Google Nexus 7 – The First Android Tablet For Musicians?

Joshua Topolsky, of The Verge, reviews the Google Nexus 7 – a new 7-inch tablet.

The Nexus 7 is a flagship device for Google’s Android operating system. It runs the latest version of Android, 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’, and features nicely designed hardware for the device’s $200 price point.

And it sounds like Google, at least on its own branded devices, is addressing Android’s audio latency problem:

Audio latency on the Galaxy Nexus, running on Jelly bean, has been reduced from 100ms to 12ms. But, they’re still not satisfied as they want to reduce it to below 10ms. So it looks like some of those iOS music apps which are heavily reliant on low audio latency targets may finally be coming to Android.

Based on early reports, though, upgrading older devices to the latest Android OS won’t deliver this level of audio performance.

“Google’s Nexus 7 isn’t just an excellent tablet for $200. It’s an excellent tablet, period,” notes Topolsky. “It’s the first Android tablet that I can confidently recommend.”

If the Android 4.1 audio improvements pan out, the Google Nexus 7 tablet could be the first Android tablet that offers a viable alternative as a tablet music platform to iOS and the iPad. Apple’s iOS platform still offers many advantages – including MIDI support, a mature hardware ecosystem and a more profitable app store for developers. But the Nexus 7 could help make cheap tablets viable music tools and drive Apple to continue innovating with the iPad.

The Google Nexus 7 tablet is expected to ship in 2-3 weeks, priced at $199 for the 8GB version & $249 for the 16GB version.

Update: Based on developer feedback on the Nexus 7, audio latency is still a problem:

“I have developed 4 music apps for IOS. I have today ported them over and they all still have audio latency problems.

I’m not saying that its totally impossible as there may just be a way to get round it but I’m sharing 4 developers experience with the Nexus 7 today and tested 5 musical apps that cannot perform well enough. The audio latency is still behind the iPhone 3G”

Google Nexus 7 Specifications:

    • 7” 1280×800 HD display (216 ppi)
    • Back-lit IPS display
    • Scratch-resistant Corning glass
    • 1.2MP front-facing camera
  • SIZE
    • 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm
    • 340g
    • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
    • Bluetooth
    • 8 GB internal storage (actual formatted capacity will be less)
    • 1 GB RAM
    • USB
    • Micro USB
    • 4325 mAh (Up to 8 hours of active use)
  • OS
    • Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
  • CPU
    • Quad-core Tegra 3 processor
    • Microphone
    • NFC (Android Beam)
    • Accelerometer
    • GPS
    • Magnetometer
    • Gyroscope

See the Google site for more details.

Update: Peter Kirn at CreateDigitalMusic has posted his thoughts on audio in Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean”. His focus is on the Android changes.

The new Android OS offers a lot to be excited about. But, at least for now, musicians interested in the Android platform need to consider not just the operating system, but the performance of specific hardware + software implementations.

49 thoughts on “Google Nexus 7 – The First Android Tablet For Musicians?

  1. Hmm, next time my Android tablet craps out maybe I’ll get one. I like them for audiobooks and reading pdfs etc. since they’re so cheap if you accidentally crack the screen or whatever it’s not a big deal. Right now I have a $200 Archos with honeycomb and for listening to audiobooks, watching short videos (full movies are too uncomfortable, can’t “get into it”) and reading pdfs its quite nice. You can throw it in your bag and not care care too much if it gets crushed. Now if I had a maxed out $800 ipad that thing would never leave the house. Android is competitive at 200 bucks definitely. Now those $500 tablets? hell no. Also with the Nexus and Kindle Fire so damn cheap it sure is bad news for the “Surface”, MS better be ready to sell at a loss indefinitely (and they probably are).

    1. why not buy something without the plan that it will “crap out”? or just take care of your stuff…….the earth is paying a price for our selfish waste of its resources.

  2. Seen the crap on twitter?devs and bloggers defecting from ios to android? Lets see how stable this tablet and OS is before jumping ship eh?

    1. “Seen the crap on twitter?devs and bloggers defecting from ios to android? Lets see how stable this tablet and OS is before jumping ship eh?”


    2. Everyone was excited about the Kindle fire too, thinking it would be an iPad killer. The truth is always less than people hope for.

  3. (with my voice of reason hat on) : this can only be good news. i mean, $199? that’s insane.

    (with my fanboi hat on) : it’s all about developers and users. there are about 300 million iOS devices out there that will run nanostudio. there are about 200 million that will run garageband. there might be 10 million nexus 7 users in a year or so. which means, if you’re an audio app developer, you’re likely to make 30 times as much money from iOS as you are from the one android device that is usable for music.

    aaaaand, in that year, the music creation ecosystem of iOS will include such miracles as auria, audio bus, etc. etc. etc.

  4. The only reason to go with a 7″ tablet is to come up with a device that’s cheap. Seems like it would be fiddly for doing music. Can you image trying to edit notes on a piano roll with a thing like that?

  5. Google hardware?

    Straight from the labs of DARPA and the CIA.

    If you don’t mind them tracking you and keeping tabs on you, go for it!

    Big brother Google is watching…

    I N F O W A R S . C O M

    1. I know this dude sounds like a conspiracy kook but it’s clear Google has a close relationship with the US government sort of like IBM and Bell Labs used to (and probably still do in IBMs case). Doesn’t mean they’re spying on your tablet but Google has done some boneheaded moves that only a US government stooge would do: getting kicked out of China for returning illegal search results (and before you say they are “fighting censorship” just look at how many searches in the USA have the “results removed due to DMCA” notice on the bottom?) if you want to do business in a country you need to follow it’s laws. Second returning manufacturing to the USA. This is also a load of crap that’s just going to cause them to lose money. They’re going to make the Nexus in the US and sell it for $200 bucks? The government must have put them up to it in exchange for some classified contracts.

  6. It’s great they are doing this, and a low priced tablet is going to sell very well to people who do basic web, email, reading, etc. It’s aimed at the Kindle, not the iPad, so expect Kindle-level functionality (which isn’t much!). And I would be very, very wary of any hardware that is $199 to the consumer. Cutting costs that much means there will be some low cost flaky components in there, and some functionality will be missing altogether. Also, don’t forget it’s a 7 inch screen, which is that weird spot between phone and tablet where UI designs for software don’t work very well. It’s going to be a fantastic option for content consumers, not so much for the content creators.

  7. MIDI is missing in action, so what are you going to use this for, other than fart piano and basic beatmaking apps?

  8. My my, a wee tablet! What on earth will it do? Play a few movies, a few games and run some loop apps. Will it have the mighty nano studio or Sunrizer? I think not! Will it be purchased by cheapskates? Yes! Will some anti ios6 devs make apps for it and go broke? Yes! Will some bloggers make new android musician dot coms and waste their time? Yes! Will apple laugh all the way to the bank? YES!!!

    1. I have to agree. The iPad is about as small as I want to go for a tablet based music device. It’s already hard enough to get in there and tweak things with something like the MS-20 app. A little tiny tablet where you have to have gnome fingers to tweak things and/or use some dumbed down app that only has 3 virtual buttons and a knob? No thanks. I’ll stick with the iPad (and/or wait for the Surface).

  9. Not a hope, I’m sure technically it’s fine, but let’s check back in 18 months and see how many music apps it has……

  10. YUCK. he keeps reiterating its “good for the price.” i think if you can afford a 200 dollar tablet then you can prob also save to get a refurb ipad 2 for 320 or whatever its going for. im not saying ipad is better. i just dont like this wasteful techno consumer culture where cheap disposable purchases are justified. i would rather have a heavy duty expensive thing that lasts a long time and maybe its hard to afford than super cheap stuff that goes to the landfill in 2 years.

    if you actually think you would buy this and cherish it for many years then my apologies and please enjoy it.

  11. I remeber Steve Jobs saying that other tablets haven’t been able to compete with the iPad is that their screens were of the “wrong” size. Apparently Apple came to the conclusion – through intricate algorythms, Gödelian logic, astrology, Kabbalah and gypsy magic – that 9.7″ is the perfect holy number for tablet screens. Looking at this presentation of Nexus 7 I tend to give him right. At the very least in regards to possible future music making apps. It’s bigger than a phone, but not as big as an iPad; it’s somewhere in the Limbo. It’s like being asked “so what size of a dog would you want; small, medium or large? Also the medium one doesn’t have a pedrigree, we picked it off the streets last week”, “well, the small one I can show off with at societé dinner parties at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Arts and the large one can guard my house against intruders … but I’m not sure if the medium one can do either of those things.”

    On the whole, the presenter didn’t seem very enthusiastic about the product. Such shakespearian descriptions as for example the Google Chrome experience as “really pretty good” made me cringe a bit and think “wow .. akward”. Abuse of the adjectives “really” and “pretty” are not going to make Nexus fly off the shelves. It’s like he tries his best to put Nexus in a good light, but he doesn’t have that much material to work with. And in the end he finishes with a blatant lie that the Nexus is “incredible tablet for any price point”. I understood that Nexus is incredible for its own price point, but any price point?
    I really like Android and I used to own Galaxy and it was fun to mod and overclock and experiment with it. So for that purpose one should go with Android. But for making music it still doesn’t look like Android can beat iOS.

    1. >I remeber Steve Jobs saying that other tablets haven’t been able to compete with the iPad is that their
      >screens were of the “wrong” size. Apparently Apple came to the conclusion – through intricate algorythms,
      >Gödelian logic, astrology, Kabbalah and gypsy magic – that 9.7? is the perfect holy number for tablet

      Super easy to work this out. 8×10 is what most books have been for centuries. It’s the size/shape that works best with our bodies. We can only focus on a limited width of screen/book at a time, it’s tiresome to move the eyes repeatedly too far left/right, we need someplace for our thumbs, and to comfortably hold something for more than a few minutes we need our arms and shoulders to line up in a squared up natural position. Add to that our HUGE body of readable material, both digital and print (rapidly being digitized)… if you don’t match screen aspect to content aspect, reading sucks because you are always zooming, scrolling, or otherwise trying to make the text appropriately sized and positioned.

      Wide-aspect tablets don’t sell well for this very reason. Anyone else notice that the Microsoft Surface is wide-aspect? That design flaw alone will be enough to kill them because reading on that device will suck.

    2. >>I remeber Steve Jobs saying that other tablets haven’t been able to compete with the iPad is that their screens were of the “wrong” size. Apparently Apple came to the conclusion – through intricate algorythms, Gödelian logic, astrology, Kabbalah and gypsy magic – that 9.7? is the perfect holy number for tablet screens.

      Until the rumoured iPad Mini is released at which point iSheep will bow downand worship the 7 inch tablet and the Steve Jobs’ quote will mysteriosly vanish

  12. I would love this to be good. Apple needs someone to light a fire under its ass to keep innovating. It seems however that with all of these me too tablets, apple will be the only one motivating itself.

    1. >Apple needs someone to light a fire under its ass to keep innovating.

      What? LOL Apple is the only company to do anything truly innovative in at least a decade. And they didn’t do it just once, but multiple times. Apple is actually doing a brilliant job of rolling out innovation at a rate that consumers can actually understand and adopt. Any faster and they would innovate themselves out of the market. Remember, consumers are really stupid and slow to adopt anything new.

  13. Good to see google taking mobile music making more serious finally, as I’ve enjoyed using my ipad in the studio, but I think this is more down to the user’s demanding google do something about it, after seeing the revolution unfolding on ios.

    If I was going to get an android device I’d go for a nexus, as it’s closer to the ios experience of timely updates, but for me even tho the new nexus tab is cheap, tempting and good by the impressions I’m reading online, do I really want to pay for all that software again, when I already own it. That cost will get into the iPad 3 with 64gb and 3g territory pretty quickly, but for android folks who have been waiting for this day for an age or folks who want to dabble but weren’t tempted by the ipad, nexus 7 with a decent audio system must seem like a godsend.

    One thing tho, there seems to be a massive misconception about competition driving innovation, I disagree, as most competitive people I’ve come across are like that as they don’t have a focus, so they get distracted by other people who do have focus and compete, talking about ideas here, not sport, collaboration and pushing each other always yields better results, competitive people go over old ground and have big mouths, usually. Google and microsoft apart from the cloud and metro that is, very much seem like this in the touchscreen space, as it’s easy once apple has mixed the ingredients, baked and dressed the cake, to come along and put a cherry onto and call it innovation. I haven’t seen much in the way of ideas in touched based mobile that gets me excited, apart from the original lemur, ios and devices, devs both on cydia and the app store, web os, metro and google maps on the xoom.

    So I hope google does something exciting and not just, here we’ve got another big app from the app store, like how android has been, for the most part, I want them to step up and really think about the user experience, less buzz words like project butter, or making our os as smooth as apples has always been, but on much more powerful hardware malarkey and blowing my mind. As their cloud stuff has been pretty innovative, I remember switching from alta vista to google back in the day.

    If microsoft misses the opportunity google and it’s oem’s, left open by assuming the tablet market is a repeat of the phone market and doesn’t sort the audio side out in windows rt, then I see the nexus 7 becoming the second music platform after ipad, as windows 8 full tabs will be priced to high and not offer much more, until the main music program’s are touch based. But I do get the fear all I’ll be reading in the comments soon is android version please, it would be nice to start seeing this happen in reverse, maybe google needs it’s own garage band for its os.

  14. Cracks me up totally! I design sound blogger has set up android musician site all excited but lol, the palmist is all over nexus too, why? Because they are bored! We all want something new, but just as we cannot trade our old wives in for new ones there’s only one tablet of choice really. It’s no ones fault, just the way it is
    But let’s not get excited over anything until some time has passed and we can see the performance of this toy, and from what I’ve seen so far, there are no decent android music apps and no signs of any forthcoming either

  15. Hahahah. 100 ms to 11 ms is a huge improvement I’d say!!

    I like the 10″ form factor but paperback books, pocket notebooks (moleskine), and some notepads are all close to the 7″ size, so it must be usable for some people at least (kids? hipsters? waiters? meter readers? parking enforcement?) Probably the “$199” feature is more important than the “7 inch screen” feature though.

    1. USB Host…. you can hook up a phantom powered mic using a Shure X2u XLR-to-USB Signal Adapter.. I don’t think a iPad can do this..

      1. In fact, you can use just about any USB audio device on iPad through the cam deck. In fact, you can use one for dual audio streams (latency free) in Djay in for headphone precue. With the right audio device, iOS supports 8 simultaneous tracks recording.

  16. I have developed 4 music apps for IOS. I have today ported them over and they all still have audio latency problems. The apps range from simple drum pads to multi-track sequencers. Its a tiny bit better than on my old Dell Streak but not that much. I gave up Android a year ago and I assumed by the press coverage that they had fixed this problem. Its certainly not good enough for tapping rythems or quick key presses. This is also confirmed by 3 fellow veteran developers. It is still an issue!!! such a shame but I wont be porting over to Android quite yet. Im not saying that its totally impossible as there may just be a way to get round it but Im sharing 4 developers experience with the Nexus 7today and tested 5 musical apps that cannot perform well enough. They audio latency is still behind the Iphone 3G

    1. I can tell you the galaxy nexus has no such problem, tried a few drum apps/piano apps and they are fully usable with no hint of latency. Its even better in 4.2

  17. I think I’ll be holding off as with Reason, Amplitube, Live 8 etc etc on my PC and laptop these phone/tablet apps are an amusing distraction. The Nexus 7 has major memory limitations. Of more interest will be the upcoming Surface Pro IMO.

  18. Has anyone ever thought of using a remote desktop app and running Reason. You can control everything off the nexus via usb host mouse..or bluetooth mouse.. yes it works

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  20. Audio is gradually improving on Android which has proven to be very problematic for creating music software. However, it’s not just the Nexus 7 which is available with these specs at low cost. There is also the Cyclone Voyager (dual core with quad-core GPU) which is almost identical spec to the Nexus 7 and is available for about £80. I actually found the Cyclone Voyager to be better for music apps than the Nexus 7. Still some minor issues though.

  21. I have a nexus 7 now. I love it. Super fast. Portable. Battery last all day. My 2 and a half year old son likes it and figured it out pretty quick. Multitasks with no lags so far and a I have a bunch of apps. I do think cool other uses are the midi over WiFi apps.. I am a musician so when I found those and wireless controllers it got me a little more happy. I am still looking at a way to multi track in so I can just get a dry track and export into a studio computer etc…. If not.. Its a cool remote/controller. That is my 2cents.

  22. i agree, ‘really’ is an adverb. Thanks people, i wish i knew which tablet. Does ipad still lead the field for minimal screentouch latency?

  23. Audacity has latency correction. You do a “record what you hear” track by running a cable from the headphone jack to the mic jack and find out in ms the difference (for example 157 ms between the original track and the copy, you put -157 in the latency correction form and viola! Perfectly aligned recordings. All audio software should have this feature. It doesn’t get rid of latency, it just makes it irrelevant.

  24. Is anyone out there with a nexus 7, successfully running a DAW with an Audio Interface excepting both audio into the nexus7 and Audio out? Whilst supporting midi through the external audio interface?

    I keep seeing this half way videos of hope for the nexus 7.. Does it or does it not support the above like an ipad does..

    Please, I have a nexus 7 and really want to be able to use good apps through an audio/midi interface..

  25. As anyone tried using Ableton on this? Too much to handle?

    I’m looking at either a Nexus 7 or 10 to take travelling for producing music. Can anyone recommend the best option?


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