Test drive: Nexus 7, Chromebox, Google Play as your PC and TV service

Our intrepid tester tries life in the 'Googleplex' of Google's mobile and cloud hardware and services

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Google Nexus 7
Nexus 7: The pleasing entertainment tablet The $199 Nexus 7 drew me in with its colorful, high-resolution screen and a mostly intuitive interface. For example, I've always been confused about how to close an application on many tablets. But with the Nexus 7's Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean," it's easy to swipe an application away.

The $199 Nexus 7 drew me in with its colorful, high-resolution screen and a mostly intuitive interface. For example, I've always been confused about how to close an application on many tablets. But with the Nexus 7's Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean," it's easy to swipe an application away.

But "Jelly Bean" has its flaws, too. Two Android apps I use daily for work are not compatible with "Jelly Bean": The Salesforce.com mobile client does not load, and Salesforce Chatter lacks some capabilities that are available when running in my Droid 4's Android 2.3 "Gingerbread."

The Nexus 7 is designed as an entertainment device first and foremost, even though the regular Android environment lies beneath its initial interface. I focused on its entertainment abilities.

I downloaded a book from Google Play and found the high-contrast screen easy to read both in daylight and at night in low light. But be aware that you will see reflections on the screen that can be distracting. The Nexus 7 weighs less than either a hardcover book or a 10-inch tablet such as the Motorola Mobility Xyboard I tested. That makes the Nexus easy to hold for hours, which avid book readers, movie watchers, and gamers alike will appreciate.

Where it got a bit tough on the Nexus 7 was working with music. Google of course promotes the purchase of music from the Google Play store, but I wanted all of my music available, not just the titles purchased from Google Play. It took a bit of research, but I discovered Google lets you upload 20,000 songs for free from your Windows PC, Mac, or Linux PC. The Music Manager application not only uploads your music, but also monitors your music folders for additions, appending them to your collection in Google Play. I did notice, however, that some of the album art Google assigned to my existing music was incorrect, and occasionally an entry lists the wrong artist.

The 7-inch screen is perfect for reading and social networking. But for any Web-based applications, video viewing, and productivity applications such as Quickoffice, I want a 10-inch screen instead.

Still, it's a great portable media center: I took the Nexus 7 on a camping trip, and the battery lasted all weekend as I read books, listened to music, watched a downloaded episode of "Star Trek Phase 2" (the 7-inch screen is crisp, though, feels a bit scrunched for videos), and played games in my tent. OK, so I wasn't roughing it!

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