Nexus 7 tablet: Video and first impressions

My production-unit Nexus 7 arrived Tuesday; here are some early impressions:

A look at the Nexus 7 tablet running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

It's light. It's not just that I'm used to an iPad; this device really seems lighter than it looks. In fact, "It's light!" is one of the most common refrains I've heard around the office today as colleagues have stopped in to check it out.

It's sleek. I'm pretty finicky when it comes to tablet design: I didn't even want an iPad until the slimmed-down iPad 2 came out. Form factor is also important for a 7-inch device, since there's little point in sacrificing the bigger screen of my iPad for a smaller device unless that device is slim and easy to hold as well as light. The 12-oz, 0.4-in thick Nexus 7 is the first small tablet I've actually wanted to use.

It's fast. Whether due to Android 4.1's "butter" project to make Jelly Bean more responsive or the quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 1G RAM, the Nexus 7 is surprisingly speedy for a budget device. Pages and screens usually swipe and display smoothly and quickly, and loading a demanding app such as my Dish Network remote viewer often takes less time than I expect. And I'm not the most patient of users.

Jelly Bean is a nice OS. I like resizable widgets, being able to rearrange icons within folders, redesigned notification "shade" and other enhancements, including Google Now.

Google Now is useful, but it's not a personal assistant. Google Now isn't Siri, if by Siri you think of an assistant that understands a range of natural language commands beyond informational . Google Now can fetch a lot of general info -- sports results, weather forecasts, movie times, movie times; but can't seem to check what's on my calendar this week or add an appointment. So, Google Now does well with "Is it going to rain today?" but just sends me to a useless Web search when asked "Do I have any meetings today?" or "What's on my calendar?"

It'll take awhile yet before I see how useful the Google Now "cards" are, since it needs to understand more about what I do before it starts anticipating the information I need before I ask for it. Today's the first day I took it to the office, for example, so it may not yet know about travel times before morning meetings. It has already started popping up scores of my favorite baseball teams when they play, which is nice.

Highlighted passages look hideous in the Kindle app with a default white background. And by hideous, I mean illegible. Sepia background works much better.

Nexus 7 needs a way to read a photo from a camera without PC or laptop. There's no data-input port -- the microUSB is for charging and devices like keyboards, but not reading SD card data. And that means there's no way to get my photos from camera to tablet unless I use another device. That's fine when I'm home, but not if I'm traveling and don't want to haul a laptop along. Even Apple came up with a $29 camera connection kit so I could transfer my photos directly from camera to iPad. This is a serious drawback for using the Nexus 7 as my sole mobile device (well, in addition to my phone) for a weekend trip.

Conclusion? Nexus 7 may not be the only mobile device I need, but it's one that I'm happy to have.

Also see: 12 tips for using the Nexus 7 tablet.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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