Monday, August 18, 2014

Google Nexus 7 (2013) 2nd Gen

Nexus 7

I've had some exposure to android over the years through my mk808 and my hp touchpad (kitkat 4.4.2) but I've been itching to give pure vanilla Android a try with modern fast hardware to see how the experience is like.  We have 3 iPads and 4 iPhones in the family so we are pretty firmly iOS as far as mobile devices go.  My wife doesn't have her own tablet and she always complained that the iPad was too heavy and big so I figure why not give the Nexus 7 a try.  I picked up a refurb 16GB for only $130 off of ebay (shopdivvy).  It's a fraction of the price of an iPad mini plus it was an excuse for me to pick up a nexus device.

- First off the device I received looked brand new and has worked flawlessly these last few months.  Battery life is good too.  Performance was very good and stability was much better than the hacked rooted devices I've been using.  It's still no iPad Air but it's definitely good enough especially at this price point.
- Battery life seems pretty good though I would say the iPad still seems better. This could also be because this is a refurb. I think I got about 6 hrs out of it when I was basically non stop installing and setting up apps.
- What is with the incremental updates? I have to install 4.4.2, reboot, 4.4.3, reboot, 4.4.4, reboot
- Pretty much every app I use on iOS is here on android except a few notable missing ones like: amazon instant video and air video.
- Games have gotten a lot better.  I tried out minecraft, edge of tomorrow, sonic 2, sky force, ravensword 2 and they all ran and looked good.  But android is still missing a few like my current addiction: FTL.
- Mirroring with chromecast worked well.
- I really like swiftkey and can't wait for iOS 8 which will also support 3rd party keyboards.
- Plex is still no air video especially the horrible tablet version which has NO LIST VIEW.  They still make it incredibly hard if all you want to do is browse a large list of files.
- Installed flash with firefox because I could but I wouldn't call it a great experience.
- I love the multiple user support. This is one thing iOS really needs. Though the way to share play app store purchases is a bit clunky having to add my google account under my wife's user profile. I wish you could just specify the google account to use for the app store and not have to add it at the OS level because then my account shows up as a selection for several apps. This confused my wife a bit.
- For some reason gmail default notification sound was some endlessly looping chime. It took a while but I finally tracked down the setting and changed it to a nice short sound. Overall, I think settings are a bit of a mess on android and harder to track down. It definitely feels less consolidated and logically laid out as compared to iOS. It's just a learning curve I guess. But it's another one of those quirks.
- I'm using this moko case and this screen protector.  It adds a bit more weight than I wanted but overall not bad for the price. It has the magnets on the cover so it turns the device on/off.
- I picked up this OTG to USB Adapter.  I picked up both the dongle and the adapter though I think the adapter is a bit more convenient especially if you are using it with a usb flash drive.  Install MX Player and custom codec (for dts support), buy Nexus Media Importer ($4) and stream media off any usb storage device.  1080p mkv works just fine.
- XBMC arm android works well.  All my local media played smoothly.  My wife likes this interface much better than plex and is great for streaming local media.
- Subsonic app works pretty well.
- I just noticed 1password now has a full complete app and not just a viewer.
- For epub I still like Marvin better on ios than say aldiko.
- Remote control stuff like Jump for RDP, citrix receiver, and splashtop seem to work ok.
- Bluetooth worked fine with a pair of sony headphones and a logitech keyboard that I tested it with.
- I have nothing to test NFC with. Maybe I'll buy some tags just to mess with.
- iUSBPort app was a bit buggy and a bit crash prone.  I have to hold down on a file and select mx player every time I launch a video.
- 16GB was enough for me to install all the apps I wanted and the games listed above for 2 users and I still have 5.6GB free.  Just move all your media off onto usb flash drives if you need local media storage and use that OTG adapter.
- Mobile chrome browser is absolute garbage.  Desktop chrome is my main everyday browser but I really hate mobile chrome.  There is no home button, no bookmark bar, the context sensitive zoom when you tap on links is wonky and unpredictable.  I pretty much hate everything about it.  Mobile safari on iPad just bows this crap away.  I'm still trying other alternative browser but I haven't been too happy with any of them.

Overall, I'm very impressed.  I still think iOS is a more premium experience and you definitely pay a premium price..  UI still scrolls smoother and is more responsive on iOS but on this nexus 7 hardware it's gotten pretty close.  You can't dispute the value though.  At $130 you are getting a ton of performance and functionality (much better expandability and media support).  A refurb iPad retina mini is $339 so a $209 price difference is pretty hard to swallow.  I just wish android came with a better default browser.  It's probably the single most important app and it's a shame it's so poor on android.  Games are closer now but still lag behind iOS.  If I could only have one tablet then I would still go with an iPad.  But as a cheap 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in my case tablet the nexus 7 is a great option.  Highly recommended.

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