Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nexus 7

For many people, the iPad has replaced their laptop as their go-to mobile computer.  Although I have used my my first generation iPad extensively since I bought it shortly after it became available a couple of years ago, I am clearly not one of those people. 

I’ve enjoyed countless books and movies on my iPad, checked my banking and investment activity, answered email, browsed the web, and generally handled light computing duties that were previously the purview of one of my computers, or my iPhone.  However, although the iPad is more than capable of handling other tasks, I’ve preferred to handle them on my computers, simply because their keyboard/pointer paradigm, as well as their multi-window (or multi-tab) environment allow me to complete the tasks more quickly and elegantly than I ever could on the tablet.  So my iPad never replaced my laptop; it simply gave me a better alternative for certain tasks and activities, a painful alternative (thus hardly ever used) for others, and a non-alternative for still others.  My iPad became my MacBook Air’s constant companion in my computer bag and joined it and the iPhone constantly in my left front pocket as my tech triumvirate, with overlapping functionality for sure, yet none dispensable due to the presence of either of the others.

Enter the Nexus 7 (N7).

I had played around with a Kindle Fire, and even then was seduced by its size and weight.  However, its horrid interface and lackluster performance made it a non-starter.  The N7 is exactly what I hoped the Kindle Fire could be but clearly wasn’t.

The N7 is small and light, and the difference between its size and weight and the iPad’s is huge.  The N7 is a device you want to handle and carry around with you, and once you do, the iPad seems clunky, heavy and delicate.  Jelly Bean (Android version 4.1) runs great on the N7, and is the Android version that, finally, truly approximates iOS’s fluidity and responsiveness while maintaining the unparalleled seamlessness with all things Google that Android has offered from the start.  The N7’s screen, while sharp and bright, does not pretend to compete with the new iPad’s Retina Display, however, at least for me, it’s more than adequate.  Almost all of the apps I used frequently on the iPad are available on Android, and the functionality of the few that aren’t is readily available on the web.  The only drawback I’ve encountered during my first week with the N7 is the scarcity of movies and TV shows available on the Google Play store, as opposed to the iTunes store.  However, I’m smitten enough with the N7 that I’ve actually switched to watching TV shows that are available on the N7 while working out and traveling instead of grabbing my iPad. (Note for international travelers: make sure to load up on media before leaving the country, since Google Play, as opposed to the iTunes store, will allow neither purchases nor downloads from outside the US.)

Apple is strongly rumored to have a smaller iPad in the works, and Amazon is thought to be on the verge of coming out with a whole new line of (presumably) more capable Kindle Fire devices.  In the meantime, however, the Nexus 7 is my tablet of choice.  It does everything that I used my iPad for just as well, but in a much more convenient, sexy package.

Many people have replaced their laptops with iPads, and they and others perform all sorts of creative and productive tasks on their tablets.  The Nexus 7 will probably not appeal to them.  But to those of us who use our tablets mostly for media and data consumption and as supplements, rather than replacements, for our laptops and desktops, the Nexus 7 hits a spot much sweeter than the current iPad.