Google Nexus 7 (2012) Review

I've noticed recently that since I carry my iPad around with me everywhere that I've been getting a lot more questions from people I know and meet about what type of tablet they should get.  While I follow the mobile market as close as possible, all my current experiences are with an iPad.

I am a huge fan of the iPad for me (see previous posts), but recently I've been really curious if all the buzz around the Nexus 7 and the latest Andriod OS 4.1.2 and future 4.2 (Jelly Bean) were true.

Related to this topic, is my ongoing evaluation of Windows 8 on a touch screen enabled HP laptop, the release of Microsoft Surface/Windows RT (no experience), and the new Apple iPad Mini (no experience).

So, I decided to expand my experiences and look for a used Google Nexus 7.  I was able to pick one up locally here in San Diego for $150 (25% off list) so that sealed the deal.

Google-nexus-7-blog-graphic

So here is my first impression after opening the box.  Nice hardware -- the rubber back feels great in my hands, and the smaller form factor (~7-inch) is excellent. To be honest it really brings back memories of the Apple Newton.  In fact, one of the cases I had for my Apple Newton, that I was using for my Marantz recorder, easily holds the Nexus 7, so that is my case at the moment.

After using the device pretty much full time this past weekend, the current Andriod OS (4.1.2) is suprisingly easy to use, and I haven't found too many issues or problems I couldn't solve on the device.  It is defintiely more technical than Apple iOS, but that shouldn't cause any real issues, even for a novice.  The comments from others in the mobile analysis arena that there is now parity between this version of Andriod and iOS. I think this is a pretty accurate assessment from my short testing.

I find the integration with Google very tight, and if you are a heavy Google user (Gmail, Docs, Reader, Maps, Play, etc) than the Nexus 7 is an excellent tablet.  The new Google Now is a very good tool that floats up information that is pretty meaningful to me (weather, calendar items, sports scores, traffic, etc).  I also think the Widgets on the home/main screen are very power for getting quick updates to key information.

Some things that are working against me with the Nexus 7: no rear-facing camera (I use my iPad camera daily); trying to not purchase any software that I've already paid for iOS; screen seems to get dirtier than the new iPad (about has bad as the original iPad); and missing some core applications that I have on iOS (some games, native Toodledo app, iThoughtsHD, etc).

Some useful Nexus 7 features: integrated GPS and NFS; micro USB charger; Google Wallet; integrated speaker is similar to the iPad (maybe not as loud but good enough); and software buttons on the front for back, home screen, and running applications (ie. scrolling app switcher).

While I had some application gaps, there was a relatively high parity in standard applications that I use regularly on iOS: Amazon shopping, Bible, Camera+ alternatives, Drive, Evernote, Hulu Plus, LastPass, Dropbox, Netflix, PocketBible (alpha), RedBox, and Stitcher.  It is also good to know that there are really two main application stores: one from Google (Play) and one from Amazon (AppStore).  I recommend checking both to see if there is a possible deal between the two.

So, am I going to keep the Nexus 7 in my toolkit? I think so, but it might not be my main tablet. I'm going to keep using it as my main tablet for the next week or so and then re-evaluate my options.  

That would also include trying out the iPad Mini.  And I think another option is one tablet for home (aka the iPad) and one for being out-and-about (the Nexus).


Tip - Subscribing to Twitter Accounts in Google Reader

NOTE: As of October 16, 2012 the official Twitter API turned off RSS options per this article.  What I wrote here doesn't work anymore.

I personally like keeping track of some Twitter accounts (especially security related ones) using Google Reader.  Unfortunately, I've found lately though that Twitter keeps messing with RSS urls, and getting subscribed without errors can be hit and miss.

Here is my understanding of the current format as of this posting ...

If you have a Twitter account like @johnswayer that you want to follow in Google Reader.  Then take the following main URL (twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/) and add <twittername>+.rss -- for example:

"https://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/" + "johnhsawyer.rss"

Becomes:

 "https://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/johnhsawyer.rss"

And use that for the subscribe url.  I usually use a text editor to this (Notepad+ on Windows or TextWrangler on Mac).

Did I get this right? Did Twitter change this already? Is there a better way?  Leave a comment or send me email and I'll update this post.

 


Reducing Drag - SD-CF II Card Adapter

I recently purchased a Compact Flash (CF) adapter that holds an SD card.  The one I got was: SD-CF II: SD to CF Type II Adapter (Supports SDHC MMC) from Amazon for under $20.

Extreme-CF-adapterThe reason I got this was to reduce some drag that was holding me back from taking my camera when I went out over the last couple of months.  Before the adapter, I had a standard CF Type II card that worked great, but I had created a work flow issue when I moved to my current workspace location at home.

Moving to the new space gave me an opportunity to set up my computer with no USB hub, card readers, etc. (ie. much cleaner and less cluttered).  However, now to get pictures off the camera I had to get out the adapter and hook up several USB cables.  Ugh.

But then I realized my main system has a built-in SD card slot so the adapter streamlines getting the pictures to my computer.  Pop the card out of the camera, take out the SD card, and then put it in my computer for upload.  Simple.  Less drag.

Here is a picture (also on Flickr in a larger format) that I wouldn't have taken without this tweak: 

Cactus

Anyone else have any other tweaks or gear recommendations that have reduced drags in their systems?  Let me know if you do!


Ambient Information Display with Google Chrome

For a while I've been doing a little bit of ambient information testing DIY style by loading up webpages that I want to see information from and then automatically moving through the tabs after ~20 seconds.  

These sites are loaded on an external display and then running in the "ambient" background most of the day.  I have been accomplishing this using Firefox and an add-on called Tab Slideshow.

Ambient-device-displays

Ambient information displays and displaying information in a meaningful way seems to be a growing area of interest within new products and computer science research circles.  The new version of Windows 8 is going to have some of these features that Microsoft has already brought to Windows Phone.  

There is also a company called Ambient Devices making alarm clock size devices that show you what you want in a very customizable way.  Another major player in this market is chumby with a complete line of options including support for Android.

Today, I was wonder what options were available for replicating this DIY browser approach with Google Chrome. In Firefox, I've been using the feature Full Screen after launching Tab Slideshow. There is a similar feature called Enter Presentation Mode in Chrome which seems to do a better job IMHO of getting more of the computer out of the display.  

To get the tabs you want to autmoatically cycle through there appears to be three plugins to check out for Chrome:

I think I'm going to start with Resolver - Tabs and see how it works.  Anyone have any other suggestions?!?

 


Increase in Tablet & eBook Print Advertising?!?

Tablets-may-2011

I noticed this morning in the Sunday Union-Tribune (5/1/2011) what seemed to me to be an increased number of  tablet and ebook advertisements:

  • Best Buy: Kindle with Special Offers ($114); Acer Iconia Tab A500 ($450); NOOKColor ($350)
  • Office Depot: ViewSonic 10.1" Tablet ($300)
  • Staples: Dell Steak 7 ($400); BlackBerry PlayBook ($499); Motorola Xoom ($600); Amazon Kindle ($189 plus $25 gift card); NOOKColor ($249)
  • Target: Kindle with Special Offers ($114)

I do think both the Kindle and the Nook are great ebook readers based on what I've heard from others about them.  I am still very happy with the new Apple iPad 2, so I don't think I'd seriously consider any of the other tablets at this time.  And since I like my iPad 2 for reading books, adding an ebook reader to my technology toolkit probably won't happen.

My usuage pattern for the iPad 2 are still pretty much the same since I purchase the original iPad: ebooks/PDF reading, email, web browsing, personal GTD, casual gaming, and consuming podcasts/music/video.  

Are you using a tablet?  If so, which one, and what are you using it for?


Will The Motorola Zoom Replace My Apple iPad?

I got a question from a friend asking if I was considering replacing my Apple iPad with a Motorola Zoom now that Best Buy is running ads for them.

The short answer is no.  I am still very happy with my iPad and use it every day as my primary personal "knowledge navigator."

Motorla-zoomAfter reviewing the Best Buy ad (the Zoom is expected to be released Feb. 24), I think the things that are attractive about this device:

  • 10.1" screen
  • 32-GB memory
  • Adobe Flash support
  • Front (2-MP) & rear (5-MP) camera for pictures & video capture
  • Andriod OS
  • 3G upgradeable to 4G LTE

Some things that are big negatives for me:

  • $800 price range
  • WI-FI can only be used after paying for a 1 month data subscription with Verizon

The other thing that is going to be hard for iPad users who are comfortable with using iTunes as their primary media sync tool (podcasts, music, movies, etc) is finding that same experience in the Android/Zoom eccosystem.  There are some good alternatives like doubletwist, but they are different.

The other big negative is going to be people's investment in iPad applications.  I know that is going to be something I'd have to consider because I do have some key applications I've purchased and use everyday that paying for them over again isn't very appealing.


Tech Tracking #003 - Android, Gune, MacWorld, WordPress, Etc.

Here are some tech items I've been tracking:


Battle For The Living Room - Round 1 Roku

Media-playersOver the last couple of months I've been trying to decide what the best device was to purchase that would allow the family to access the "most" digital content in our living room.

Some things that mattered:

  • Access to Internet content: NetFlix, Amazon, Hulu, Pandora, podcasts, etc
  • Streaming media from the local network
  • Ability to play media from local storage
  • Reasonable up front cost, upgradeable, viable roadmap, track record of improvements
  • Technical features: easy GUI, upgradable, Ethernet, WiFi, and HDMI

The choices were pretty competitive in many ways -- Apple TV (new & old), Roku, Google TV, Western Digital WD TV, Game Players (Xbox, Wii, PS3), Boxee Box, etc with each having many good points but also a number of issues that just couldn't be over come.

My decision was to go with the Roku XDS Streaming Player 1080p that is currently on sale at Amazon for $99.  It seems to be the one that hits most of the requirements with the only big issue right now is that it does not seem to play well in the Apple ecosystem with video, but you can reportedly stream audio from existing iTunes collections to the device.

After I get the device up and running (it should arrive in a couple of days) I'll send out an updated review.  If you have done a similar analysis, I'd love to hear what decision you have made.  If you have any suggestions or hints on how to better use a Roku device, I'd like to hear that also.

 


Tech Tracking #001 - New News, Mobile, Video, Security, Books, Training, Etc

Here are some new items I am tracking --