Saturday, 30 June 2012

Nexus 7 lacks USB OTG and MHL support, some more chinks in its armour

Google’s Nexus 7 is undoubtedly the most powerful Android tablet you can get for that price. Packing in a Tegra 3 SoC in the sub-$200 price segment is not an easy feat but they managed to do it. However, in the process of doing so, they may have compromised a bit too much and left out minor, but crucial, features. The latest news is that the tablet will not support USB On-The-Go natively and has no provision for MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) either. According to Anandtech, the USB port on the Nexus 7 will support USB-host functionality so you’ll be able to plug in a keyboard and mouse and they will work just fine, however the device will not recognize any USB storage. Now they also mention that this could be more of a software related problem rather than hardware because all you really need for USB OTG are the right drivers and it doesn’t seem like Jelly Bean has it by default. Perhaps a future update could bring this functionality natively but as of now, if you hoped to expand your storage through this route than you’re out of luck.

Another feature that’s absent is MHL or HDMI. Before the Asus MeMO tablet transformed into the Nexus 7, it had an HDMI port which Google then removed, probably in order to save cost. Or did they? Google is heavily positioning the Nexus 7 as a ‘media consumption’ device which means they want customers to focus on just that and not much else. Now the Nexus Q is positioned as a media streamer which will pull all your content from the cloud and display it directly to your TV, something the Nexus 7 could have done as well if it had an HDMI port. Could it be that Google deliberately removed HDMI to make the Nexus Q seem more attractive? If the tablet had an MHL or HDMI port, you could simply buy a cheap cable and hook it up to your TV, in which case there wouldn’t be any incentive to buy the Nexus Q.

It’s these little things that make you stop and think if the Nexus 7 is indeed worth it, even if it is just $200. A quad-core for this price is great, don’t get me wrong, but is it really necessary? I feel that this same tablet with a cheaper Qualcomm S4 dual-core Krait CPU would have been a much better solution. This would also translate into better battery life and by going dual-core, Google would have had the budget headroom to add features like microSD card slot, keep the HDMI port and perhaps even offer 3G. This would have then been the perfect Android tablet to get.

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