The 7″ Tablet

I’ve resisted buying myself a tablet for some time now. The iPad had always been the leader in the field and as beautiful as they are, I just couldn’t justify the outlay for one. A few months ago I read about the Google Nexus 7, and the technical spec along with the price point intrigued me. After some reading and a fair bit of research, my mind was made up and I placed an order for the 16GB Asus Google Nexus 7.

Unboxing and setup

Unboxing and setting up was really simple. I’m a recent Android convert, having upgraded to the Samsung Google Nexus earlier this year. So setting up the Nexus 7 was familiar territory, plus by linking it to my Google account (which I was using on my phone), it pulled down my e-mail settings, Wi-Fi settings and favourites, making the setup a real pleasure.

IT support

So what do you get?

The tablet is handsomely spec’d up. Under the hood you’ve got an Nvidia Quad-core Tegra 3 with 1GB RAM and 16 GB internal storage (there is an 8GB version as well). The screen delivers HD at 1280×800 with a front-facing 1.3MP camera and built-in speakers and microphone. The battery allegedly lasts 300 hours in standby or 9 hours of video playback.

All of this fits nicely into a rubberised backed case weighing around 350g, very sexy.

And how does it perform?

It really is quite impressive. The included Transformer’s movie played back crisp and clear, and the tablet delivered it with no problem due to the Tegra 3 Quad Core processor. Web browsing is a pleasure, and better than staring intently into my Galaxy Nexus screen. General app use is fine, although apps are somewhat limited at present – but more on that later.

Work vs Play

Work

  • SpringPad – is a free app that lets you create notebooks (springs) and share information with other SprinPad users. And they’ve got the jump on OneNote by running smoothly on Jelly Bean…
  • OneNote – ok so strictly speaking this isn’t supported on Android 4.1 yet, but it will be when Microsoft sort out the bugs. OneNote is a great tool for taking notes and sharing across multiple devices.
  • PocketCloud – is my favourite remote desktop app. It’s easy and clear to setup, and the keyboard/mouse pointer is clever, with useful shortcuts on-screen. Combine it with Android’s built-in VPN you have a fully-fledged remote client. This is great for ad hoc work, but personally I wouldn’t use it for long stretches.
  • Email Support – Jelly Bean supports the main e-mail offerings, with (naturally) native Gmail client (which works with any domain on Google Apps as well). It also includes native support for Microsoft Exchange giving you access to work e-mail, calendar and contacts (provided it’s cloud based such as Office 365 or Hosted Exchange from another provider).

Play

  • The good news is that it runs Angry Birds (and its various iterations) really well, as testified by my 3 year old. There are some great productivity apps available for the Nexus 7, and I’ve had a play with a few.

Some pros and cons

The tablet runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Ice Cream Sandwich, its predecessor, is the first Android OS that’s optimised for both phone and tablet use (ala OS). 4.1 had taken that and made it better, with better response and user interface improvements. One of the cool (if not scary) additions is Google Now, which learns your habits and tells you how long it’ll take to get home, or what your day is looking like. Scary, but very clever.

The build is also solid, something I worried about due to the low cost of the device. There are some reports of issues with screens, but Google & Asus are taking care of these. Importantly for me the screen is protected by scratch resistant Corning glass – so my toddler can play angry birds without me worrying it’s going to look like it’s been attacked by a cat.

On the down side, the device & OS are still fairly new. As such not all apps are “signed” for the Nexus 7. I found this with Skype, where video calling was not enabled. After digging around I found a setting to enable this. Skype generally works ok, there are a few things they need to iron out (like your picture being upside down!) but I’m sure an update will sort these out.

IT support

Not enough apps really make the most of the Tegra 3 processor, but like the other niggles I have with apps it’ll only be a matter of time before app vendors start turning up the heat.

How can my IT support it?

As the concept of Bring Your Own Device gains more momentum, we are seeing more and more personal devices like the Nexus 7 bought into the workplace. Supporting these can be tricky, as there is a myriad of different configurations that support teams will need to understand. Our support partner, Centrastage, is developing a mobile agent for mobile devices, and we look forward to testing this when it’s available.

Conclusion

I really like it. It’s small enough to hold in one hand, and looks unobtrusive when using it in public. Is it right for you? That’s a question you’ll have to answer yourself – look into what you want it for, and whether your organisation’s IT support team can support it. If you want technojoy, then yes, it’s worth it.

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