A little earlier than expected, but today at Google I/O, Google officially announced the Nexus 7 tablet, the first Google Nexus branded tablet on the market. The tablet is manufactured by Asus, runs Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” and starts at $199.
It looks like that Jelly Bean won’t be a huge step up, but like Honeycomb, will be a tablet optimized version of Android.
Most importantly, the 7-inch tablet will come pre-loaded with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Google’s latest operating system. Available in black or white, an 8GB version will be priced at $199, with 16GB for $249. A quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 1280 x 800 IPS display, 1.2-megapixel camera, 1GB of RAM, and a 4,325mAh battery are also included, consistent with previous leaks. It’s also got NFC, so you’ll be able to transfer things to other Android 4.0 NFC devices with Android Beam.
The build feels really solid with a nice, grippy rubberized back and metallic-style silver trim. Even though the unit on display was tethered to a table, the Nexus 7 feels remarkably light. It’s comfortable to hold, too, with just enough bezel to hold with two hands without needing to rest your thumbs on the screen, and light enough for one hand. The power button and volume controls on the right side feel snappy and responsive and lie snug along the frame.
The headphone jack (as well as the Micro USB charging port) have been conveniently placed on the bottom of the device, which will come as a relief for those annoyed by the top-mounted configurations of competing products. Other sides are mostly bare, but there are two distinct microphone holes on the top and right edges of the system, and four pogo pins which will inevitably let you dock the Nexus 7 for power and data connection. Even with the abundance of ambient light, the glossy IPS display is bright and readable, and viewing angles are fantastic. It also gets nice and time Asus has sourced some great displays recently, and the 1280 x 800 display here seems to be no exception.
The speaker isn’t bad: a Verge editor who will go unnamed had Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” ready in a Google Music account, and it blasted out of the slit in back of the device fairly crisply and loudly considering that we were in a large conference hall, and bounced nicely off a table when we set it down. We’ll have to see how it fares in a real-world environment. The placement of the speaker slit at the bottom of the back of the device does mean that you can block it and muffle the audio with your hand if you’re holding it low, though.
Interestingly, there’s no photo app on the device at all: the front-facing camera is strictly for video chatting and the like. Chrome must be out of Beta now, because it’s the default browser on this device. Scrolling isn’t bad, but it couldn’t quite keep up with our thumbs.