But the main course is obviously the tablet — a stock Google experience with a price point clearly meant to put a hurt on Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and sway potential buyers of Apple's lower-end iPad 2. Android as a tablet platform has stumbled thus far — can Google finally begin to make an impact in an increasingly crowded market? Read on for my full review to find out.
Hardware and design
For a $200 tablet, the Asus-made Nexus 7 is impressively built and styled. Like most other tablets, what you mainly see is a glossy, black-bezeled display. In this case, that display is ringed by a matte silver band which looks like metal, but is a rigid plastic. Around back, the device is covered in a soft-touch, dimpled material which has the feel of taut leather. Amusingly, Android design chief Matias Duarte told me that the idea was to mimic "Steve McQueen style" driving gloves — and the effect is definitely there.
On the bottom ridge of the device is a Micro USB port and on the right side (in portrait mode) you’ll find the volume rocker and sleep / power button. On the left edge, there are surface “pogo plug” connectors for a dock, and on the front of the Nexus there’s a small camera embedded in the upper bezel.
The tablet weighs 0.74 pounds (compared with the Kindle Fire’s 0.9 pounds), is 0.41 inches thick (the new iPad is 0.37 inches), and measures 7.8 inches by 4.7 inches up and across, respectively.
It feels good to hold in your hands. That soft backing strikes me as decidedly different than other tablets in its class, and seems far more smudge resistant than something like the Fire. The bezel on the front looks a bit too large for the screen size, though when reading a book I found the extra real estate helpful because I had something to grip (in fact, Duarte told me that the design was intentional, not a victim of cheap parts). There are a few very minor build issues, like the fact that the display can give a little and cause the LCD to ripple if you really press hard against the screen, but most users will never press hard enough to notice.
In all, I’m impressed by what Asus and Google have done with the Nexus 7. It’s a classy, well-made product from a design standpoint. It may not be the most original, thinnest, or lightest tablet on the market, but it’s certainly a respectable and refined entrant to the race. Bottom line — this is a much better feeling and looking tablet than anything else in its price range.