Last summer, I wrote a quick article entitled ‘First Two Weeks with an ASUS Transformer Tablet‘ which had the goal of not only talking about the tablet itself, but my experiences of using a tablet in general. I was one of those who was a bit slow to catch on to just how useful a tablet could be, but after using the Transformer for a couple of weeks, I was sold.
Well, last month, I likewise believed that I wouldn’t enjoy a 7-inch tablet too much. I tend to favor screen real-estate over all else, so to knock off 3 inches from the Transformer… I had a feeling it’d hurt. Up to this point, I’ve actually never used a Nexus 7, and upon receiving the thin box, I couldn’t believe that there was actually a tablet in there. Admittedly, by the box alone, I felt like I wasn’t going to enjoy the tablet too much. Once again, I was proven wrong.
I foolishly deleted the initial screenshots I had of the device, but if you’ve seen any Nexus 7 advertising ever, you pretty know what it looks like. In my typical fashion, it took me approximately three minutes to install GO Launcher Pad and another half-an-hour to customize it and install my apps.
For some bizarre reason, I tend to love the look of the clock in the image above. Don’t like it yourself? Don’t fret – the same widget app (Beautiful Widgets) has something like a billion different clocks to choose from. The joys of Android.
Right off the bat, the Nexus 7 drew me in because of its speed. Despite the Transformer Prime having a slightly better SoC, the Nexus 7 is clearly faster. Way faster. After some benchmarking, I discovered that the storage write speed is about 2x on the Nexus 7, and the GPU is about 10% faster. Even though the read speeds came out about even, apps install and uninstall much faster on the Nexus 7, and general application loading and usage performance is also noticeably better.
The interesting thing about this is, the Nexus 7 costs $200 for a 16GB model. The Transformer Prime 32GB cost $500 just seven months before the Nexus 7 launched (but of course, it features a larger display, and an improved front camera and HD back camera). One can’t help but think Google itself had a hand in this great performance. Given this is effectively a Google product (designed by ASUS), the OS feels a lot snappier. Tuning done right.
Even streaming video ran better, for whatever reason, such as an episode from Boardwalk Empire, which I streamed from my PC. The video looked amazing and ran great. Skipping through the video, despite going over a wireless connection, worked very well.
Boardwalk Empire @ 720p
Not surprisingly, gaming is also quite good on this modest tablet. I played a bit of Shadowgun: Deadzone online, and while I quickly realized that playing FPSes on a tablet is insane, I admired the smooth action. There was no lag to speak of, and I did manage to get in a couple of kills, which should say something.
Likewise, Epic’s Citadel benchmark also ran like a dream (55 FPS, for those curious):
Epic Citadel Benchmark
In the two weeks I’ve had this tablet, I’ve used it for just about everything, and so far, nothing has rubbed me the wrong way. I even took advantage of Google Maps using GPS to some extent, which also works well. However, it is a little frustrating to have to calculate your routes before you leave the house, since Maps requires a data connection for that. You’re golden if you happen to have the HSPA+ model.
If you’re thinking about getting a solid tablet for about the price-point that the Nexus 7 sits at, I’d heartily recommend it. Even though my Transformer Prime is effectively the more capable tablet, I’ve almost ignored it these past two weeks. The Nexus 7 is conveniently-sized, has a great screen, is very responsive, and is fast for a tablet of this price-range. The funny thing is, after having used Tegra 3 on two tablets, I’ve been pretty amazed on multiple occasions by what it can do. When Tegra 4 ships later this year, I fear for my jaw.