Google Nexus 7 as Mobile Computer

I have had my new Google Nexus 7 tablet for about 6 weeks now, and I am getting more and more used to the way it works. I also continue to find neat litte surprises hidden in the system – such as if you attach it to a mouse you get a real cursor to use! (Wish the iPad had that.) So now I now have my 7″ tablet paired to my Apple wireless keyboard and my Rocketfish Bluetooth mouse. Seems to work pretty well actually. And everything is Bluetooth, so there are no extra cords or adapters to carry around.  Now, if I had had this when I was vacationing up in the mountains this past weekend I would have actually typed some emails and blog posts. I think.

Google Nexus 7 tabletThe screen is still a bit small, but that is to be expected on a totally portable device. But, is it that portable if you are lugging around the keyboard (which also has 3 AA batteries) and the mouse (which has 2 AAA batteries)?  And with those devices attached, you would have to assume an extra drain on the Google tablet with the Bluetooth turned on all the time.

So what is the weight difference?

Well, the tablet weighs in at .75 pounds, but with case we are going to call it an even 1 pound, the keyboard at 1,25 pounds, and the mouse at 13 ounces (so lets call it .75 pounds). That gives us just 3 pounds total. Not bad. Consider that the Apple MacBook Air 11 inch weighs in at 2.38 pounds. The MacBook air weighs less and has a 4″ bigger screen! But, in reality, with the power packs it is probably a toss up between the two, and the MacBook air will cost you around $600 more than our tricked out Nexus 7.  Trade offs? The MacBook Air can run more “real” apps, is faster, has a larger screen, and a lot more storage space. But the Nexus 7 is more portable, has a touch screen, and in a pinch (without our mouse an keyboard) could be slipped into a large pocket.  It can also be recharged off almost any USB outlet where the MacBook Air will require a real power outlet.

If you have access to the Internet, either wi-fi or tethered to a smartphone like I do with my iPhone 4S, then the lack of storage space on the Nexus 7 isn’t that big a deal. You will just store your media, documents, and music in the cloud. You do need to think ahead though for those times when you will be totally out of contact so that you aren’t stuck looking for that one file you forgot to copy down. Consider though that the MacBook Air has only 64 gig (we are comparing to the low end model here folks) and you will see that you aren’t going to be storing your entire media library on there either.

While we are talking about being out in the wild, let’s talk about battery life.  While I haven’t tested the battery life of the Nexus 7 with the Bluetooth turned on, you can still expect to get 8 to 9 hours easily. That is with active use. If you aren’t using it much so have it on standby, it will last much longer of course.  The MacBook Air should get around half the battery life of the Nexus 7 in similar usage. That would be fine if you don’t need a full day out and can recharge ever evening, but if you have it out and in use constantly all day, you may find yourself monitoring your usage or looking for a power outlet to recharge.

Now one of the odd things I find different between the two is just levels of expectation. Since the Nexus 7 is smaller and originally just a base tablet, I don’t find myself expecting as much out of it as I might of the Air, so I am inclined to be less disappointed. With the Air being more expensive and essentially a “real” computer, I find myself disappointed when I try to do real computing tasks like run Windows 7 in Parallels or Photoshop or some other heavy program that takes not only processing power, but also screen real estate and memory.

Google Nexus 7 Tablet Initial Impressions

Now, why the Nexus7  when I already have an iPad, a Kindle, an iPhone, and two computers? Well, first of all probably because I can’t resist toys. 😉 Secondly, the two computers don’t count as they have dedicated work uses and really are not the everyday, take anywhere, kind of devices that a Google Nexus 7 Tablettablet is. Thirdly, I will actually be passing on the iPad and Kindle, most probably. Finally, in self defense, I actually didn’t buy the iPad, a first generation one, but won it. So, that was no expense. But it was my gateway drug and I really have gotten used to a tablet.  I will admit to being an unabashed Apple fan. Since my iPad is a first generation though, it is starting to seem a bit slower and I actually feel it is a bit big and heavy sometimes. I have to type on it with two hands, and reading on it is harder because of the weight. That is why I bought the bottom of the line Kindle.

My wife has a Kindle and loves it. I tried her’s and really liked the reading experience. I found I could read much faster on the Kindle than on paper, and I also like having lots of books, articles, magazines, and technical references available at all times. What I didn’t like is having another device.

Which leads to the Nexus 7. It has the capabilities of the iPad (for the most part) but the smaller portability of the Kindle. It’s back-lit screen is a little harder on the eyes than the Kindle’s e-Ink, but not horribly so. I was worried that the type on the Nexus 7 would be too small for my aging eyes after using the iPad, but I don’t find that to be the case. The screen is quite clear and, of course, it is easy to zoom in.

The iPhone is a totally different case, so really doesn’t figure into the decision. Oh, and that decision looks to be – the Kindle will get passed down to my 16 year old son to read his school literature assignments on (and whatever other books he can come up with), the iPad will get passed on to my wife to replace her laptop that died last year and never got replaced, and I will keep the Nexus 7 as both my eReader and on-the-go email and work tablet.

As a side benefit, almost totally unrelated, I found some great automobile diagnostic software for the Android called Torque that, when paired with a $20 Bluetooth OBD II Scanner from, will let me diagnose problems with my car. This is great not only for my current car, but will tell me a lot about used cars when we got to buy another one. It is similar to the little sensors that insurance companies are now trying to get people to put on their cars.

A Kindle for Christmas

The tech-gift I am being asked most often about this Christmas is not the iPad or other tablets, but ereaders. A Kindle For Christmas?And the Kindle in particular. Amazingly, the one I recommend for the majority of the folks is the least expensive. It has the cleanest interface, a fantastic display, is rugged, and extremely affordable. Combine all of that with being able to easily check out books from most libraries on it and it is hard to beat!

What about the other versions of the Kindle? Well, the experiences people are having with the touch-screen models are less than favorable, and most folks don’t need the cost and complexity of the Fire. And lets face it, as a present the Fire is a little on the pricey side. The Fire is a great device – for movie watching, web surfing, email checking and game playing, but it really isn’t as good of a real book reader as the lower priced e-ink display Kindles.

And what about the Nook ereaders from Barnes & Noble? Well, they are mechanically great devices. Absolutely no doubt there. But, where the Kindle beats them is the Amazon store. Now I love Barnes & Noble and wish them all the best, however they just don’t seem to have the depth of Amazon. I looked up four or five books I was interested on both Amazon and B&N. While Amazon had every one, B&N didn’t. If i had a Nook I would just be out of luck. And I can tell you from hard fought experience that it is much easier to check out library books onto the Kindle than on to the Nook. So for product availability and ease of use, the Nook fall to the Kindle.

And remember that you can try the Kindle out in all kinds of places like Office Depot and Best Buy. But you won’t find a better price than from Amazon directly, and it will come already registered to your account. And if you are giving it as a gift it is easy to transfer that registration to someone else. Yup, I think this is going to be a Kindle Christmas!