Google Nexus 7 Review, Bobj Rugged Case, amFilm Premium Screen Protector Film, Fav Apps

nexus7

The Google Nexus 7 by Asus

You probably want to read my review of the Google Nexus 7, made by Asus.

Not my thoughts on IOS versus Android so I won’t go into that…

Okay, just a bit.  😉

I find the whole Apple versus Windows versus LINUX to be tedious, don’t you?  And I feel the same way about IOS versus Android versus whatever. Each OS has its own pro’s and con’s, let’s just enjoy what we like individually and celebrate any diversities instead of fighting about them (this country would do to try this with everything!).

So on to the review.

I’ve had plenty of opportunity to play with the Android operating system as well as IOS, but I’m much, much more familiar with IOS.

I love my iPod, and how well, smoothly, and error-free that it works. And after playing around with an iPad Mini a couple of times I fell in love with it.

But not its price. Whew!

So this year I decided to pick myself up an Android tablet at some point.  I needed to learn the ‘meats and potatoes’ of Android, not just how to use it.  And I needed something hackable and customizable that I could both learn more about Android on as well as use in a practical manner.

A Galaxy Tab was my first choice but the Nexus moved to the forefront after a bit.

But it’s only drawback was the lack of an SD slot. And I felt that this was a major drawback for sure.

As these things goes, it happened that after the Nexus had been out for a while a simple dollar (or less) microUSB-to-USB (OTG) cable solved the lack of an SD slot problem.  With the Nexus Media Importer app, the cable, and whatever memory card reader or thumbdrive you want to plug into it – now it can have the ability to transfer data this way and overcome this limitation.

My Nexus 7 in it's Gel Case (and folio case)

This had been the thing holding me back from getting one, for the most part (as well as the money – I’m frugal ;), and while I had been prepared to buy a Nexus 7 after Xmas my wife beat me to it and picked up one for me, the 32GB one.

So I had been using the Nexus for awhile while waiting for the cable to be shipped (which took taking quite some time as it’s coming from China); well, I found that I really didn’t miss it a bit.  With the various ways and apps for connecting to cloud storage, as well as using my own server, AND using the very excellent, very highly recommended (by me!) Airdroid app I don’t miss not having an SD slot at all.

Someday I know I’ll really need to be able to transfer something via a thumbdrive or plug an SD reader into it – once I get the cable, but for now I don’t miss it.  Likely two of the situations where I WILL need this kind of access might be while I am at a customer’s and need to transfer something from a computer to the tablet (though I can do this with the Airdroid app anyway) or if I need to access some pictures off one of the sd cards from one of my cameras, like if I’m on vacation or something.

I might even find myself taking a vacation or trip without my laptop.  <GASP>  (Sorry – I don’t get this attitude of wanting to go technology-less on my vacation.  I’m not stressed out by technology, and I know when to turn it off, and I want to enjoy my vacation in every way possible.)

It’s possible now, as this Nexus comes close to many of the things I use my laptop for.  And as time goes on I find more useful and comparable apps that brings it closer to my laptop’s abilities.  I think there’s going to be a need for using my laptop sometimes, but I’m seeing less and less that I need the Vaio for the more I use this tablet.

And as tablets become more powerful, and can access more devices (like keyboards and mice) the laptop will likely move more into the pervue of the desktop.  I see more and more people eschewing buying desktops and instead using laptops as their primary computer.

A semi-side note here – the cable for plugging USB devices in came in the mail while I was in the process of writing this review.  Ecstatically I opened the package, plugged it in, and with the help of the USB app I was able to access thumbdrives, an SD reader, my Canon EOS Rebel and Canon A570 as well as my Canon digital camcorder directly with the Nexus.  No trouble, no fuss – no taking the memory cards out of the cameras, etc.  I also was able to plug a USB mouse into it and it works well.

So, on to the specs;

  • Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean”
  • Made by Asus, a very dependable manufacturer
  •  Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core chip
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 8, 16 or 32 GB of internal storage (mine has the 32)
  • 12 core GeForce GPU chip
  • Near field communication (NFC), WIFI, GSM/UMTS/HSPA+
  • 7” 1280×800 pixels resolution screen
  • Microphone, GPS, a magnetometer, accelerometer and gyroscope, and 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • ASUS TruVivid technology with Corning® Fit Glass for improved color clarity and scratch resistance.

It’s very easy to set up, and whether you like Google or not it’s good to go through the process of setting up a Google account for syncing and backing up the tablet.

As soon as you use it you can see right off the bat that the quad-core CPU and 12 core graphics chip pumps out a very smooth graphics experience, no matter what you are doing.  I will be able to show website demo’s and photos and graphics to customers much easier than with my laptop.  Sure, smaller screen but easy to transfer stuff to their desktops for my serious perusal, with things like Airdroid.

And it also has a “stealth” fifth core that takes over when there is less CPU demand and conserves power. I have noticed that if I’m just reading a book or doing something fairly passive with the WIFI and GPS turned off; it may show that I have two days worth of power.

But it quickly drops when I do things like actively using the browser, typing with the keyboard, etc.  Still a pretty good battery life, not quite as great as the hype on the Google Nexus Page and I think it should be better.  Or maybe it’s just mine.  I have seen some suggestions that some are better at power conservation than others.

I’d suggest it has a lot to do with what you have running.  It’s so easy to allow EVERYTHING to give you notifications  but each of those things is checking the Wifi at intervals and using your power so considering turning notifications off on some stuff.  Usually you can just swipe the notification area down and touch the notification and access its options or menu to turn them off. The NFC allows you to “bump’ or at least hold the device very near another device with the ability to transfer data.  I haven’t actually tried it, and mine is inside a (cheapo) flip over case folio-style so I likely won’t be giving this a shot.  But cool from what I have heard.

WiFi reception seems to be real good, I live in an old house with 21 inch thick stone walls in one section, and more modern stick-built walls in the rest.  It seems to penetrate the stone quite well, though understandably at a lower signal strength.  But my other routers takes up the slack and pumps me back up to a good signal.  The Nexus switches seamlessly between the routers quite nicely, despite a slightly non-standard overlap of the router.

Example of 1.2 MP image from Nexus 7, click to see larger version

Example of 1.2 MP image from Nexus 7, click to see larger version

It’s a little awkward taking pictures of anything but yourself but it can be done and the pics are fine at 1.2 MP (see example to the right).  It would have been nice to have a rearward-facing camera.

Using the tablet is a pleasure – it’s fast and smooth as an iPad/iPhone/iPod and everything seems to work well.  Graphics and the screen are crisp, super-clear and clean.  So nice.  I won’t go into speeds and such as I have yet to do any hardcore gaming – not really something I’m much into.

Though, of course, so many apps want to leave you notifications, which slows your tablet and eats your battery, and of course for those who are a bit paranoid there are privacy issues when EVERYTHING pretty much can access your private data and location, etc.

But a quick click on these notifications by swiping down the notifications section (top-right) and tapping them usually gets you somewhere where you can access a setting to turn off notifications.  This is one thing I don’t like about the Android OS – the notifications are very pushy (pardon the pun).  But this is the fault of programmers, not the Nexus.

I also keep the GPS and Bluetooth turned off unless I need to turn them on.  Like for mapping programs it’s nice to have the GPS fired up, of course!

I do occasionally have a crash and a time out in Google Play, but this is likely no the fault of the tablet and has more to do with our Virgin Mobile MiFi crapping out often – the only Internet we can get here (outside of dial-up).

The case itself has a nice feel to it, the plastic has almost a leather or porous feel to it and is nicely non-slick (despite looking like it is).

I won’t go through all the installed apps and the stuff you normally would download, except to say it all functions nicely, smoothly, and many times seamlessly together.  If you want to use another app for defaults for various uses it’s easy to set up, same as on any Android device.

Widgets are nice, but I find that I don’t really use them – it’s nice to be able to see the weather at a glance but I’m going to click it any way for more info.  So I’ve kind of turned off the widgets I had tried out originally.  I like the screen space.

Nexus 7Also love Jelly Bean’s ability to make nice little IOS-like folders.  Excellent, easy (just drag n’ drop), quick.

Jelly Bean has some nice improvements over previous Android versions, like the task list and the swiping away of programs you don’t want to run any longer.  I find I like Android more and more, and being based on LINUX (there’s even going to be a mobile version of LINUX coming out sometime, from Ubuntu – but you can also try different flavors of LINUX right now n your Nexus if you like).

The voice commands for Google Now work incredibly well.  With our home Dolby Surround Sound cranked it couldn’t quite pick up everything I said, but that’s pretty extreme – under normal circumstances it’s amazingly accurate.  Ask Google a question and you’ll probably get the answer.

They keyboard is pretty standard, with predictive typing.  And I’m just getting into using Gesture Typing – swipe your finger over the letters you are typing without lifting your finger.  It seems incredibly fast, though takes some getting used to.  Lots of potential there.

The screen itself is Corning® Fit Glass – which is not quite the same as Gorrilla Glass unfortunately, but it is very scratch resistant.

I installed Flash on the Nexus 7, and it works well for me.  At least in my testing  but a friend has told me that games don’t seem to run correctly on it.  Which is too bad.

There’s some great apps out there.  And I find the tablet is very much becoming a replacement my laptop in some situations.

Bobj Rugged Case for Nexus 7 Tablet, Bold Black

My Nexus 7 in it's Gel Case (and folio case)

I wanted an Otterbox or Survivor case for the Nexus but there is no such thing (yet) so I did a lot of searching, and
reading reviews too.  Apparently most people think a lightly padded case or flipcase is fine for them.  Fine, but I wanted something a little heavier-duty.

So after a lot of searching and looking at reviews on Amazon I ordered the Bobj Rugged Case (you can see it to the left – this does not include the folio-style book-like case.  This sucker is thick gel, with big beefy rounded edges and lots of raised gel around the screen.  The buttons are protected too, though if you have strength issues in your fingers or hands you might find it harder to press the power and volume buttons.  The place for the Near field communication (NFC) slot is open in the back, and there’s a slot for the microUSB.  I got mine in black but there are a lot of other colors too.

It makes the tablet look and feel, well, just plain beefier.  And heavier too.  You might not like this, or you may feel that it’s makes it too much larger or thicker.

But for those of us who want a well-armored piece of electronics with some substance to it – well, this is the case.

There’s not much else I can say about it, except that this is well worth the small price for the extra protection to your tablet.  They make them for other tablets also.

amFilm Premium Screen Protector Film Clear (Invisible)

I also bought amFilm Premium Screen Protector Film Clear (Invisible) for Google Nexus 7 Tablet.

This is a set of two screen protectors, each one has a protective shield over the top of the, er, protective shield.

Each one also comes with its own cleaning cloth and there is also a cardboard squeegee.  It’s cheap, and no lifetime warranty but real high quality stuff.  You can buy really, really cheap film that you have to cut but after doing it both ways – well, it’s better to get the exact size I believe, though you don’t necessarily have to pay an arm and a leg for it (again, unless it has a lifetime warranty).

The first time I tried to put one on I had no luck.  This wasn’t the fault of the film but my own as I had gotten it on perfectly but when I mistakenly pulled off the protective film itself along with the outer layer of film.  Dumb of me, and once I had it off it got a piece of lint on it so it was ruined.

The other shield had an imperfection so I didn’t bother even putting it on.

But after contacting the company they very promptly sent me another set of two.

And this time I had no problems.

Advice;

  • Make sure that screen is spotless, do as the manufacturer says but only after you clean the screen yourself.  You can use a little bit of Windex on a very soft cloth before using the cleaning cloth that came with it.
  • Make sure you are in a clean area.  This might not be your house!  Find a place that doesn’t have dust floating around, take a look at a ray of sun as it comes through a window – do you see dust floating around?  Then find somewhere else to put this on.  A cellar, garage, etc.  No dust, but also no wind currents.
  • Start from one corner, work your way down.  And make sure you have it exactly right on the screen, you probably aren’t going to get another chance.  If it’s a little off you might be okay, though this can cause the edge to peel.  If you have a protective case (like the Bobj Rugged Case) that will be surrounding it this may not be as big of an issue if it’s not exactly on perfectly.  I left the bottom film on as I slowly worked the protective film itself down the tablet, and only pulled it off near the end.  Get the bubbles as you move it down, best to do it then rather than try to work them out, though you can do this also.
  • And make sure when you pull off the last bit of film over the actual protective layer that you’re not pulling off both (like I did!).  And be careful about pulling the edges up and work out any bubbles if you do.

Some of My Favorite Apps

Screenshot

Google Chrome is great – and you can sync your desktop history, bookmarks, and even open tabs with all of your mobile devices.  Great browser, but if you want something with plugins/addons check out the excellent Dolphin Browser.  You can also sync your accounts across various devices that use Dolphin also.

I also mentioned Airdroid above – a great app for transferring files, pics, music, movies, and apps and even installing them right from a browser and accessing other functions on your tablet from a browser on another computer.  Free and I can’t say enough about it.

I’ve also been play around with a few floating apps.  You can see a screenshot of a floating calculator (on the left side) and a floating notepad program (on the upper right side) in the screenshot at right, both of them floating about an open Chrome tab.  These apps are kind of like multi-tasking on your desktop versus multi-tasking on your tablet – on your desktop you can window multiple programs but it’s just not usually possible on an Android or IOS tablet or phone.

But with various floating apps you can do about the same thing.  In addition to calcs and notes there are floating you can find browsers and multimedia players too.   And other stuff too if you look around Google Play.

You can check out docks, too.  Like Dock4Droid.  Real nice.

I also like torrent downloaders, TOR clients for anonymous browsing like Orbot, antivirus, lost tablet security programs, the real nice Kingsoft Office for working with MS Office docs, Google Sky Map if you like astronomy, Moon Reader for reading docs and docs and stuff (get the pro version to read PDF’s), FTP programs, even HTML and JavaScript and PHP editors.  And of course the myriad of Weather apps, Flipboard for Android and Springpad (a must-have for me!).

A Few More Things…

Do you want a real cheap, quick tablet stand?  Check out this guy’s blog.  He is referring to the Nexus specifically but it should work with any smaller tablet (and maybe larger ones too).  Basically, he is just using a metal bookend, bent slightly and some weather-stripping applied as padding.  Very nice idea.

Also, in the cover/case department a Facebook friend, Scott W. from over at Hireawebgeek.com, tells me that the i-BLASON Genuine Leather Case w/ stylus isn’t so good for the Nexus 7.  He says the wake option is nice, but the quality of the case isn’t very good so the Nexus moves around inside it.  To use the camera, power button, or volume buttons or plug it in you sometimes have to align the tablet inside the case.  So maybe you might want to avoid this one.  Thanks Scott.

Vaultz Locking Mini Storage Clipboar

Speaking of cases (again), I really like the Vaultz company’s stuff.  They make the nice locking cases for pretty much anything.  I have an older style gigantic film camera one that is super-padded and that I use for a multitude of things.  And I have a few others, one for my Canon Rebel even if I want to take it somewhere hazardous.

You can’t maybe run over it with a car, maybe, but it’ll protect your stuff from most anything else.

I want to be able to take my tablet with me where ever I go and it should be able to survive everything from being packed in the back of the car in my backpack with other stuff pressing against it to being lugged to the library along with my laptop and exercise clothes.  So while the Bobj Rugged Case is probably going to protect from most of this stuff I wanted a real armored case where it was completely 100% 360 degree encased during the times I’m not using it and it might take a sharp edge to the screen or something.

Nexus in it's Bobj case, snug as a bug...in a rug. Or in this case ...in a Vaultz case.

Nexus in it’s Bobj case, snug as a bug…in a rug. Or in this case …in a Vaultz case.

So after lots of research and precision measuring I came to the conclusion that some of the armored little suitcases or boxes that were made for 7 inch tablets might not fit mine nexus with the Bobj Rugged Case over it.

Until I ran across the Vaultz Locking Mini Storage Clipboard on Amazon.com.  This was small enough to fit the tablet but large enough to take the tablet with the gel armor case around it.  It also had a lock and a little mesh pocket inside, and enough room for me to put a little acoustic foam at the top and bottom of the case.  Maybe even store a mini USB power cable and power blister in the case too.  As you can see in the pic at the right it is an exact fit, but a little space for some foam at the top and bottom maybe.  Maybe not.

I love these Vaultz things as I said.  The only real complaint I have about this is that there is a slot in the back, I presume something to do with hanging it up or something.  This I plan on sealing up because, while it’s not completely waterproof, the case is going to be quite water-resistant if the situation came up.  And the other thing is that it doesn’t have any rings

Viewsonic G-Tab

on the sides to add a shoulder strap to, in the pictures of it it shows these rings.  Not a big deal as I will likely have it in a  backpack or something anyway – I’m wondering if they may have changed the design or something.  No big deal though.

BTW, I just put “Smoother” Jelly Bean on my wife’s Viewsonic G-Tablet.  If you’re looking for a way to update your older tablet check out the XDA forums to see if you can root and upgrade your tablet.

Other Nexus 7 Articles from the Random Bits & Bytes Blog

blogbulletSome Nexus 7 OTG Accessory Photos

blogbulletRooting the Nexus 7

blogbulletReview – FlexiShield Wave Case for The Google Nexus 7 from MobileFun