What do you think about the new Google tablet?
August 28, 2012 7:14 PM   Subscribe

Is the new Google tablet worth it or practical? As a non-tech savvy person, who has only ever used a desktop, and would like to buy an affordable tablet it would be great to get experienced tech savvy thoughts about this new gizmo that popped up on the Google front page today. Is it safe to walk around with one's tablet connected to wifi, if one's tablet is meshed with one's Google account? Can hackers then access one's Google account easily?
posted by nickyskye to Computers & Internet (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The form factor of the Nexus 7 makes it a bit more of a "consumption device" than a larger tablet. I'd say it's the best of the current non-iPad breed, though who knows what Amazon has planned for its announcement next week. So if you want something for browsing and email and socnetting and multimedia, it's a nice package with good reviews at a decent price. I played with one the other day and it's the first Android device I've really liked.

Wifi security? There was a patch over a year ago to ensure that all contact between Android devices and Google's servers goes over HTTPS, so it can't be snooped. That isn't to say that hackers aren't looking for exploits; Android does provide the option to use a VPN for additional encryption, and it's something worth considering if you're going to use public wifi a lot.
posted by holgate at 7:43 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: *sigh of happiness. Such a delightfully geeky, tech savvy reply. Just along the lines I wanted. Thanks holgate. You're a peach.
posted by nickyskye at 8:08 PM on August 28, 2012

A colleague who recently got a Nexus 7 has abandoned his iPad and his other Android tablet, saying the N7 is everything he needs from a portable device. He's very techie and if he likes it, then it's most likely a "good thing".
From the hacking point of view, unless you lose the tablet itself then you're fairly secure, as holgate says.
posted by anadem at 8:22 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The form factor is the thing. The size is easy to carry and relatively easy to read. It came out of the experience of the Kindle/Nook crowd. The larger size tablets will seem unwieldy once you start using this style of device for the basics of communication. You won't be writing a book on a Nexus, but that is the idea, you will be reading one.
posted by ptm at 8:27 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

From the hacking point of view, unless you lose the tablet itself then you're fairly secure, as holgate says.

But that's a huge hole.
posted by rdr at 8:32 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

> From the hacking point of view, unless you lose the tablet itself then you're fairly secure, as holgate says.

But that's a huge hole.

Pretty much the same sized hole as if you lost an Android phone.
posted by anadem at 8:36 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

That's why I don't have my main e-mail sync'ed to any of my android devices. I use filters to forward e-mail messages from people I want to read immediately to gmail accounts that are sync'ed.
posted by rdr at 8:40 PM on August 28, 2012

Thanks. Practicality-wise, it's really going to depend on what you want to do with it. Since it's wifi-only, it's not going to be quite as versatile as a tablet with mobile data capability; the camera isn't up to much, but that means you won't be that person taking snapshots with a tablet.

I see it as a great commute/weekend "bung it in a satchel with a charger" kind of device: enough room to do a certain amount of slightly squinty work if necessary, without the bulk. $200 isn't cheap as chips, but I certainly wouldn't be as mortified at dropping it at the TSA checkpoint as I would with an iPad.

Pretty much the same sized hole as if you lost an Android phone.

Yep. Set the lock screen.
posted by holgate at 8:40 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Both worth it and practical.

Although the form factor is different from an ipad, it is quite usable and it carries a lot of innovative ways to do the consuming discussed upthread. For example, there's a widget you set to a destination and from your present position it will tell you travel time and whether the quickest route is congested or not - this in maybe 60x60 pixels.

Anti-virus programs are available free; I am using avast and it provides the added bonus of reasonably fine-grained control of which programs get to access wifi. Select the right ones and your Nexus will not be able to send Google your account information, yet email and third-party browsers work just fine.

Movies play back without any stuttering if you rip them to .m4v format.

Downsides? Most of the Google navigation apps really need wifi to work. A route can be set and navigation then works in some third-party applications if you download their maps in advance.

It's just really -useful-. Things work well on it. It is also a marvelous toy.
posted by jet_silver at 8:42 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You guys are *the best*. Your generously informative answers are totally helpful. Thanks so much.

So, another question (*takes a deep breath in Luddite anxiety). As a desktop user, I have no idea how this wifi thing works with a tablet. How does one know one has found a wifi spot? Does it turn another color or go ding ding ding or something? Is there an indicator on the opening page?
posted by nickyskye at 8:49 PM on August 28, 2012

As a desktop user, I have no idea how this wifi thing works with a tablet. How does one know one has found a wifi spot? Does it turn another color or go ding ding ding or something? Is there an indicator on the opening page?

Nearly all wifi networks require that you actually connect to them, at least for your first connect.

I don't know how it works on this tablet, but on the iPad, I have to go into Settings and select an accessible wifi point manually. This may require login or authentication of some sort. Once I've done this once, it doesn't ask me to do that again for that particular wifi connection. It just connected automatically when I'm in its range.

The exception to this is the wifi access on public transit here. That requires that I manually select and authenticate (meaning, click an "accept terms" button) every time I get on a bus which is wifi-enabled.

I know I'm connected to wifi because there's a little icon which appears in the top bar of my screen.

I'd be surprised if this Google tablet works all that much differently.
posted by hippybear at 8:55 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My family is all luddite and the tablets are what brought them into the 21st century. I gave my folks ipads but have played enough with a nexus 7 to recommend it without reservation. It's a great price for a great tablet. It's light enough to use as an e-reader and powerful enough to replace your desktop (I'm assuming you're more of a content consumer than a producer. Forgive me if that is far off).

Assuming you already have internet and a wireless router set up and running, connecting your tablets/smartphones to wifi is a piece of cake. As soon as you are in range, a small dialog box pops up to ask if you want to connect. Click connect and give it your wifi password and you're good to go.

As for security, you are quite safe. Just watch out for what apps you install. If you are a pretty basic user like my dad, you shouldn't need to install any apps and they do a terrific job at providing you with everything pre loaded.
posted by savitarka at 8:57 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: hippybear, thanks so much.

savitarka, what a great kid you are. Your lucky family.

So, once you've got this Google tablet, you take it up to your desktop's range, go to the tablet's settings, log into the wifi with a password. Then, when you walk out your apartment, does the wifi connection remain? What happens if one moves out of the wifi range? Does one go into settings, log out of the old connection and log into another one? It sounds like if there is an available wifi to log into that turns up in a dialog box? And when it is connected there is an indicator bar at the top of the screen? Is that correct?

(I'm assuming you're more of a content consumer than a producer. Forgive me if that is far off).

For the last 11 years I've written the English content for various Korean business websites, run online groups. Does that count as "producing"? None of which has been an opportunity to learn anything practical about portable web devices. So I think I may be 21st Century web savvy but a tech Luddite. Just haven't had cause to become mobile gadget experienced, until this affordable option came up today with this Google tablet gizmo.

I like the feel of old fashioned paper books but would love to be able to surf, read/write emails, study and socnet portably with a tablet.

Thanks for the understandable and practical replies. It's so appreciated.
posted by nickyskye at 9:39 PM on August 28, 2012

I recently got the Nexus 7 and I love it. I had an iPad2 previously and have quit using it.

I use it pretty much for work functions - email, taking notes, and reading documents. The smaller form factor is great for my purposes.

Three things I particularly like about it over the iPad:
1. The text completion is so much better. The iOS' text completion/autocorrect is very frustrating, IMHO. It tries a single guess as to what you meant to type, and the default is to accept that guess. So if you're not careful you make a bunch of errors. Android's version presents three choices and makes you explicitly accept a correction. It also does an excellent job of predicting a word from the first few characters. Even better, it predicts the next word once one is completed. So for common phrases, you do very little typing. It's great.

2. It's highly integrated with the Google ecosystem, just as iOS is integrated with the Apple ecosystem. So if you use Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Maps, or Picasa Albums, it will be very easy to get going. It was cool to open up the photo tool and see all of the photos I'd uploaded to blogger right there. Google search is available with a single finger swipe, no matter what you're doing.

3. It's really easy to switch between applications. There's a button at the bottom that brings up icons showing each recently used app and its state (i.e. what web page or document was open). You can sort of do this on the iPad, but I always found the multi-touch gestures sort of awkward.

So, once you've got this Google tablet, you take it up to your desktop's range, go to the tablet's settings, log into the wifi with a password. Then, when you walk out your apartment, does the wifi connection remain? What happens if one moves out of the wifi range? Does one go into settings, log out of the old connection and log into another one? It sounds like if there is an available wifi to log into that turns up in a dialog box? And when it is connected there an indicator bar at the top of the screen? Is that correct?

That's basically correct. When you join a wifi network the first time, you're prompted for a password (unless it's open). That's remembered, and so next time you are in range, it's joined automatically. If there's multiple networks available, you can go into the settings to pick one. There's an icon that indicated that you're connected.
posted by chbrooks at 10:26 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I own an N7 and love it. I did have to RMA it (return it) because the touchscreen on mine had some trouble, but Google cross-shipped, so I wasn't ever without it, and paid for shipping both ways. No worries there.

The form factor is perfect for me. Able to fit in my pocket if I have to, not prohibitively heavy for one-handed use, but enough screen real estate to get stuff done.

For wifi:

First, you have to have a wireless access point at your apartment. If your desktop computer is wired to your cable modem and you do not have an access point in the vicinity, you will not be able to easily get the internet on the Nexus 7, without plugging it in and doing some somewhat complicated reverse-tethering. Make sure you have a wifi access point at your apartment. Or that you have access to one. (Borrow a friend's smart phone to sniff for an open access point.)

Second, when you walk out of the apartment, you walk out of wifi range: it's only about 300 feet or so, depending on environment sometimes much less. So your Nexus 7 will no longer be able to connect to the internet, access web pages, stream music or movies, etc. You CAN cache all of that stuff, though: store it for offline use. You can download your movies to the device, download your music for offline listening, download books from Kindle or Google's Play Books store, and even store web pages for offline reading. Enough to get you through the day, at least.

Third, you can configure the N7 to pop up a notification if access points appear available in the area. This will only occur on OPEN access points (with no AP password required) but many OPEN access points still force you to open the browser and agree to their terms, or sometimes enter a separate password from the browser. (The distinction is between, essentially, security at the hardware level, which doesn't even let you connect to the network without a password, and at the software level, which allows you to connect but then makes you jump through hoops.)

If you connect to an OPEN point that is blocking you, the device will FURTHER prompt you that you need to log in or authenticate or agree to their terms. It will open the browser so you can see what the access point is asking for. It's nice that they detect this now, so you're not just assuming you're connected.

You can mitigate this by tethering, if you own another smartphone with a wireless data plan. I have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Verizon and I can tether, which means my phone turns into a wireless access point over wifi for other devices, sharing its 3G/4G LTE connection with anyone with the password. This drains batteries on the tethering device something fierce, since it's basically using both radios at once, full-bore, and you can blow through data limits if you have them and aren't careful. Also, some carriers charge an extra markup for tethering, though Verizon specifically is no longer allowed to.

The success of puddle hopping wifi points will matter a great deal based on where you travel and how long you're standing around. Coffee shops, some restaurants/cafes, libraries, and apartment complexes typically have some access points you can take advantage of. There are also services like Boingo and some services that pair up with home internet ISPs to grant you access to otherwise paid access points. (So, for instance, if you subscribe to Century Link, you get access to all sorts of free access points nationwide.)

Overall, the device is fast, it's powerful, and there are VERY few compromises for a device of this price point. The screen is gorgeous, the speaker gets the job done, the camera is suitable for Skype, there's tons of great software for it, it's FAST, it has a good amount of storage (especially the $250 16GB, which I recommend if you want to cache much music or video on it) and Google even gives you $25 to spend in their store, which you should promptly spend on SwiftKey for Tablets: the best Android keyboard application out there.

The screen on the iPad is a bit sharper, though the N7 is actually pretty near "retina" quality, but the form-factor for the iPad kills me. It's like holding a skillet on my lap. I keep expecting potatoes to fall out, fully cooked and beautifully seasoned. The N7 just fits. I use it on the couch while I'm watching TV or when I want to look something up. It's phenomenal in bed (heh) and on planes. It can go with me when I need it, or I can just leave it at home sleeping and it'll only lose about 5%-10% of its battery that day.

For so little investment, both initial and recurring, it's pretty damn perfect for my needs. I never saw the need for a tablet, but this fits well.
posted by disillusioned at 11:04 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depending on your phone or plan, your phone may be capable of providing a wireless hotspot for you to access with the tablet when out in the wild. This may cost extra on your plan and definitely will chew away at your phone's data minutes.

I've been thinking about getting one of these, too, nicky. I'm using a borrowed ipad at the moment but can't really bring myself to buy one since everything else is windows/android in this house, plus cost.
posted by maxwelton at 11:07 PM on August 28, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, you guys like this gizmo. I'm amazed at the outspoken, undiluted enjoyment of it. Delighted that you knowledgeable people are interested in these too.

Thanks for your generous reply disillusioned, even if it was written, from my pov, largely in Greek. I appreciate your effort to educate me, though configuring, tethering and reverse-tethering sound like something I could do if it were farm animals, I'm in the dark when it comes to cyber tethering at this time.

Thanks jcreigh.

I wouldn't use the Google tablet at home because I use the desktop. (I would think working on a tablet without a mouse and real keyboard terribly limiting. It doesn't sound like this tablet has ports for a mouse or separate keyboard.)

I don't own a wireless router, no need because the desktop is connected by cable to the company router. So, it sounds like above the cost of the Google tablet, I'll need to buy a wireless router to connect the tablet to the wifi. Any brand of wireless router anyone recommends for this purpose?

If I downloaded movies or music to the tablet, that's when it would be useful to have the wireless router.

Can I connect the tablet to wifi at various locations in the city without first using a wireless router at home?

Just googled wifi Manhattan and it seems there is a generous choice and, apparently, Google is creating 200 more spots for free wifi.

I don't have a cellphone plan, just a land line at home. (Feeling by now as if you imagine I'm chopping my own wood and pumping water from the well.)

So, what about using the tablet when there is no wifi? Is there a way to get internet service like people do with cellphones? Does this tablet come with a possibility of that? I heard of people using a thumb drive that connects their laptop with the internet, a paid service. Does this Google tablet have a port where one can put a thumb drive for that? Or would one need to get a paid internet service some other way?
posted by nickyskye at 11:56 PM on August 28, 2012

Can I connect the tablet to wifi at various locations in the city without first using a wireless router at home?

Yes. Wifi is wifi - it's like a radio signal. You can connect to any (free, open or with a password you know) wifi anywhere - the same way you can buy a portable radio and listen anywhere there's signal.

There is no requirement to even have internet at home, never mind a wireless router, in order to use wifi out and about in the wild. You could, for instance, buy an N7 and only ever use it on the free wifi at Starbucks, if you wanted.
posted by Hobo at 12:03 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great news Hobo! Thanks for your clear and understandable reply. Love the radio metaphor. :) Much appreciated!
posted by nickyskye at 12:28 AM on August 29, 2012

Yeah, the N7 does not require you to ever plug it in to your computer, or even interact with a computer. For it to be of any value, though, out of the box, you WILL need to have it on the internet initially. For one thing, it needs to connect to register or login with a Gmail account, since that's what they link everything to. (You won't be able to get past the setup without a wifi connection of some sort.)

The N7 does NOT have wireless cellular data. So you cannot use it for things that require the internet when there is no wifi. (My tethering instructions notwithstanding, if you don't have a cellphone, this is a complete non-starter anyway.)

If you so chose, you COULD pick up a mobile hotspot. Verizon calls theirs a "jetpack". It's basically a cellular data-based access point you bring with you in your pocket that allows non-cellular, but wifi-enabled devices to connect to the internet. They run about $50/month, though, and again, depending on your needs, are probably overkill.

For a router, any basic Linksys or Netgear or D-link or whatever will work for you. Honestly, whatever's cheapest and supports at least 802.11g (every single new wireless router does this now. Most support 802.11n as well, which is better). They'll run between $30-$80, typically. This or this look good and cheap. (Any cheaper or more off-brand and I get worries.)

If you're trying to use it without a home connection, it may be a bit frustrating. You'll need to download apps initially, which aren't huge, but downloading video or a lot of music may take awhile, since public wifi tends to be slower.

Long story short, I reckon your experience will be a lot better if you have a wireless router at home to load it up before you go out and about.
posted by disillusioned at 1:12 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much disillusioned. Exactly the info I was looking for.
posted by nickyskye at 1:32 AM on August 29, 2012

More comments:
1. For security, someone mentioned setting a lock screen. That should be emphasized. On my Android phone I have a 7 digit lock code. I believe that a finder of my device would have about 3 tries to break it. If they could not, they would be asked for my google (gmail) login. If they could not do that, then the device would factory reset, removing all data. (The lock code for a phone, at least, can be either digits or a pattern that you swipe across the screen.) Also there are apps (Lookout mobile security, for one) that may help find a lost device...but I'm not sure if it will work in that fashion for a non-phone device.

2. Navigation. You can use Google Maps. You are able to cache (download and store on the device) maps from anywhere in the world. Then when you are away from wifi, you can use the GPS satellites (the Nexus 7 has GPS) and the cached map to see where you are. Not sure about turn-by-turn voice navigation.

WiFi. My Android phone (Galaxy S2) has no data plan; thus I need wifi for data. Very happy with it that way. Wifi spots are plentiful enough. My home has wifi.

No mouse...no keyboard???? The Nexus 7 has bluetooth, so you can use bluetooth keyboards and mouses. Possibly also through the USB port (as I can with my Galaxy S2 phone).

Only downside I could see is that there is no HDMI (fancy TV) output port. I use my ASUS TF101 to play Netflix on our TV.

posted by mbarryf at 5:33 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

As for no cellular/mobile data plan, I see that as an advantage.

I can turn my phone into a wireless hotspot (have it generate a wifi network), which then uses my cellphone's signal to connect to the internet. It's absolutely seamless on the tablet---the network appears and it connects automatically. On the phone, I have a widget (an active icon essentially) that toggles the tether on or off. All I have to do to start it is toggle the icon. This saves digging into the settings menu every time.

The advantage is that I pay for only one data plan and cell contract instead of two, which saves a fair bit of money each month, given the carriers I have to deal with.
posted by bonehead at 6:29 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't use the Google tablet at home because I use the desktop.

You say that now... But you'll be sitting on the couch watching some old movie and wonder who that actor is and you'll reach for the tablet to access imdb. Or you'll find a recipe online and will take the tablet into the kitchen rather than printing out the recipe or running back and forth to your desktop. Or... Or... Or...

Tablets are wonderful satellite devices even if you do love your desktop.
posted by hippybear at 6:34 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love love love mine. It's nice to read on. I like it ever so much more than my iPod Touch. The speech recognition is quite good. I actually use it in conjunction with the Wordpress app to blog. There's an app I'd have to look up the exact name for (Tegra something) that finds games and such optimized for the processor/video stuff (my brother's the geek, not me). I have an awesome pinball game found through that and it was free. Sadly you'll find some great apps that just won't run on JellyBean (the current Android OS). I had found one that downloaded books from librevox and streamed them, but alas it pukes on JB. *sob*

Overall, I tell everyone who asks to get one. I keep mine next to my bed for late night insomniac web browsing and blogging needs.
posted by kathrynm at 5:35 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is a class of wifi routers called "travel routers". Since some of the hotels I wind up in don't have wifi, only Ethernet, it was a good move to get one of those: you cannot connect the N7 to Ethernet directly. Travel routers are cheap and they're small, so if you travel a lot it might be worth considering one.

You can connect wirelessly to computers on your local area network. The N7 can be a Samba server or with the wonderful application AirDroid, you can drag and drop files from your desktop to the N7.
posted by jet_silver at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What an unexpectedly wonderful thread this turned out to be. So packed full of useful information. Thank you all.
posted by nickyskye at 7:52 PM on August 29, 2012

Response by poster: It took many years of wanting one.
My first mobile computer. Done. :)

Thank you for helping me walk through this decision step by step.

Nexus 7 (8GB) $199.00 1
Subtotal: $199.00
Shipping: $13.99
Tax: $18.90
Total: $231.89
posted by nickyskye at 12:01 AM on August 30, 2012

If you're concerned about account security if you lose your device, be sure to activate 2-step authentication for your account, and download Google Authenticator for your Android devices.
posted by chundo at 10:49 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for that tip chundo. A good one and important. This thread keeps on being useful long after I thought I had enough info and then found out there was other good stuff to know.

I'll leave the thread open for other wise people to add info as it comes up and will let you know if I can work the dang thing, if and when it arrives.
posted by nickyskye at 5:27 PM on August 30, 2012

Response by poster: Great news! Your order on Google Play has shipped. Track the status of your package UPS #1xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Note that it may take 24 hours for your tracking number to return any information.
posted by nickyskye at 5:30 PM on August 31, 2012

I'm super late to the party, but I think you're going to love your Nexus. I got my husband one for his birthday, and he has been using it non-stop, even though he had been in the "doesn't get why people like mobile devices" camp. He even uses it at home, often at the same time that he's doing something at his desktop computer! He loves it that much.

I will add one thing though: a suggestion for a case. We got my husband this case for his, and it has been surprisingly fantastic. It's very slim, so it doesn't increase the size of the device much at all, and it's quite solid even when using it as a stand (which is awesome for watching videos). He's only had it for about a month, so I can't speak for the durability of the case yet, but it seems reasonably well-made for the money. I was having difficulty finding a case for him, because I have an iPad2 from work with a smart cover, and that thing is so versatile and non-weighty that I was afraid I wasn't going to find something similar for the Nexus. This case does it, though, and I highly recommend it.

Anyway, good luck with your new toy, and I hope you enjoy it!
posted by ashirys at 11:13 AM on September 3, 2012

Response by poster: Very disheartening. When I plugged it in, it only goes to the wifi page. I cannot connect with any wifi at home. When I tried to ask others on the street to help me connect the tablet to wifi, they couldn't.

It doesn't go to any home page other than the wife page, which does not connect to the internet. As such the thing is completely useless to me. I don't know what to do with it, except return it.
posted by nickyskye at 1:06 PM on September 28, 2012

Response by poster: *ha, the wife page. Meant to write the wifi page.
posted by nickyskye at 4:45 PM on September 28, 2012

Response by poster: Got the gizmo working but not any reliable or workable wifi yet, so for the moment a waste of money. Guess I need to buy a router, hook it up to the cable service I get for my desk top so it's an extension at home.
posted by nickyskye at 6:45 PM on October 21, 2012

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