Getting the Most from the Nexus 7

The ASUS/Google Nexus 7 arrived at my door on August 1, 2012 with a lot of anticipation from both me and the rest of the consumer electronics world. A quad-core Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA, a 1200x800 HD IPS display covered with the latest scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass and a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera were among its most notable cool features. Fast-forward to late September 2012, and although it has gotten mostly positive reviews, it is viewed primarily as a consumption device, with a lack of ways to use it for producing anything short of e-mail messages. I believe this review will change your mind and show you how to use it for both production and consumption in ways you didn't know. The way to do this is with the right app—better known as the right tool for the right job.

Let's start with my favorite topic, producing videos. As long as your need is only for production of short-form, nothing-fancy videos, the Nexus 7 can do it. Yes, it has only a front-facing camera. However, I was surprised to discover I had good results when I held it in the general direction of the action, without the aid of a screen to see what was captured. I used the app Camera ICS+, the plus being the pay-for $.99 version that captures 720p HD video from the Nexus 7. It also can be used for shooting high-quality still photos as well.

Next, for editing, check out the app called Andromedia. I tried six different Android video editing-apps, some free some paid, and five out of six were horrible. Andromedia was the only one that worked as advertised, and it was free! It isn't perfect though. Rendering a six-minute HD video took nearly 45 minutes, but it does work. It has all of the basic editing tools you'd expect and some you might not. It edits and exports 720p HD video; it can super titles you create over either a color background or a picture; it has several choices of scene transitions, and it even allows importing and editing of audio, if you want to add music or sound effects. It's also easy to use. Because it is a free app, there are small ads at the bottom of the GUI, but I didn't find them to be annoying or intrusive. The screenshots in Figures 1–7 show the editing process.

Figure 1. Storyboard Layout

Figure 2. Adding a Title

Figure 3. Choosing the Title's Look

Figure 4. Selecting a Transition

Figure 5. Selecting Where the Next Sequence Comes from

Figure 6. Export Settings

Figure 7. Naming the Project

Speaking of screenshots, on the Nexus 7, you can make them by holding down the power button and the volume button at the same time for about two seconds, which is followed by a nondescript sound.

Another very useful app is called ES File Explorer. This is the best way to handle the storage limitations on the Nexus 7, and it doesn't involve a cloud. This app lets you transfer to any sharable device with a hard drive on your home network. For me, that would be my 2TB network hard drive.

Figure 8. Choosing a Folder Using the ES File Explorer

Figure 9. Choice of Views

Basic photo editing is achieved by choosing a photo in the gallery and touching the choice icon in the upper-right corner.

Figure 10. Picture Editing on the Nexus 7

If you need to print, any of the Android apps for the major printer manufacturers will work, but it needs to be a network printer. Epson Iprint for Android worked for me and my Epson Workforce 630. It also will print documents and pictures stored on clouds, like Google Drive.

The Nexus 7 is a Wi-Fi-only device; however, it is possible to connect to the Internet by tethering the Nexus 7 to your Android phone via Bluetooth by pairing them and checking the box on the phone to allow Internet tethering. My experience with doing this is acceptable, but the Bluetooth Internet speed is knocked down to about 400kbps—even when the phone is getting 4G service that's more than triple that speed. That said, it will get you on the Net when Wi-Fi isn't available. In fact, any smartphone that allows Bluetooth tethering to share the phone's Internet connection will work with the Nexus 7. The one step you need to do to make this work is to activate the Bluetooth visibility from both the Nexus 7 and the phone, prior to pairing.

You can transfer files to and from the Nexus 7 and your smartphone via Bluetooth as well. Another way to transfer files, playlists or anything on your browser is by means of NFC (Near Field Communication). Only a few devices other than the Nexus 7 have this, such as the Samsung Galaxy 3 phones. All you do is tap the tops of the two devices to transfer, and you'll be the envy of anyone with an iPhone.

Now, let's talk about consumption. Much has been made about the lack of Flash support for all Android versions after 4.0. This affects the Nexus 7, which, as everyone should know by now, runs Jellybean 4.1. This is not as big of a problem as some might think. Some major video content sites like CNN and CNET do still stream only Flash from their Web sites. What some folks don't know is that these and other Flash-only Web sites have much or all of the same content on their YouTube channels in HTML5 that the Nexus 7 will play. In time (I'll predict less than a year), all major video content sites will stream HTML5—it is the future, Flash is not.

I bought my Nexus 7 with the optional gray neoprene case. As you can see in Figure 11, the front flap doubles well on most surfaces as a kickstand for viewing.

Figure 11. Side View of the Nexus 7

As far as other entertainment content, no problem: Netflix app—check, Pandora app—check, Hulu Plus app—check, Spotify app—check, YouTube app—check, Ustream app—check, Tune In Radio app—check, Skype app—check, Linux Journal app—check.

Maybe you're like me and enjoy recording HD TV programs using Freevo and a Hauppauge HD PVR connected to a cable box to store on your network drive. Using the ES File Explorer app I mentioned earlier, the Nexus 7 will play it. The video I record from the HDPVR is MPEG-4 in a .m2ts container, which the Nexus 7 doesn't recognize. The trick is to hold your finger on the file icon until it asks you what type of file it is (choose video), then choose the player. With a good Wi-Fi signal, the Nexus 7 will stream that 1080i video.

Figure 12. Nexus 7 Videoplayer

Books and games? Google Play has you covered here too. Games look and play better and smoother than on just about any other Android device, thanks to the Tegra 3 processor.

Figure 13. Playing Shadow Gun on the Nexus 7

As an e-reader, it excels as well, with ample choices of font size, background type and intensity, and the pages flip easily.

The point I want to make here is that the Nexus 7 is as full-featured as you want it to be. You just need to find the right app, which is usually if not always found at the Google Play store. As my final exclamation point, this entire article was written, composed and published on my Nexus 7, using Google Docs within the Google Drive app. It also does spreadsheets. My thumbs that I typed with feel fine, and my eyeballs are firmly connected to my eye sockets—no tactile hallucinations to speak of, from using my Nexus 7.

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