Thoughts on the Nexus 7, two months in

In early November I made the decision to send my iPad 2 and Kindle home as presents to my younger sister and mom, respectively. I decided that I would replace both with one device, something with a 7- or 8-inch form factor. After being disappointed with the availability of the iPad Mini, I decided that I would give the Android ecosystem a shot and purchased a Nexus 7 at the Berkeley school store.

Rather than post my initial impressions of the device, I decided to get a few months of actual use out of it in order to give a better idea of what it’s like to use it on a regular basis. Two months in, I’ve done everything on it that I used to do my iPad. Here’s a list of what stuck out most to me from my time with Google’s first tablet:

  • Widgets, while cool in theory, really don’t serve much purpose in my use case. Out of the five home pages available, I use three – one for my most used apps and music controls, one for browser bookmarks and email, and one with a large widget of the albums I recently listened to. Besides the first page, which basically acts as my first page of apps on the iPad, the others are barely more useful than simply opening the apps. The bookmarks are convenient, but I could always not swipe over to the page and just tap on the Chrome icon to get to the bookmarks. The same can be said for email, and that requires less scrolling to see more of my inbox. The album widget is pretty nifty, but I don’t listen to music on my tablet as often as I do on my phone anyway.
  • Project Butter and quad-core processor be damned, this thing still stutters. Not in graphics-intense games, mind you – on small tasks, and in scrolling in the web browser. This happened occasionally on my iPad as well, but the increased frequency after switching is noticeable.
  • I haven’t found a suitable replacement for Reeder yet. This may simply be because of not enough searching on my part, but I miss the design and functionality of my go-to RSS reader.
  • Instapaper is worse on Android. Marco Arment didn’t develop this version, so I’m not putting the blame on him. With that said, not having The Feature available makes finding new things to read a bit of a pain in the ass, and articles that are formatted properly on the iOS version were so bad on Android that I would generally end up reading them in Chrome. Many of these were from the New York Times, so that might be an issue.
  • Google Music Manager is pretty nifty. I buy all my music from iTunes, and by having Music Manager installed on my laptop I automatically have all of the music available on the tablet as well.
  • It is incredibly nice being able to buy books from Amazon from within the Kindle app. I understand why Apple doesn’t allow it on iOS, but I still don’t like it.
  • Reading books on the Nexus 7 is much more comfortable than on the full-sized iPad. I can hold it in one hand for extended periods of time with no problem.
  • With that said, reading comics on the Nexus is not as enjoyable as on the iPad. Text is generally just a bit too small, and I found myself zooming in more than I liked and experiencing eye strain during and after reading.
  • Facebook on Android sucks. Even with the recent move to a native app, it’s slower and doesn’t work as well as on iOS.
  • Wi-Fi reception is worse than it was on my iPad. In my house in Berkeley, my iPad generally had access anywhere in the house. On the Nexus, I have to be sitting on the side of my room closest to the router, which is across a hallway from the router. Unacceptable.

Overall, would I recommend the Nexus 7 to a friend? That depends. If you’re adamant about only wanting to spend $200 for a tablet, then yeah, this is probably your best option. But if you’re willing to spend the money to have a better overall experience, the iPad Mini is the best you can buy. User interface preferences aside, it has better performance, better wireless access, 4G as an option, a bigger screen, and weighs less. While I don’t mind sticking with the Nexus for now, you can be sure I’ll be selling this to a friend and moving to an iPad Mini as soon as the next revision of it is available.

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