A good tablet, and serious iPad alternative, at a ridiculously low price
The Nexus 7 is an Android tablet made by Google and Asus and is the first serious iPad alternative we've seen in a while.
The Nexus 7 is no iPad, though – it's only got a 7in screen for starters, but it's a lot cheaper with the 8GB model costing just £159 and the 16GB version at £199.
This is around the same price as many no-name tablets. While the larger screens of 10in tablets is better suited to creating things, the Nexus 7 weighs just 340g and is a great size for reading although we wish the screen bezel was a little wider in places for a firmer grip.
You can buy your books from multiple stores thanks to a wide range of ebook apps. Although some will still prefer the e-ink screen of the Amazon Kindle, the display is very crisp. It's not quite as sharp as the latest iPad, but the high resolution of 1,280x800 pixels and rich colours make it very easy on the eyes.
Inside, the Nexus 7 runs the very latest version of Android, called 4.1 Jelly Bean, and has a powerful processor and graphics chip. It blitzed through our benchmarks making it the fastest tablet we've seen. That shows in the interface, which is slick and smooth compared to other Android tablets, though we did find that it did sometimes become very sluggish.
The battery lasted just under seven hours when playing videos which is good for a tablet this small, although the similarly-sized Blackberry Playbook can last an hour longer.
When it comes to getting online, the Nexus is Wifi only – there's no 3G version which isn't a problem at home. However, if you want to load it up with movies to watch on a long trip, even the 16GB model may be a bit cramped, and there is no memory card slot.
Google expects you to access everything over wireless and the standard movie and ebook reader apps will by default stream purchased content from Google's servers – you have to explicitly tap a button to make it download content instead.
Fortunately, around £5 spent on a USB adapter cable and an app will let you plug USB memory keys into the Nexus. Helpfully, £15 credit for the Google Play store is included. Also included are a Jeffrey Archer novel and a rental copy of a Transformers movie which will at least let you experience books and films on the Nexus 7 without spending any more cash.
For many the tablet experience will come down to apps and there is no doubt that the Google Play store is a bit short on tablet apps. There's nothing to rival iPhoto or Garageband, for example, and few apps are currently able to take real advantage of the high resolution screen.
The compact screen size, while an advantage for reading, also makes creating content less comfortable than on an iPad, especially since the smaller screen means a smaller keyboard too. It's adequate and easier than typing on many phones, but we wouldn't want to type a lot without the aid of a Bluetooth keyboard.
Overall though, the Nexus 7 is undoubtedly great value and makes other cheap tablets look like the embarrassments that they are. It's no iPad killer - at least until there are more great apps available - but for many people, it may do what they need just as well, especially if your main concerns are browsing the web and reading ebooks.
Read more reviews
The Nexus 7 is the tablet to buy for those who can't afford to splash out on an iPad
Fast performance; Great looking screen; Small and lightweight
Smaller selection of apps than iOS; Occasional lags in interface; No memory card slot
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