Google’s Nexus 7 – great in size, but is there any substance?

nexus-7frontArriving in time for Christmas to round off its smartphone range alongside the Nexus 5, Google’s Nexus 6 fills that all important “phablet” niche with a device that’s as big on features as it is on size. If you’ve found a way to carry a big-screen handheld around with your comfortably, you’ll have this on your radar already, and given Google’s history we’re not exactly expecting them to drop the ball. Is it enough to trump the competition though?

First up, the specs. There’s a 6” display of course at a resolution of 1440×2560 and a whopping 493 ppi. It runs on a 2.6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage but there’s no microSD for upping the capacity. On the front is a (relatively meagre by selfie standards) 2MP front camera with 13MP round the back and of course it sports Google’s newest OS, Android Lollipop.

The response so far has been pretty positive, though Forbes’ intriguingly titled “Nexus 6 Review Long Term: A Big, Brilliant Mistake” does have some issues with the design. The main ones, perhaps unsurprisingly, are with the size – it claims the comfort threshold has now been crossed and “Motorola may have done a great job with the bezels, but the Nexus 6 is still too big.” It’s all-round big as well – height, width and depth contribute to the fact that it’s difficult to actually wrap your hand around to operate it comfortably. Another problem here is weight distribution – it’s uneven and top-heavy apparently, which further increases the risk factor of one-handed use.  There are some positives though, including the fact that the thin bezels make it little bigger than the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus and Note 4, and that it feels very solidly built thanks to a metal band around the edges.

So the first hurdle you need to jump is comfortable operation, and if you can overcome it there are some nice treats in store.  Engadget looks at some core hardware including the display, which it says is about on-par with the Note 4 for clarity and offers an auto-brightness setting that comes in very handy when trying to read in the dark and some nice touches such as the ambient display mode:

“When you pick up the device off of a flat surface or whenever a new notification arrives, the display shows your notifications in a very dim white glow. This is a nice feature that lets you see what just showed up without having to activate the entire lockscreen each time the phone buzzes or beeps, which hopefully helps conserve battery life and makes it less distracting and more convenient for the user.”

When it comes to the camera Engadget was presently surprised when taking into account Motorola’s less than stellar history in this area. In fact it points out that “Google did a better job with the imaging experience overall, compared to the Nexus 5 “ and is impressed by an auto-mode that does an excellent job at “point and shoot”, though isn’t as capable at night without using the dual-LED to brighten shots.

To get a better idea of how the Nexus 6 performs and what you can do with it we’ll turn to TechRadar, who is typically detailed in its analysis. It hails the device as Google’s standard bearer for others to follow, and loaded with Lollipop this should be the most effective way to showcase the OS – stock Android avoids all of the often unwanted third-party overlays, plus of course you get updates before anyone else.

Some important features are welcomed, such as Lockscreen notifications for email alerts, text messages etc., Priority Mode t silences the device indefinitely or for set intervals, whitelisting lets key contacts through and there’s more intuitive access to key functions. One particularly appealing feature is the Turbo Charger that’ll juice up the phone for 6 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes, and can also be connected to a Nexus Wireless Charger or any Qi inductive charger.

TechRadar concludes by saying that “Nexus 6 proves that Google’s Nexus program is not only far from dead, it’s alive and kicking with a powerful 6-inch phablet” but stops short of claiming that it’s a better all-round device than the Note 4, which still seems to be the one to beat.

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The Nexus 6 is available now in midnight blue and white for £499 SIM-free, with contract deals for a free handset at around £35 per month also doing the rounds.

Google Nexus 9: their finest tablet entry?

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Though it hasn’t scaled the heights of Samsung’s Android success, Google’s Nexus line has been doing a good trade with your “purists” and those who enjoy a less restricted experience, and that’s in short down to the fact that its phones and tablets are, on the whole, damn good devices.

With Lollipop on the way Google’s celebrating with the new Nexus 9, the latest in a line that includes some of the best Android tablets money can buy. It’s shaping up to be every bit as good as its predecessor but this time Google has asked HTC to work the design, who despite mixed success have certainly shown they know how to build a phone. It’s a mix of brushed metal and soft plastic housing an 8.9” (2048xx1536) display alongside HTC’s BoomSound speaker design. It has a 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor at 2.3GHz, 8MP rear and 1.6MP front camera and a choice of 16 or 32GB of memory. It also claims up to 9.5 hours of video playback and up to 30 days on Wi-Fi Standby, so looks to deliver that all important battery life. There certainly seems to be plenty of potential here, so let’s see how it fares with some hands-on trials.

PCAdvisor is a fan of the design, even though it does note that the tightly built, slim device doesn’t leave any room for a removable battery or microSD expansion.

I like the soft-touch back, which reminded me of Amazon’s new Fire HDX 8.9; this tablet will be easy to hang on to and won’t slide off tables.”

On the downside it has a 4:3 aspect ratio which isn’t as suited to movies, and it does seem a shame that HTC hasn’t worked harder to make the bezel a bit thinner – “The design isn’t bleeding-edge.”

TechRadar is impressed by the Nexus 9 but stops short of getting truly excited about its potential. For example, in terms of the screen there’s plenty to like but it’s far from the best on the market.

“It’s a decent effort indeed without being mind-blowing. It’s certainly high-res enough to match the iPad Air 2 in terms of pixel count, which means by having a 0.8-inch smaller display increases the sharpness.”

That said, it was impressed by the deep blacks and overall contrast, with video content faring very well.

TechRadar also goes into some detail on the new OS – Android 5 / Lollipop. It’s fairly early days, but:

“it’s a really nifty upgrade and it combines well with the larger and wider screen size on offer. Loading TechRadar on the Chrome browser wasn’t the fastest experience, with a few lags with swiping, but that’s very possibly down to not being final build.”

Elsewhere most aspects of the tablet are praised, but one area that did draw some criticism was the camera, which can still struggle to focus and in terms of general usability the overall quality isn’t quite there.

Finally Pocket Lint has a lot of love for the Nexus 9 design in general, which compared to the Samsung-designed Nexus 10, is just a better quality of device. First impressions of the display are good with decent viewing angles, but it’s a shame it doesn’t have the anti-reflective layer of the new iPad Air 2. It also explains a few of the nice details found on Lollipop:

“There’s also some touches of detail that we really like, such as enhanced volume options. Tap volume down and you can opt to silence the tablet for an hour, or to only allow priority notifications through”

before concluding:

“the Nexus 9 is a lovely device. HTC has brought some of its skill to the device with the front-facing BoomSound speakers, but we’ve yet to put them through their paces. We’re hoping they match the performance of the HTC One M8.”

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The general consensus seems to be that there’s plenty to like in another solid entry from Google, but like its predecessor it’s not exactly cheap. £319 for the 16GB version in fact, which will be available from the 3rd November in a choice of three colours – white, black and a kind of beige. We’re interested to see how it fares under a full review.

Google Nexus 7 – Review Round Up

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Nine months ago Google released the Nexus 7 and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it changed the tablet landscape forever.

Before the Nexus 7, tablet owners had two choices: buy a rather expensive third party Android tablet made by Sony, Samsung or Asus, or buy Apple’s rather expensive iPad.

The whole concept of Nexus first started with smartphones, it’s where Google makes Android devices alongside a manufacturer of its choice – but crucially Google calls the shots.

Google’s masterstroke was to create a new line of Nexus tablets that would be sold a slight loss. The thought being they could recoup the money via Android users buying content from the search engine’s Play Store, and 9 months on it has been a massive success.

The second generation Nexus 7 has been made alongside Asus again – so does it still offer the most bang for your buck when it comes to a pure Android tablet experience?

Well in a word: yes. Somehow Google and Asus have managed to improve the Nexus 7 in every single area without compromising on price or build quality.

The main headline-grabbing change comes in the form of the new IPS screen. Whilst the previous Nexus had a 1280×800 screen running a ppi of 216, the second-generation Nexus 7 is sporting a 1900×1200 screen running a gargantuan 326 ppi, just for some perspective the current 4th generation iPad has a ppi of 264.

As well as the screen getting a major bump in specs, the Nexus 7 has ditched the Tegra processor is now sporting a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, and it has also seen a significant increase in onboard RAM, which has now jumped from 1GB to 2GB.

The Nexus 7 comes in two variants: 16 and 32GB, but unfortunately memory cannot be supplemented via microSD cards.

There’s obviously support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 (including Bluetooth Smart support), and a GPS. Additionally you’ll find a gyroscope, accelerometer, and a digital compass too.

Interestingly the battery on the new Nexus 7 has actually been decreased from 4325mAh to 3950mAh, but is said to last longer due to software optimisations made in Android 4.3, and should last you up to 9 hours of HD playback and 10 hours of web browsing or e-reading.

“Pound for pound, the Nexus 7 is the best small tablet you can buy […] It houses a ridiculously sharp, bright screen, its gaming performance is second only to the fourth-generation iPad, and as a Google-branded tablet it will always see the latest version of Android before any other tablet brand.” –  Cnet

“The new model trades up to a sleek, classy, all-black body that very clearly means business. […] The matte black back no longer looks or feels like Steve McQueen’s leathery driving gloves, but it’s still soft to the touch and much nicer to hold than some of the glossy, plastic backs on devices like the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0. At 8.65 mm thick, it’s slightly slimmer than the last model, and at 0.64 pounds slightly lighter as well. It’s also about a credit card thicker than the iPad mini, and almost exactly as tall. Google shaved a quarter of an inch off the bezels on either side of the display, which makes the device fit much more easily into my hand as well. I can grasp it like a phone, holding the tablet in my palm and tapping on the screen with my thumb — the iPad mini requires two hands, one to hold the device and the other to use it.” –  The Verge

“Under the hood, the 2013 Nexus matches the original’s in total internal storage. […] When you flip over the Nexus, the first thing you’ll notice — aside from the lack of dimples, of course — is that ASUS added a 5-megapixel camera in the top left corner (sorry, no LED flash). There are also three machine-drilled speaker grilles: a long one up top and two shorter ones on the bottom. That means you’ll benefit from stereo sound, a nice step up from the mono setup on the original.” – Engadget

“Based on specs alone the iPad mini has some work to do […] the Nexus 7 is the first device in the Google Nexus family to use Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, an incremental software update with features like support for OpenGL ES 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0 LE support, and the ability to restrict certain user accounts. That last capability might come in handy if you plan to buy this tablet for yourself and your family. There aren’t many tablet-optimized applications available for Android yet, but Google is changing the way it showcases those particular apps, to make them easier to find.” – Tech Hive

Pound for pound, the second-gen Nexus 7 is easily the best small tablet you can buy at the moment. Google and its hardware manufacturer, Asus, have managed to do the impossible and improve upon an already proven recipe in every single area.

If Apple is going to quash the Nexus 7’s ever increasing dominance of the budget tablet market with its next iteration of the iPad mini, it’s got a lot of catching up to do as the Nexus 7 is almost the perfect tablet.

Stock Android: Pros and Cons

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The Nexus 4 comes with stock Android, but now more phones are getting in on the act. Once the exclusive preserve of Nexus-branded devices (and rooters), the stock version of Android is set to appear on the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z in the coming months (initially in the USA with a wider roll-out expected eventually). But what is stock Android, exactly? And why should you consider getting a phone with it installed?

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What is stock Android?

Simply speaking, stock Android is the plain, vanilla edition of the operating system, straight from the Google conveyor belt. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and HTC tend to add their own bells and whistles to Android, most notably when it comes to flashy camera functions and social network widgets. In the same way that computer retailers such as Dell and HP load extra utilities and shortcuts on top of Windows, the phone manufacturers do the same with Android, often providing easy links to their own services and stores. Stock Android is the purest form of Android without any of these extras added on top. Whether or not it’s the best Android for you depends on how attached you are to these manufacturer customisations and skins.

Quicker updates

Perhaps the biggest advantage of using stock Android is that you get new versions of the operating system as quickly as possible. Whenever Google releases a new update, it hits Nexus devices almost immediately. Owners of other phones and tablets must wait until Sony, HTC, Samsung or another company have had a play around with it, added their own layer on top, and shipped it back out to customers with all bugs fixed and scenarios tested.

This trend for customising Android has exacerbated the software’s fragmentation problem. Gingerbread (Android 2.3.3-2.3.7) remains the most common version of the OS in use today, with the most recent Jelly Bean release accounting for 28.4% of the Android phone and tablet market. By using stock Android, you’re less likely to be left behind.

More apps

Google has been steadily spinning apps out of the main Android OS for some time now — most recently the stock keyboard appeared on Google Play — but one of the benefits of using the pure version of the operating system is that it ensures compatibility with the latest apps.

Twitter’s Vine, for example, recently launched on Android and requires version 4.0 or above. If you want to use the lock screen widget built into Google Now, you’ll need Android 4.1 or higher. The more recent your version of Android, the more apps and features you have access to.

Fewer apps

Of course, at the same time you get fewer apps because you’re living without the customised add-ons and widgets produced by the phone manufacturers. In the case of the HTC One, you won’t get the social networking stream widget BlinkFeed; in the case of the Samsung Galaxy S4, you’ll miss out on the Smart Pause utility that pauses videos whenever you look away from the screen. Whether these omissions will be of interest to you depends on whether you view them as useful add-ons or needless gimmicks.

Optimisations

These stock Android versions of existing phones have another disadvantage when compared with pure Nexus devices — the hardware and software haven’t been developed in unison, so you might not experience a fully optimised experience. Stock Android will certainly work without any major problems on the latest smartphones, but you might notice one or two inconsistencies (the HTC One doesn’t have a multi-tasking button, for starters).

Stock Android has much going for it, but the trend of slapping the vanilla OS on any smartphone isn’t without its problems. You’re also more likely to pay a premium for devices sporting stock Android, though LG’s competitive pricing on the Nexus 4 is an exception to that rule. Whichever version of Android you find yourself leaning towards, having the choice can only be good for buyers.

Nexus Silent Mouse SM-7000B: Phasing out the mouse click

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It wasn’t until I read about the Nexus Silent Mouse SM-7000B that I realised how annoying the ‘clicking’ noise a mouse makes is. In fact I wish I had never read about this innovative gadget, as now every time I use my mouse I am conscious of the noise it makes, whilst prior to reading the Nexus press release I hadn’t even thought about a mouse’s ‘click’, let alone it been annoyed by it.

This advanced 2.4G wireless optical mouse connects to any PC, laptop or MAC via an extra-small nano receiver. By incorporating Patented Silent Switch Technology, the Nexus Silent Mouse SM-7000B, as its name suggests, is completely silent, producing no annoying clicking sound. Although I was obviously alone in my oblivion towards a mouse’s infuriating sounds, as according to Michael van de Jagt of Nexus Technology, Nexus customers have been pushing them for some time to produce a silent mouse and eradicate the maddening clicking noise forever.

“You will be amazed how much more relaxing it is when you get rid of this useless sound. We have many TV and radio studio customers that have been pushing us for this product and we notice that it is appreciated by home and office users also,” said Mr Van der Jagt.

Check out this demo video:

According to Nexus, the clicking sound a mouse makes was a deliberate sound to show confirmation that you have clicked on an icon, but now that PCs are significantly faster, they show a graphical reaction to your click, which is almost immediate, and therefore making the mouse click noise defunct.

It’s also available in white:

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Although the qualities of this avant-garde mouse do not stop at its soundless nature. Being a comfortable size and possessing a quality surface treatment, the SM-7000B feels great in your hand and is comfortable to use, and, thanks to a tiny nano receiver, you can plug the mouse into a USB port and forget about it. Furthermore, there is a convenient 1000/1600 DPI selection switch positioned on top of the mouse, which enables users to alter its speed, slow when you require accuracy and fast when you need speed.

Similar to when you are decorating a house, the more you decorate and modernise, the more it shows up areas, previously regarded as acceptable, to be shabby and untidy, modern technology, as it evolves, has the tendency to make us keep yearning to replace gadgets and technological arenas previously considered as adequate. The Nexus Silent Mouse SM-7000B definitely comes into this bracket, as an hour ago I wasn’t fazed by a mouse’s ‘click’ whatsoever, so I cannot wait to buy the Silent Mouse.

Find out more at http://www.nxstek.com/nexus_silent_mouse.htm