I had been reading for a few months about the Nexus 7 tablet, Google’s offering to the ever-growing portable computing arena. As the leader of a solidly Apple-centric family, despite my quest to move to Linux full-time, I didn’t think that a 7-inch tablet that didn’t run iOS would come anywhere near the popular iPad. However, curiosity always gets the best of me and when Apple announced the new iPad (the 4th generation one) and the iPad Mini, I decided to get as much money as I could for my relatively new iPad 3 (the newly obsolete one) and try my hand at the Nexus 7, which was available at half the price of my iPad.

One always hears “bigger is better”, which I always counter, “only if you know how to use it.”  But I digress. The truth of the matter is, I am LOVING my Nexus 7 because of it’s portability. Using my iPad 3 would feel just too big now.

My Nexus 7 updated itself to the latest iteration of Google’s Android OS, Jelly Bean right after I purchased it. The main reason I was curious about the Nexus 7, the predictive Google Now application, is working beautifully. When I awoke this morning, Google Now told me the weather, let me know what was on the family calendar and it told me that there was no abnormal traffic along my commuter route today (apparently the Amish aren’t racing their buggies this month). Google Now is wicked cool and while it creeps some people out (it’ll eventually get to know where my favorite restaurants are based on my check-ins and the like), I think that this sort of thing is brilliant. And did I mention that the Nexus 7 feels much more portable than my iPad? I can take this thing anywhere and I love it.

Just for fun I used Google Maps as my GPS to get to work this morning. How I have missed Google Maps and the navigation functionality is brilliant. Because I am such a road geek, the beauty of Google Maps navigation makes me want to actually work for Google and help them make the application more awesome. It doesn’t scold me for not following the directions (other GPS units will bong-bong and bark out “Rerouting!” with a bit of haughtiness) but Google Maps quickly reroutes and doesn’t make me feel bad for thinking outside of the box. There was a little bit of a slow down on the Thruway around construction this morning and I had a little warning pop up alerting me of this. And did I mention the portability of this device?

People often ask me what kind of computer (or computing device) I recommend. I’d have to say that if you’re looking to give a tablet as a gift this holiday season, I’d definitely go with one of the seven-inch tablets. The Mac Mini might be a bit pricey. I haven’t messed around with an Amazon Kindle enough to weigh the experience of that against the Nexus 7 (they both run Android) but I will say that I have been very pleased with the Nexus 7. Prior to Android 4.0 I wasn’t a fan of the Google tablets, but with Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and the follow up of Jelly Bean (4.1 and 4.2), I have to say that the user experience is good and the hardware feels solid but not too bulky.