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Nexus 7 Android Tablet: Invaluable Tool or Tech Toy?

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

You've probably heard of lawyers using iPads in practice and in court. But you're not one of them, either because you didn't want to plunk down $500 for something so sinfully luxurious or perhaps you are simply an Android user and didn't want the fragmented ecosystem that comes with mixing mobile operating systems.

Until recently, Android tablets have received some less-than-favorable reviews. They were (allegedly) iPad ripoffs with cell phone software stretched to fit an overpriced $500 screen. Google fixed the software with the release of Android 4.0. Did they fix the hardware issues with the Nexus 7?

The Hardware

The joint ASUS/Google mini-tablet was released mid-2012. It has a 7-inch screen, 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage, and a bunch of other geeky tech-specs that are irrelevant to most lawyers. What is important? As a Nexus device, it always has the latest, greatest, most stable version of Android available. It is also free from third-party bloatware so your tablet should constantly be running smoothly, quickly, and most importantly, reliably. (Our experience: It's fast. Real fast.)

It also has a high pixels-per-inch density and HD display. In plain English, more pixel density means a clearer display, especially for devouring large amounts of text via court opinions and idiotic memos sent from that incompetent nincompoop associate you just hired. Ever heard of Apple's much-lauded Retina Display? It was a fancy way of saying "whole lotta pixels." Same stuff, different brand.

As for the appearance of the device, no one would mistake it for an iPad. It has a semi-rubberized back, and plastic sides instead of Apple's brushed aluminum. iPads are certainly prettier, but we like the rubberized grip. Instead of the 4:3 screen ratio of iPads, it has a 16:9 orientation (think old TVs versus new widescreen TVs).

The Experience

We're law bloggers. This means, when it comes to content consumption, we do much of the same things lawyers do. We peruse court opinions. We check emails from nagging bosses. We also procrastinate by playing Angry Birds.

Our primary complaint with our former beloved tablet, the iPad 2, was the heft of a 9.7-inch device. Reading long documents would kill our too-busy-lawyering-to-go-to-the-gym arms. That problem is solved with the Nexus 7's form factor, which because of the smaller screen and rubberized back, is much more amenable to hours of reading.

The front-facing camera works fine for video conferencing, but there is no rear camera for awkward photos taken by tablet. Many popular messaging clients, which you may or may not use at your office, are supported, such as Google Talk and Cisco's WebEx Connect. Like it or not, you can stay connected to the office as long as you have a data connection.

The Verdict

At $200 for the base model, the Nexus 7 might even be cheap enough for an impulse buy. It's certainly worth the cost if you do extensive reading, or want office access without lugging around a laptop. While you certainly won't write "War and Peace" on a touchscreen, you could easily read it.

The Android tablet experience, at least for this geek, now rivals that of the iPad and because of the relatively narrow screen size, if you are a full-figured male, it might even fit on your rear pocket. If you are in the market for a cheap tablet, and aren't already locked into the Apple ecosystem, this is your best bet.

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