Nexus 7 Hardware Follow Up
A few weeks ago I wrote my Nexus 7 review, which detailed my thoughts and first impressions on what I regarded to be the best tablet currently available. So now that I’ve had it for nearly a month, have my opinions changed? No, not really, although I do have some more points to add. I’d like to address some of the common complaints that can be found on forums like XDA, from my perspective and with my device.
Is it present? Yes, a little bit. Is it intrusive? No, not really. The flickering on my unit looks to me like a very aggressive auto-brightness setting – the display can’t quite decide how much brighter or dimmer it should make the display, and we seem to perceive these as “flickering” as the tablet jumps between various levels of brightness. While some people may have it worse, I don’t find it intrusive and only really notice it when I look for it. It’s also been said that it’s an issue with the Tegra 3 chipset, and indeed some ASUS Transformer tablets also report similar flickering issues.
Creaking and poorly fitted screen
Whilst I’m not sure if it has got worse since I first started using it, there’s a discernible creaking and “squelching” noise if you squeeze the sides of the tablet around the sides of the screen when you hold it in the portrait orientation. Again, this isn’t too bad and it’s not something that bothers me. I will however be keeping an eye on it to see if it gets worse with time.
Random static and crashing
Now, this only happened once, but it happened last night which is part of the reason I want to include this. At the same time as the low battery prompt appeared, the screen filled with static and a hissing noise came out of the speakers, before the Nexus 7…died. After holding the power button for over 30 seconds, the device came back on, only to crash a few seconds after boot, with progressively worse static and noise. This happened 3 times, before I decided to plug it in and let it charge overnight. I’ve been using it all day since with no problems, so my personal theory is that the tablet still hasn’t correctly calibrated its battery, meaning that the percentage you see in Settings may not be the actual percentage charge left in the battery. If the battery had actually run itself down to 0%, this would explain the crashing as the device simply doesn’t have enough power to start and remain on. This morning, I contacted Google and spoke to one of their Nexus 7 engineers, who said that he had personally never come across this problem before, and neither had anyone in the office that he asked. He agreed with my consensus that it could possibly be due to the battery not being calibrated, and the device thinking it had 14% left, when in reality it had 0%. He said that he’d email me if he found out anything interesting and was going to look into it, so I’ll update this if he comes back to me.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
I promised that I’d do a quick write up of Jelly Bean, and seeing as I covered most of the new features in my Nexus 7 review, I’ll just add some new thoughts. My main phone is a Google Nexus S, and along with my Nexus 7, both of these are now running the latest version Jelly Bean: 4.1.1. The Nexus 7 is completely stock, the Nexus S is rooted but I’m using the stock ROM simply because it’s the best one available at the moment for me.
Google Now does appear to be learning where I travel from day to day, and while it was pretty creepy when I logged onto Google Maps on my desktop and found a little house icon sitting above where I live because Google Now had “learned” my home location based on how much time I spend there and the hours I’m there, it’s pretty useful. Google Now is of more use on a phone than a tablet (or if the tablet had 3G it would be equally good there). It has come up with things that I wouldn’t have expected it to – bus times in Edinburgh (I’d have thought this was an America only feature as a lot of Google things are), as well as interesting nearby locations and even real time traffic conditions on roads in and around central Scotland.
Performance on Nexus S vs Nexus 7
Seeing as they’re both running the same version of the OS, I’d like to compare the performance of the Nexus 7 with the Nexus S. While it’s obvious that the quad core, 1.3GHz Tegra 3 beast that is the Nexus 7 would be faster than the now ageing 1GHz single core Cortex A8 in the Nexus S, I thought that Project Butter would have had more of an impact on the Nexus S. Whilst the Nexus 7 is slick and the smoothest mobile device I’ve ever used, frankly rivalling the iPad in my opinion, the Nexus S still stutters occasionally, although there is a definite improvment in smoothness over ICS.
Whilst Google Now appears instantly when you swipe up from the home button on the Nexus 7, it takes a couple of seconds to lurch into life on the Nexus S. Unfortunately, you have to endure this wait every time you press the Search button on the Nexus S. Yep, Google have mapped the Search button to launch Google Now on the stock ROM for the Nexus S. If you’re in the Play Store and you press the search button, it won’t open the search for you like it did on ICS – it’ll launch Google Now. Slowly. Whilst this is a minor annoyance, it’s the only feature I’ve found in Jelly Bean that I don’t quite like, and one that can be easily rectified by a competent, rooted user by remapping the capacitive button.
I’ll update this post as I find new things or think of other things to mention, but at the moment I’m still very satisfied with my Nexus 7, and I’m finding Jelly Bean the best version of Android yet. The support and speed of updates also means that I can’t see myself buying a non-Nexus device in the future. Good job Google. Good job.