Sunday, September 8, 2013

Common Fate of Android Tablets, or a Quick 2013 Nexus 7 Review

I'm on my third Android tablet. Or fourth, but who's counting?

My first tablet was a Samsung Galaxy 5 bought in September 2012. This was mis-marketed as an MP3 player, which it did fine, but 5" was a great size for a handheld GPS device walking through cities, and fit easily into most pockets. It included an FM receiver, rear and front facing cameras, etc. I liked it. The big drawbacks were that it was too small for most reading or surfing activities, and it didn't have enough RAM to upgrade past Android 2.3.5. In December I managed to find the one place on Charles Ave where there was a drop-off between the sidewalk and the adjacent turf, stepped wrong, and fell, landing on my shoulder and on the Galaxy that had slipped out of my chest pocket. No Gorilla glass on this one.

I replaced it with a Nexus 10, decided that was too big, and replaced that immediately with a 2012 Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 was overall fine, but the sound quality of the built-in speakers was terrible and produced insufficient volume to listen to podcasts or streaming radio from just a few feet away or with any background noise. The UI was sluggish. Touch a search area, and wait a few seconds before the keyboard appears. Type a key, and wait a few seconds before the character appears on the screen. No built-in FM receiver, but with TuneIn, this is not usually a big deal. Other than the speakers, the largest deficiency was the lack of a rear-facing camera.  Got QR Droid? You won't be using it on this thing. I also found 16 GB to be slightly restrictive, but of course there is AndFTP's sftp feature, and my home desktop runs an sftp server, so moving stuff back-and-forth was a breeze--a great improvement over plugging in the USB cable and hoping Linux decides to recognize the device. Anyhow, I get around 20Mb/s between my Nexus and desktop via 802.11 (and an Ethernet hop). The one time I had two droids downloading from the server concurrently I got 30Mb/s measured at the server. Not bad.

I liked the size of the Nexus 7: fairly easy to hand-carry, and I picked up a small messenger bag that can carry that and a few other things while I wander about listening to podcasts.

Friday I dropped my Nexus 7. Even though it was in a decent M-Edge cover, the screen cracked, and much of the screen no longer behaves as a touch screen. No Gorilla glass on this one, either.

So I picked up a 2013 Nexus 7. I have not had it long, but my initial impression is that Asus did a great job. The sound quality is okay, but importantly it can kick out enough volume to be easily heard from several feet away. The UI is more responsive than the older Nexus 7. The rear-facing camera is a great addition. 32 GB of flash memory is a big improvement over my past 16 GB--I won't have to juggle among movies on the device.

I'll probably write more about the 2013 Nexus 7 later.

Aside: the guy from the Office Depot (la oficina de la marihuana) really, really wanted to sell me a protection plan for the Nexus. He went so far as to tell me I'd probably want to replace the battery in a year or so. Despite my tendency to break things, I never buy protection plans, as they are usually pure profit for the seller.