for comfort while remaining within the boundaries of the screen.

  24. ghayenga:

    The iPad Mini is a sweet little tablet that is ever so slightly too large to be comfortable for me to one-hand it, I’ve found. Clearly, other people’s mileage will vary on that.

  25. John,

    I also have a 2nd gen Nexus 7. You are right, the power button is hard to press for fat-fingered fellas. However the N7 has a sensor to support cases with a magnet in the cover. The sensor can read whether the cover is opened or closed and power up/down automagically – very handy. That doesn’t solve the volume issue, but hope it helps anyway.

  26. Chris Tierney, I have the Tucano Semplice, which my wife got for me from Best Buy. Canada. I looked on the US site and they don’t seem to have it, but I bet there is something similar.

  27. I have a Galaxy tab3 that I bought to use as an ereader, which I like very much. I also use it for keeping up with various blogs and comics. I need a small tablet, as my hands are small. I looked at the Nexus, but it was just a little too far out of my price range. Glad to hear you like yours.

  28. I have the Roocase Slimshell Origami case for my Nexus 7. It stays on well, has an integrated magnet for turning the tablet on and off by simply opening or closing the cover, and is very slim-fitting. The cover folds to act as a stand for both portrait and landscape viewing. (The folding has a learning curve, I’ll admit.) It works great for me.

    I’ve used the tablet (and my Nexus 5 phone) with a folding bluetooth keyboard, and that’s what I carry with me on a daily basis, but at home I’m just as likely to grab my Chromebook for writing or even longer emails. I’ve actually gotten pretty good at typing on my phone, but typing on the tablet (meaning, using the built-in onscreen keyboard) is just weird.

    I love the Nexus 7 as a reading device. I’ve had so many ebook readers over the years that I have accounts and many books at all the bookstores, so I just have all the apps on the device and buy and read wherever is cheapest. My favorite reading app for the tablet is Google Play Books. I also can upload DRM-free epubs (like books from Gutenberg or Smashwords) to Google Play and read them through their software. I find it is the easiest and fastest and most responsive, and has some nice text-customizing features.

    I wish the magazine app designers would build in a way to make the text bigger on magazines. Nook Newsstand does a nice job by building in Article View, where you pop up a plain-text version of the article, which works like book text–you can change the font/size and background color just like on a regular book.

  29. I have a 1st gen Nexus 7 and I love it. I commute for 2-3 hours a day via public bus, and have a bluetooth keyboard and the older version of Quickoffice for Android. I still prefer writing on a laptop, but this is a great light-weight and compact way to write.

  30. I got one for xmas, making it my xmas nexus. Most of its flaws are quibbles.

    Your comments are similar to mine. I eventually went to BJ’s and bought a 4-pack of 1.25 diopter reading glasses. Primarily to read feedly’s RSS feed list. You can adjust the text size on the articles, but not the list. Idiots.

    The buttons are a bit small. I’m unimpressed with the camera, more because big flat things don’t make good cameras, than any inherent flaws.

    As to cases, I had an old Kindle 3 (aka Keyboard) case that fit just fine.

    I’ve also used a Bluetooth keyboard with my old 5″ Android tablet. It works better with the N7. If you ever need to do that, go to a craft store and buy a small wire easel, about $4. That and a keyboard and you can do almost everything a laptop can.

  31. I love my first gen Nexus 7. It’s perfect for keeping track of notes, spreadsheets, and so forth for class (both as a student and a teacher). I wish the charge would last a little longer though. I want it on deck most everywhere I go. Still, I prefer the Amazon Paperwhite for reading. Reading off an LCD just isn’t nearly as relaxing with the eye-strain.

    Please don’t imagine this is me trying to start a Google vs. Apple war

    Awww…killjoy. This is why I like Charlie’s blog. He gleefully starts nerdfights for my his entertainment.


    What’s scary is these things can pass the Voigt-Kampff test undetected.

    32GB stores a lot of artificially implanted memories.

    @Dave Branson

    Have you tried writing on it with a Bluetooth keyboard and Google docs? That seems to me like it could be a great portable system for traveling, allowing you to even write sans keyboard when you just have to get something down but don’t have anywhere to set up proper desk space.

    The first gen N7 works fine with my BT keyboard, so I assume the ’13 model does as well. That said, the screen is too small to practically compose any long-form documents, and it’s usually faster to just use the soft keypad or handwriting recognition than synch the BT keyboard and find somewhere to set it. The 7” range is more of a large PDA than a small personal computer. Besides, when you have ideas on the go, don’t you find shorthand is a better way to get it down for latter expansion?

  32. I have a variety of cases for my Nexus. It’s so cute it deserves accessories. On the whole the ones that get used the most are the ones that have the magnet closing thing and feel nice in the hand – that soft suede lining is nicer than hard plastic.
    It goes everywhere with me. My phone is far too small for me to do anything useful on, so more and more I’m using it for phone calls and texting and that’s all. It’s easy to tether the phone’s Internet connection to the tablet, so I can browse etc on the tablet, using my phone’s connection.
    I did root my tablet, I use Stickmount to add extra storage, but I rarely need it, and Xposed so I can use the Gravity extension to mod the tablet. Nothing too extreme. I could live with the stock install, and I use Kit Kat because it works so well.

  33. I actually bought my 2012 Nexus 7 to experiment with. It was extremely easy to root and install custom roms. However, I’ve been so pleased with the Cyanogenmod daily updates, I’ve stuck with them. It’s like having KitKat plus. As to covers, I bought a Mini Suit cover with a built-in keyboard but almost never use it. I’ve found it to be tough enough with just a film screen protector to carry around all day. I do strongly recommend the SwiftKey keyboard app. It has cursor keys,
    The N7 has become my go-to Kindle reader. Love it.

  34. My favorite travel tablet is now my Nook HD+. Got it for $149 (standard price), added a 64 GB micro SD card, and now I have 80 GB of storage for a VERY reasonable cost. Tons of room. Nook now allows you to get apps from Google Play, which really was the missing link in their offering. The display is very nice, particularly for my old eyes. It runs on a modified Android, which isn’t as smooth as my iPad (or the Nexus, one of which I had for work for a while), but works well enough for my purposes (reading, watching tv/movies). Everybody in my office was so impressed with the Nook’s price/features that three folks went out and bought one themselves.

  35. John there is an app that turns an Android tablet into a second monitor over wifi, albeit a slow one. I always thought it might be great to use it to doc photo shop tools and use it a touch driven tool interface. Given your photographic predilections, this seems right up your alley.

  36. @Dave Branson – Tamora Pierce tried that while she was on vacation with Bruce&Kathy Coville and had a deadline, using her iPad 2, iWorks Pages and a Bluetooth keyboard built into the protective case. She said it was almost impossible for her to work like that – the keys were too small and close together, the screen wasn’t big enough for her to comfortably read it while working, and after a day or two she just gave up and used the Netbook she’d been using for the last five years! Admittedly Tammy’s very fussy about where she writes – her office is done up Just So, with reference books all around her and a 24″ monitor on top of a stack of phone books so she can look at it comfortably and a keyboard she can put on her lap to write – so YMMV (tech journalist/MACBREAK WEEKLY co-presenter Andy Ihnatko uses an iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard to write on all the time, which was where we got the idea for Tammy in the first place). Bruce circumvents that problem by always buying Dell or Toshiba laptops about the size of cafeteria trays(!), and Kathy handwrites first, so they never tried that one way or the other….

    We got a friend a Nook HD+ on sale for $150 at B&N for Christmas b/c she didn’t have any type of computer since her divorce (her ex-husband was the techie) – and she loves it! She uses it for e-mail, Web surfing, reading, watching movies, and writing short letters using Google Docs (the virtual keyboard doesn’t seem to faze her any)….

  37. Right, 7″ is perfectly portable, but the trade off is small type.
    At 61, ive had to use reading glasses for the past 20 yrs.
    Eg. 2.5 diopter reading glasses are ideal for close work like the nex 7.
    Give em a try.

  38. “[I] am working on a video game that will initially appear on the iPad before it goes to Android”

    Thanks for confirming that, John – Industrial Toys has been a little cagey about Android availability on Twitter.

  39. Tim:

    I should be clear that what I was saying is only my assumption; I don’t know for sure when or if an Android port is planned. That’s handled elsewhere in the company.

  40. I always used to think tablets were a waste, since netbooks were about the same size and had WAY more functionality. But then my netbook was stolen at the airport, and the 2012 Nexus 7 was so cheap compared to a replacement…

    And so I found that for content consumption tablets were much lighter, and ultimately, more portable and thus much more likely to be on hand. When my Nexus fell off the bedside table at a hotel and had irs screen cracked and touchscreen rendered non-functional… Let’s just say I had no reservations about getting a replacement.

    The 2013 Nexus 7 is even better than the 2012 model – and the only changes I makes to the stock ROM is the Xposed Framework so I can replace the soft nav keys with pie controls. Saves some screen space, and now the buttons are always on thumb, no matter where my thumb drifts.

    Unfortunately, the reason I was so sceptical about tablets was the 10 inch iPad. I had tried it, and found it too large to comfortably hold, and too heavy. The new Air might be different, but the 10 inch form factor is just too big for me.

    I’ve always been a fan of smaller text (feels like I read it faster) and the new Nexus 7 thus fits like a glove. And, of course, no jailbreak is required. :)

  41. Go to settings/accessibility. You should see an option Large Font. Try that. The Galaxy Tab 3 has several font size options. There are a bunch of apps out there as well that let you change the default font size.

  42. I’ve got a 2013 model Nexus 7 and an iPad Air. I like them both a lot. I’m currently using the Air most but if I didn’t have the iPad I’d be very happy with the Nexus 7. Very nice tablet. I too have issues reading the text on PDF magazines (I bought a couple in the rather nice Google Play magazine app) but reading fiction in the Kindle app is very nice. It’s quite good for comics too but I find the iOS comic reading apps to be more polished.

  43. I had a 2012 N7, which I loved, and I got a 2013 model for Christmas. Which I love even more. I agree that the button location is less than great, but since the cover turns it on and off, I cope. It’s my travel screen, and with TextMaker and the very nice Logitech bluetooth keyboard, I’m completely office compatible when I travel.

    John, you can increase the default text size in the accessibility settings. You can also turn on gestural magnification, which lets you easily enlarge areas of the screen without the hassle.

    I second the endorsement of the Moko cover, but I’m currently using one that looks like an antique leather-bound journal. Not quite as protective as the Moko, but infinitely cooler.

  44. John, do you know if there is a device that combines the 7-inch size with the sharp display and an ability to easily read the onscreen fonts?

    I have small hands, so I find the 7-inch devices to be much more suitable for everyday use for me.

    I’m over 40, so my eyes beg for relief after reading small fonts for any extended period of time.

    So far, I’ve resigned myself to the group of people that tablet makers don’t cater to. I’d love to find out that there are devices that can meet both of my requirements without unduly compromising other aspects of the tablet experience.

  45. Christine, you can change the font size on these devices. The Nexus 7 has an option for “large font”. The Galaxy Tab 3 has several font sizes available, including pretty large. There are also apps that give you more control over the font size. If you are a Kindle reader, it allows you to change the font size to pretty big if you want.

  46. When it was time to replace my iPhone 4, I ended up going with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and I love my phablet. I can get enough text on screen to make reading simpler, it’s much lighter than the iPad and it takes great pictures. I’m still learning the Android system but it does a lot more. My ipad is left for recipes in the kitchen and job applications since the offspring is in high school and I have a shot a grown up life again.

  47. I love my Nexus 7. I play jazz piano, and have found this device ideal for taking to gigs instead of fake books and other sheet music. Between the iRealB app and a bunch of PDFs, I have most of the music I need in one place (and I can read the PDFs thanks to the sharp screen). Oh yes, Candy Crush looks pretty sweet as well.

  48. I’m trying to remember my last computer with 32MB memory. I’m thinking somewhere around 1995 switching between DOS, Windows 3.11, ans OS/2. That’s around the same time when I splashed out on a new 56 Kbps modem and a soundboard. Gah, silly typos making me feel old…

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