Whenever Google launches a new Android version, they would showcase with a new device. For Jelly Bean, it is the Google Nexus 7, manufactured by Asus. The Nexus 7 showcases the Android 4.1’s improved features to support small tablets.

– Android 4.1 (upgradable to 4.2)
– 7″ 1280×800 IPS Panel
– Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad-core 1.3GHz
– 16GB user memory
– 1.2M front camera (no rear camera)
– 4325mAh battery
– 198.5 x 120 x 10.45 mm
– 340g
– S$399

A few features stand out from the earlier Android versions and offers immediate benefits to familiar users like myself:

Expandable, Actionable Notifications
The dropdown bar displays notification on your phone. Now with Jelly Bean, you can expand multiple notifications of the same app using 2-finger gestures, e.g. Gmail. For some apps, there are even action buttons for you to follow up immediately without opening the app, e.g. Calendar. The notification is also more generous in previewing the information. On the Nexus 7, you can see even more.

To further customise your experience, you can even turn off notifications under the applications manager. I would certainly love that when some apps do not allow me to turn irritating push notifications.

Auto-arrange and Resize Icons and Widgets
With Jelly Bean, whenever you add icons or widgets to your homescreen, the existing icons will give way and re-arrange. This really helps in adding large widgets without having to pre-arrange existing homescreen icons. Plus, you can resize the widgets to show more information. For instance, when you resize a music player widget, you can choose to display only the music controls (4×1) or includes playlist (4×3).

Google Now Search Feature
I rarely use the Google search feature, until Jelly Bean enhances with Google Now. Using location-based services, Google Now delivers useful information at where you are in the form of cards on the Google Search screen. It tells you the weather forecast at where you are, the estimated travel time to go home, photo spots near you, the local currency and translation if you are travelling. While its intelligence is limited to available location-based content, I find it highly engaging and offers some general information about where I am.

Project Butter: Smoother Interface
One thing that strikes me when using Nexus 7 is the smoothness and speed of navigation. Take Google Play store for example. When you want to install an app, you had to go through several prompts before the actual installation takes place. Well, on Nexus 7, these prompts just comes one after another without missing a beat! On any other devices, you would have to wait for a moment before it loads and appears. It has nothing to do with the data connection, because I tried Google Play on my Samsung Galaxy S3, a much faster-spec phone, but no, Nexus 7 loads the pages faster, and I’m gonna attribute this to Project Butter.

Calendar app
I like the new Calendar app (now available for download for all devices on Google Play market). On tablets like Nexus 7, it works even better. The calendar consists of tiled sections of the main view, the month view, and the label view. You can scroll each sections independently and select for display on the main calendar section. It is my favourite calendar app for tablets.

Nexus 7 Look and Feel

A 7 to 8-inch tablet like Nexus 7 is a good size, large enough to consume content, small enough to carry around in bags – even ladies handbags.

The back of Nexus 7 is rubber-textured durable plastic to provide grip, the 3 hardware buttons – power, volume up and down – are located on the same right side of the tablet, so I have the tendency to mis-press the volume up button for the power button, or vice versa. I am glad the data-charging port is the standard micro-USB connector for cable compatibility.

As a hardware device, Nexus 7 does not impress me enough. The speaker isn’t powerful to be heard, there is no rear camera, the front camera doesn’t take good photos, there is no vibrate mode.

While I believe some consumers prefer a plain vanilla Android version devoid of bloatware, I am a fan of manufacturers custom ROMs which sets them apart. As many of them have developed Android phones for many years, they have improved their feature sets in their own ways. It also saves me the effort to look for third party apps to replace the built-in ones.

Yet, the advantage of a clean Android OS like Nexus 7 is the ability to install only the apps that you need instead of accepting what the manufacturers have pre-installed (which are not uninstallable). And experience has shown that more often than not, these devices do not run that stable.

What Nexus 7 offers is the first tablet to run on the latest Android Jelly Bean. It’s going to take a while before any other popular tablet brands get the updates, but even when they do, they might not match the butter-smooth experience, as I have experienced on the Nexus 7.

I would recommend Nexus 7 to users who need a 7-inch tablet that is affordable, works butter-smooth, and has little regard for pre-installed features. Purchasing Nexus 7 guarantees that you receive the latest Android updates earlier than any other brands in the market.

This article is also published on XINMSN.

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