Google's new tablet looks sharp, but software incompatibilities and system crashes plagued this test drive.
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Nothing is perfect, and the Google Nexus 7 reminds us of that fact. While the hardware impresses, it also lays bare everything that's wrong with Google's Android platform.
I picked up a Nexus 7 over the weekend at my local Best Buy. I chose the 16-GB model with Wi-Fi, which cost $229 plus tax. I took it home, plugged it in, and began the process of setting it up.
First I had to configure the network connection and hook it onto my Wi-Fi network. After I logged into my Google account, the device downloaded two system updates consecutively and rebooted each time. The entire process took about 15 minutes.
The device itself is a welcome upgrade to the original. The screen is gorgeous, bright and clear. Images, icons and text look fantastic on it. The slimmer profile and reduced weight go a long way toward making the tablet more comfortable to hold. The stereo speakers sound really good, and the matte black-on-black design is pleasing to the eye. You can tell there's a faster processor under the hood and more RAM, because the new Nexus 7 completes nearly every task quicker than its predecessor did.
After the N7 completed the software updates, I began downloading my favorite apps and customizing the tablet. I added perhaps two dozen apps to the device, updated the existing apps and set up my home screens. It was during this process that the first problems cropped up.
For starters, the Nexus 7, like its predecessor, confuses some apps. For example, the tablet versions of several apps (CNN, Fandango, et al.) were "incompatible" with the Nexus 7. Instead, I had to download the smartphone versions of those apps. The tablet app experience is a fundamental problem with Android that has yet to be resolved. Far too many Android apps are simply not designed or optimized for use with tablets.
I ran into other problems, too -- for example, app crashes. A whole bunch of them. Here's a list of apps that crashed: AccuWeather, Camera, Chrome, Gmail, Google Play Music, Hangouts, and Zillow. Play Music crashed repeatedly. I filed a report with Google each time an app crashed. The Nexus 7 also randomly rebooted twice, both times while I was in the middle of performing a task, such as typing an email or surfing the Web.
A quick poll of my Twitter feed, which I admit is not scientific in any way, showed that none of my contacts had trouble with their Nexus 7s over the weekend. In fact, many were surprised to learn that my device was acting up. While it is highly possible that my device has some sort of individual issue, many of the problems it experienced are endemic to the Android ecosystem. I've seen similar issues on countless Android devices over the years.
I don't expect anything to be perfect, but Google needs to do better, especially with its tablets.
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