The 7-inch tablet market might be crowded, but many manufacturers have struggled to come up with a decent device. Enter Google’s Nexus 7, which initially feels and acts like a mix between tablet and phone. There are certainly some idiosyncrasies with the OS, but it feels good out of the box. The big question is whether, as an ereader, it has the right stuff to take on the Kindle. Having fiddled and played with a Nexus 7 for a couple of days now, I’d say it does. In fact, it sets a new benchmark in a number of important areas.
The 7-inch IPS display has a resolution of 1280 x 800 and this is more than good enough for the Nexus 7 to serve as an ereader. Text is crisp and clear, and colours are vivid. Sure, it’s a little reflective and reading outdoors in bright sunlight would be a chore, but in most respects the device functions as a perfectly good reading device. I’d go so far as to say that, considering the price and size, the Nexus 7 is probably the best tablet ereader on the market in terms of resolution and image quality. It’s seriously good, and it lays down a marker for Amazon, Apple and other manufacturers.
At just under 12 ounces (about 340g), the Nexus 7 is sufficiently lightweight to hold for long periods. It also feels good to hold thanks to a solid and sturdy finish, and the textured back sets it apart from many of its rivals. Just over 10mm thick, the device can be held for long periods of time without causing fatigue, and is arguably better in this regard than the Kindle Fire. In my view, this is important because it allows the user to experiment and find his or her own most comfortable reading position, whereas I felt the Kindle Fire was less adaptable and forced the user to adapt more to its own qualities. As a result, it doesn’t take long to get used to using the Nexus 7 comfortably.
Complaints? The battery life, though impressive, could be better in some regards. Using it as an ereader, you’re unlikely to have too many problems with this, but start watching movies and the near 10 hour battery life starts to come down considerably. Still, I feel a little churlish mentioning this. The Nexus 7 is still a great device and it would be foolish to expect too much. I doubt that many people will find the battery life to be a serious problem. There is also a well-reported ghosting problem when it comes to high-contrast images, though this seems to disappear once the device has been on for a while.
Overall, the Google Nexus 7 is a very impressive device, better than I might have expected from Google. It doesn’t blow the Kindle Fire out of the water, but it certainly offers some stiff competition and will make it harder for Amazon’s next ereader device to make a splash. As ever, it’d be best to try the device out for a little while if you can before deciding to purchase one, but personally I found the Nexus 7 was very comfortable to use. Some devices require you to change your approach to reading, but that’s not the case here. As a tablet device, the Nexus 7 is excellent; as an ereader, it’s very very good; and for under $200, it’s almost a miracle.