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Nexus 7: Take 2

I’ve had a whole weekend to play with the new Nexus 7 and like the original, it’s a great device at a very good price. Is it perfect? No. Are there things I wish they had done differently? Of course. Even so, it’s the best small tablet out there.

The Screen
I did not have the wow reaction to the screen that I was expecting to have and I’m not sure why that is. The 323ppi IPS display is probably the most touted feature of this device. It’s a big improvement over the original Nexus 7 and a huge improvement over the iPad 2 I’ve been using as my daily driver. All I can figure is that the Super AMOLED screen on my Galaxy Nexus with its 316 ppi caused me to not be as overwhelmed as I should have been.

The Bezel
Many have made this complaint and I’ll pile on. The top and bottom bezels are too big and the side bezels are too small. Holding the device in portrait mode, it’s too easy to accidentally tap or swipe with the thumb of the hand holding the device.

The Backside
A lot of reviews I’ve read have lamented the decision to get rid of the textured, faux-leather backing of the original Nexus 7. Not me. I actually think I prefer the new soft-touch plastic backside.

The Speakers
Having two speakers is nice, but all the hype about “surround sound” is just silly to me. You can’t have surround sound with two speakers that close together. And speakers that small are never going to produce great audio. For a tablet, the audio is very good and the addition of a second speaker is more than welcome, but let’s not kid ourselves.

The Rear Facing Camera
The original Nexus 7 had a single, front facing camera. It was great for video calls and that was what I used it for mostly. I didn’t really miss a rear facing camera. But a year later, Vine has an Android app and it is more than a little sluggish on my Galaxy Nexus, so I have a feeling I’ll be getting a lot of use out of the rear facing camera on this new Nexus 7. 5 megapixels is nothing to get too excited about, but it’s adequate and should be at least as good if not better than the camera in my Galaxy Nexus. And they’re both better than the camera in the iPad 2.

Notification LED
The new Nexus 7 includes a notification LED, something that was absent from the original. This is both a welcome addition and a big annoyance. I’ve come to rely heavily on my phone’s notification LED. Using Light Flow on my Galaxy Nexus with its RGB LED, I can have different colors and flash rates for different types of notifications. It’s great for knowing at a glance what’s waiting for me. So I was more than a little disappointed when I found that the new Nexus 7 appears to have a white-only LED. I can still control the flash rate, but not the color. That’s a huge bummer, especially in a Nexus device that Google claims is supposed to be sort of a reference device for showing off what Android can do.

Android 4.3
I’ve been running Jelly Bean 4.2 on my Galaxy Nexus for a while now. I’m not a gamer and I don’t have a need for restricted profiles, so 4.3 doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table for me other than the performance improvements like TRIM support. My hope is that when the Sprint Galaxy Nexus gets 4.3 I’ll get a lot more benefit than on a brand new tablet.

A Strong Sequel
This little guy is a great followup to a great original. It has its shortcomings, but if you’re looking for a small tablet at a good price I don’t think you’ll do better than this.