Review of Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7 is Google’s first attempt at introducing Android to the tablet market. Logically you would have thought that their main competitor would be the iPad, but oh no. Google labelled their official competitor as the Amazon Kindle Fire which has still not greeted British shores. The Google Nexus 7 is the result of a collaboration between Google and Asus – it worked.

Boasting a 1.2 Ghz quad-core CPU, 416 MHz Nvidia GeForce ULP with 12 cores, 1 GB DDR3 RAM and a battery capable of 9 hours of usage, this is a device for me. It clearly outperforms the unbranded tablets sold in abundance on eBay whilst at the same time keeping to a price tag starting at £159.

Making the decision to purchase Google’s first tablet didn’t take me long – it is a better version of the Amazon Kindle Fire.

This 7-inch tablet is a pleasure to use; it can be picked up with one hand and weighs just enough to feel well-built but not so heavy to be uncomfortable after long periods of use. As a Windows and Apple user the Google Nexus 7 introduced me to the Android UI for the first time and at this stage I must confess the Jelly Bean OS feels far superior to iOS. It is quick. So far the only lag I have experienced has been on content heavy web pages. In terms of everyday use this tablet just makes life easier. It is the first tablet computer I have owned and I can proudly profess to have fallen for the form factor.

That doesn’t mean to say it is the first tablet I have used. The iPad is a superb piece of design but I practically find the device clumsy to use. Its weight makes long reading sessions uncomfortable and attempting to type anything of great length is a frustrating experience. The screen on the iPad is its one redeeming feature but you would expect this from a price tag upwards from £400. Whilst Steve Jobs may not have approved of 7-inch tablets I personally find them far more convient to use.

The Google Nexus 7 has already served me well as an eBook reader, newspaper reader, portable video player and games console. It was designed for consumable content. Although, strangely, this is what refrained me from purchasing a tablet PC up until now.

As a heavy content creator tablet devices have never really interested me. Frequently I used to draw comparisons between netbooks and tablets, finding netbooks the desirable middle ground between consuming and creating content. Now that I have found an affordable tablet simply consuming content isn’t a problem.

There is a downside to the Google Nexus 7, the Google Play store. So far the majority of apps are still optimised for smartphones only. In fact the official Skype app flags the Google Nexus 7 as untested and unsupported! If Google’s new tablet proves to be popular then expect developers to pay more attention to optimising apps for tablets. At this stage the Google Play store is only a partial let down to an otherwise brilliant tablet.

Playing around with Raspberry Pi

After a little over three months of waiting it has finally arrived, the famous Raspberry Pi. This credit card sized circuit board has been highly anticipated and praised by geeks across the globe. As a fully programmable micro-computer it has the potential to be a media centre, a basic desktop or even the inner workings of robot. It is a piece of technology which I purchased for no other reason other than sheer fascination.

For those technically inclined its specifications are:

700Mhz ARM CPU
Videocore 4 GPU (capable of running at 40Mbits/s)
256GB of RAM
2 USB ports
1 HDMI port
1 S Video Port
8GB SD Card (I purchased this separately)

The SD card acts as a hard drive in each Raspberry Pi unit, which means installing an OS onto the SD card. An easy process with Ubuntu’s graphical ImageWriter tool which I have running on my netbook but there are more complicated command line methods. For me the whole process of getting Raspberry Pi set up probably took about 30 minutes. I opted to install the ‘standard’ Raspbian “Wheezy” OS which is based upon Debian Linux. However I may attempt running other varieties in the future.

What can I say about the results? Simply wow.

Raspberry Pi really has been designed well and to see how it can run a fully working OS, relatively quickly considering its size, is a sight every geek should witness. Yes, the programmes pre-loaded on the OS are basic but Raspberry Pi isn’t a device to replace your desktop, it is designed to teach programming.

It was created by members of the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory after a noticeable slip in applications and skills from applicants to computer science courses. The reason for this slip? The majority of software today has been completely locked down by companies. Windows 7 and the Apple varieties do not require day-to-day programming in order to get software working. This has caused a whole generation of children growing up in a ‘programme-less’ world. Very different to previous generations who needed a basic knowledge of programming or command line protocols in order to get software working.

Today the Raspberry Pi unit sits patiently on my desk whilst I decide on an interesting computing project which it could be best used for. Should it be turned into a server? A retro gaming PC? Let me know if you have any suggestions.