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The new Nexus 7 is a great consumer tablet with a catch for business users

by Derek Walter

July 29 2013

The new Nexus 7 screen is the best in class.
The new Nexus 7 screen is the best in class.

Google's second-generation Nexus 7 tablet has a brilliant screen and is excellent for reading, watching video and playing games. But its suitability for business is more of a mixed bag. (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)

As before, the Nexus 7 is priced aggressively: the 16GB model is $229 and the 32GB is $269. Google also announced an LTE-enabled model available in “coming weeks” that will work with AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. It will have 32GB of storage and cost $349.

The signature feature is the screen: the 1920 x 1200 resolution with 323 pixels per inch (ppi) is the best available on any small tablet. Coming in a distant second is the Nook HD with 243 ppi while the iPad mini has the lowest pixel density of any of the seven- to eight-inch tablets with 163 ppi.

The Nexus 7 build quality is very good, even though the taller bezels at the top and bottom give the tablet a slightly awkward look. However, after spending some time with the device, it is easy to like the excellent screen and rapid performance. I was able to quickly move from one app to another and perform resource-intensive tasks without any hit to the responsiveness.

The Nexus 7 will be primarily competing against the iPad mini for the attention of business users looking to buy a smaller tablet. The high screen resolution is a great trump card and ideal for anyone who needs to show a schematic or real estate portfolio to a client.

The Nexus 7 still trails the iPad for apps

Yet a tablet isn’t just about the hardware - you are buying into an ecosystem. That presents a mixed bag for anyone considering the Nexus 7 as a business tool. While the Android tablet app situation is vastly improved from where it was a year ago when Google launched the original Nexus 7, it still trails Apple’s App Store.

Many of the staple productivity apps that have reigned on iOS now have tablet-optimized Android versions: Google Drive, Evernote, Catch, Adobe Photoshop, Square Register, and Quickoffice have solid offerings. However, with the exception of Google Drive, most apps get more frequent updates and have a more complete feature set on iOS.

Also, some of the more popular productivity tools remain only on iOS.

Apps like the note-taking tools Paper and Penultimate as well as accounting software Kashoo are only on the iPad. Also, many up-and-coming productivity tools like the task management app 30/30, email app MailBox and project management tools reside only in Apple’s storefront.

The App Store also offers a greater diversity of email, calendar, writing, accounting, and other business-friendly apps that vastly outweigh what is currently available on Android. Even a Google representative said at the Nexus 7 rollout that Android is not where it needs to be yet in terms of its tablet app ecosystem.

Another achilles heel to Nexus 7 productivity is using landscape mode. The stock Android keyboard combined with the navigation bar leave only about one-third of the screen real estate to view content. Entering text is best done through thumb typing in portrait mode.

You can gain back some of that space by using a third-party keyboard such as SwiftKey, which takes up less screen real estate and offers a split configuration for easier typing.

If you rely on an external keyboard, you may have to wait a while for third-party hardware makers to create one that connects with the current Nexus 7. The best choice would be a Bluetooth-powered keyboard designed for any seven-inch tablet.

This year's model also includes a 5-megapixel, rear-facing camera. The quality isn't great, but it could be useful enough for taking pictures of documents and expenses, and then sending them to a service like Evernote.

The Nexus 7 does offer an advantage for a company using Google Apps: deep integration with Gmail, Google Drive, Calendar, etc. Any employee can just type in their account credentials and they are instantly connected with company data. For a business that collaborates frequently over Google docs or spreadsheets, staying in sync would be rather easy.

The Nexus 7 ships with Android 4.3, which offers another business-friendly feature in its account profiles. A company could use a Nexus 7 at a kiosk, creating a restricted profile. A group of Android tablets for sales people could be loaded with brochures, product demonstrations, or other related apps with limitations to what else could be added.

Mass distribution of a Nexus 7 may appeal to some businesses. However, warranty support will likely require contacting Google, which can mean a several-day delay in getting a new device if one falters. If you are in a city with an Apple Store, access to in-person device support might make the iPad more appealing.

(Are you an Android tablet user? Sign up for our free TabTimes for Android newsletter for news, apps and useful productivity tips)

Final thoughts: Great for consumers, so-so for business folk

The Nexus 7 is a great device, and if the performance at launch stays consistent during the tablet’s lifetime (my 2012 model experienced significant slowdown and lag after about 8 months) there are many reasons to consider one.

Still it is primarily built for play rather than work. Anyone who is looking for a tablet that excels at reading, watching video or playing games will have a great choice with the Nexus 7. Yet business users who require specific productivity tools or are looking for a wider company rollout may be more comfortable with an iPad.

Derek Walter is a contributing editor for TabTimes and founding editor of TheAppPlanet

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