The Nexus 7 Review: Google's First Tablet Gets Benchmarked

Googles’s first tablet impresses in a big way. Light, lean, and packed with Jelly Bean, the low-priced Nexus 7 hits the sweet spot and plays all the right notes. If the “perfect” tablet is what you seek, the one-of-a-kind Nexus 7 might be it.

Despite the flurry of recent Google-branded device launches, I believe the company will have a hard time shaking the perception that it's primarily a software company, much like Amazon is a commerce company with a tablet device that makes it easier to spend money on Amazon. But what's Google's play in its Nexus 7?

Up until now, Google's many hardware partners have been the ones actually doing battle with Apple for market supremacy. This works out well for Google, though, freeing the company to focus on a more robust software ecosystem (fragmented as it might be) as its partners throw themselves at innovating on the hardware side.

As a result, what we have now is a remarkably diverse landscape of Android-based devices appealing to almost every need.

A perfect tablet, if there is such a thing, requires hardware and software that serve to complement each other. For example, Sony’s Tablet S is a multimedia buff’s dream because it includes so many home theater-inspired design cues. The Tablet S has a great audio setup, it's ergonomic, and it includes a built-in TV remote. Likewise, the Kindle Fire is perfect for Amazon addicts because its Android ecosystem is specifically modified to support all things Amazon. Hardware and software that appears to have been designed in concert creates a magic far greater than the individual pieces on their own.

And that's why Apple's tablets succeed. Apple is obsessed with controlling both sides of the design and manufacturing process. Could that have been Google's impetus for working more closely with a hardware partner on its own branded tablet?

Needless to say, the company's dramatic Nexus 7 unveiling at its I/O 2012 event came as no surprise. The Nexus 7 is Google's first official tablet offering. But it's the product of many lessons learned from a number of hardware partners, so we expect it to hit the ground running, without the teething pains observed from a number of other first-gen Android-based designs.

Operating System
Screen Size
Nexus 7 (8 GB)
Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Nexus 7 (16 GB)
Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)7"1280x800$249
Kindle Fire (8 GB)
Customized Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)7"1024x600

We think that the Nexus 7 is a very sexy-looking tablet. Its svelte design turns heads, as does its list of features, respectable 8 GB of storage capacity on the base model, and $199 price tag. It also appears as direct competition for Amazon's popular Kindle Fire. The main differentiator is that Google's Nexus 7 runs a completely unaltered version of Android 4.1, code-named Jelly Bean, giving it access to Google Play, a feature sorely lacking on the Kindle Fire.

Under the hood, Nexus 7 offers brawn to match its beauty, employing Nvidia's powerful Tegra 3 SoC. As we noted in Asus Transformer Prime TF201: A Tablet With A Higher Calling, Tegra 3 doesn't actually offer the best GPU performance, despite the chip's pedigree. However, Nvidia argues that the currently-available benchmarks aren't able to tap into the platform's potential. And it's telling to us that many of the more graphically-intensive games for Android are either optimized for or outright require Nvidia's hardware.

Screen Size
Aspect Ratio
Google Nexus 7
7.8”4.7”0.41”7”1280x80016:100.75 lb.
Amazon Kindle Fire
0.89 lb.
Apple iPad 2 (3G)
1.33 lb.
Apple iPad 3 (3G)
1.46 lb.
Motorola Xoom
1.5 lb.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
1.3 lb.

More than anything else, we're impressed with the Nexus 7’s physical design. It was easy to fall in love with the Fire's 7" screen, and we immediately started eschewing the tablets sporting larger screens. They simply felt too cumbersome to carry around. But, like the Fire, Google's Nexus 7 makes it more mobile.

Both the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are roughly the same size as a typical e-book reader. Amazon's Fire is a beefcake at 0.89 lb and 0.45” (11.4 mm) thick, though, whereas the Nexus 7 only weighs 0.75 lb. and measures 0.41” (10.45 mm) thick. The difference in weight doesn't appear so distinct, but it also doesn't convey how much more comfortable the Nexus 7 is to hold and use. The Kindle Fire's frame is squared-off and blocky, which frankly feels a little awkward. The Nexus 7 employs tapered and angular edges, with a textured rubber back cover.

Many folks find fault with the fact that Google's Nexus 7 lacks a rear-facing camera, but I think that's a completely unnecessary feature on a tablet. If I need to take a snapshot, I reach for a smartphone. The folks I've seen taking pictures in public places using tablets look ridiculous. Now, a front-facing camera is more important, since it can conceivably be used for videoconferencing. And the Nexus 7 includes a 1.2 MP sensor with a built-in microphone expressly for that purpose. The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, does not have a front-facing camera. Advantage, Google.

Introducing Nexus 7

The development history behind the Nexus 7 is shrouded in some mystery. It was originally known as Asus’ Eee Pad MeMo 370T, and if you flip the Nexus 7 over you'll find a label with the 370T model number. Google's Eric Schmidt stated the company would unveil a tablet back in December of 2011, and a year later, at CES 2012, Asus announced that it would sell its MeMo 370T for $249. Oddly, the MeMo 370T disappeared from view shortly after, and Asus acted as if its CES announcement never happened.

In retrospect, Google may have been impressed enough with the MeMo 370T that it contracted with Asus to produce the Nexus 7. Some have pointed out that Asus is an odd partner choice after Google acquired Motorola Mobility, but that merger was not completed until May 2012. The Nexus 7 would have had to be in development already.

This thread is closed for comments
    Your comment
  • joytech22
    I've had mine for about a week now, picked it up in JB Hi-Fi for $317 (AUSD 16GB version).

    Extremely impressed, blows my Iconia A500 out of the water.
    I just wish they had cases for the Nexus 7 in stock. :(
  • killerclick
    No thanks, I'll wait for Surface Pro. It will only be 5 times more expensive, three times heavier, and I simply must run Photoshop and AutoCAD on a tablet, because... just because.

    Microsoft FTW
  • EzioAs
    Wow, it seems that the nexus 7 is a really great product. Every reviewers seems to be very pleased with it's performance, portability and low price. This really is what every tablet should be :). The only issue I heard was that the speakers are quite terrible although I didn't see that mentioned in this review
  • mayankleoboy1
    if it had a fruity logo, it would be $400more
  • matter37
    Well, I have the Nexus 7 and I love it, I really dont like the 10" screen size on other tablets, I think 7" is great, but speaking of the Surface Pro, depending on how that thing performs it could easily replace my current notebook since it could have the capabilities of a ultrabook
  • bin1127
    I was reading the specs and was really impressed with the screen pixel density but missed reading the price first time around. Then when I saw the price that just blew me away.

    This isn't some left field tablet with no supporting software and apps. This is android and all that is attached to the OS. Google is going to blow apple out of the water. I'm looking forward to the lowered earnings guidance from apple any day now.
  • aznshinobi
    Love what they've done with the the Nexus lineup. All pretty affordable now and now with Jelly Bean, I'm sure even Apple lovers will like Android honestly. Project Butter and the new Voice Command is much better. Voice is better than Siri now too, pretty awesome.
  • darkchazz
    Hope they don't take long to release a nexus 10 tablet. Me want a bigger screen :)
    + Getting all updates first straight from google + best dev support FTW.
  • Great review, love how Toms always goes a little further while most other gadget sites only present an opinion.

    Any numbers on internal storage and wifi throughput performance?
    Have one on order and it would be interesting to know how long it would take to copy for example a movie onto the device.
  • hardcore_gamer
    On the other news, Apple is releasing a smaller version of iPad to compete with nexus 7 at a "compelling price" of $400.
  • cscott_it
    I just recently received my 16GB. It's surprisingly solid and is a great little consumption device. Plus, they make the deal pretty sweet by throwing in $25 Google Play credit and free $10 to your Google Wallet (Can be used for NFC transactions). I couldn't ask for better hardware for the price.

    Johanj- I've had 0 issues with the wifi, in facts, it's performed rather well in my little apartment hitting some of the upper limits of my connection.

    The internal storage does poorly on random 4k writes, average on 4k reads, and average on larger read/writes (compared to current top Android tablets).

    All-in-all it will serve it's purpose as something to do while the girlfriend is asleep next to me.
  • If I install Android 4.1 on my Samsung ATT Galaxy 8.9 will I see a significant improvement in performance? It seems that Google waited long enough for the launch to finally come out with the right oversion of the operating system to give them a head start over other tablet vendors.
  • nebun
    google play has so much junk in it....i am still waiting for my there anyone listening out there?...GOOGLE=fail when it comes to updates, this is one thing Apple does better
  • dfusco
    matter37Well, I have the Nexus 7 and I love it, I really dont like the 10" screen size on other tablets, I think 7" is great, but speaking of the Surface Pro, depending on how that thing performs it could easily replace my current notebook since it could have the capabilities of a ultrabook

    If your notebook can be replaced by a device the size of a netbook with a crappy keyboard. I hope you have sharp eyes and small hands :)
  • DSpider
    nebungoogle play has so much junk in it....i am still waiting for my there anyone listening out there?...GOOGLE=fail when it comes to updates, this is one thing Apple does better

    Better my a*s. I bought an iPod touch 2G 16GB a few months after it was released and a year and a half later (2010) they dropped support with iOS 4.2.1. It pissed me off so much I swore that I will never buy another Apple product again.

    Also, on a hardware level, people who "upgraded" from the iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S. And don't forget that the iPod touch 4G remained absolutely the same.

    "Updates are the one thing Apple does better"... Yeah, right. Give me a break.
  • acerace
    194803 said:
    google play has so much junk in it....i am still waiting for my there anyone listening out there?...GOOGLE=fail when it comes to updates, this is one thing Apple does better

    DA. :heink:

    It's not Google who release updates to your phones, it's the manufacturer. Blame them for the slow updates.
  • It's not google that is bad at updates it's your tablet's manufacturer. As the article stated. Each one modifies the Android operating system to fit their hardware design better. So, if you do not get updates complain to the maker of your tablet they are the ones not giving you the update.
  • acku
    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Andrew Ku
    Tom's Hardware
  • InvalidError
    I got my 16GB N7 about a week ago. I noticed the middle-left side of the glass starting to lift off its plastic frame 3-4 hours after unboxing, under "heavy exploration" (every feature enabled, continuously downloading/installing/trying apps) workload.

    Other than that, I do not see any obvious other problems with the N7, though I would like it to run a little cooler. The bottom-right corner in landscape mode gets rather warm while running Tegra games.

    I have one major pet peeve about the soft-keys and games: very easy to accidentally swipe system keys and get kicked out of games in titles like Fruit Ninja, Glow Hockey, Cut The Rope, etc. A method for locking/unlocking soft-keys is needed, something like a "lock" icon to lock/hide it and tapping opposite corners or center+corner to unlock.
  • Nakecat
    I had mine returned last week due to screen separation and light sensor defects.
    IMO, it's a great table, both software and hardware spec wise.
    The only big issue right now is the QC by ASUS, I guess they tried to cut corner / rush and got burned.

    I will give it another try in a few months when ASUS get the QC under control.
  • sundragon
    Great review, Nice to see another tablet in the market that's a great alternative to an iPad. Competition makes things better!

    I will say it's ridiculous that Google mentions "smooth interface" as a feature - A smooth interface should be expected on a dual core tablet, much less a quad core tablet...
  • pacioli
    It looks like it is finally time to buy a tablet!
  • amdwilliam1985
    Got my Nexus 7 last week, I got the $200 8GB version, love it(passing iPad 2 to gf).
    Yes, it does fit all my apps and movies(3 movies) and still have >3GB left.
    Very easy to carry around, I am looking for a kick ass case to suit up.
  • Onus
    Is the battery user-replaceable? I gather there's no memory card slot, but what, if any, I/O ports are provided? Bluetooth?

    If any of this was covered in the videos, feel free to comment but hold the thumbdowns please; those are blocked at work. Thanks.