With updates, Google Nexus 7 tablet is a winner

Consumer Reports

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Updated 8/26/13: We installed the software update for the Nexus 7, rolled out through the online system updater by Google partly to address users' reports of flaky touchscreen response and GPS stability. The update shows as "Build number JSS15Q" at the bottom of the "About tablet" settings panel.

For us, at least, the update fixed both issues: The touch screen no longer gives "phantom touches" when you're using two or more fingers, and it doesn't skip or repeat letters when you're typing or Swyping. And the GPS precisely tracked my walk outside around our headquarters for at least 15 minutes (it froze after about 5 minutes before the update).

Note that some posters on Google's user forums still reported problems after this fix was applied, but those users' tablets might have other defects not repairable by software. Any product will have a small fraction of defective units, so those owners could exchange theirs for another unit. If you buy a new Nexus 7, be sure to download the updated software before you think something is amiss.

We think the Nexus 7 is a clear winner with this fix, and would now recommend it, pending our full tablet tests that are scheduled for release in early September.

Earlier update, 8/22/13: Google announced on its forum that it's now sending out an update that addresses the touchscreen issues. We'll keep you posted on further updates. 

The updated Google Nexus 7 tablet has a gorgeous, bright screen, the sharpest one we’ve seen yet in a tablet. It also has a faster processor than its predecessor, a front camera, and the latest Android OS. Looks good, sounds good, and it’s priced at only $230.

But we urge caution in buying one until some unresolved issues are cleared up.

It's been widely reported that a few quirks are being encountered by early owners. For one, the touch screen sometimes reportedly "goes crazy" and misses or repeats touches or keystrokes on the virtual keyboard. On the sample Nexus 7 we bought, we found it impossible to use the Swype method of word entry, as the continuous sliding from one key to the next gets chopped up by whatever the problem is, entering gibberish instead of meaningful text.

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For another, some users report that the built-in GPS loses contact with satellites after a short period of operation. When we walked around outside our headquarters with the Maps app on our Nexus (on a sunny day with just a few clouds), it tracked for less than 10 minutes before the map position "froze" (though the compass direction still updated). The freeze lasted until we restarted the tablet.

Google says on its user forum that it’s aware of both issues. Until there’s a fix, I’d recommend holding off on buying this tablet. Whether that fix will be an easy online software update, or will require some physical repair, remains to be seen. We’ll update this story when we know more.

[Note that the original Google Nexus 7 tablet, which runs on Android 4.2, may still be available for purchase; we haven't seen reports of these issues with that tablet.]

—Dean Gallea

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