Google scores with Nexus 7 tablet

Google's Nexus 7 tablet (courtesy Google ©2012)
Google's Nexus 7 tablet (courtesy Google ©2012)
Sphero by Orbotix (courtesy Orbotix ©2012)
Sphero by Orbotix (courtesy Orbotix ©2012)
Free Sphero Drive joystick app (courtesy Orbotix ©2012)
Free Sphero Drive joystick app (courtesy Orbotix ©2012)

Almost everyone agrees that Google has a winner with the new Nexus 7. With a bright 7" display, powerful quad-core processor, and up to 8 hours of battery life, Google's new tablet is a slim, portable package that fits perfectly in your hand.

The unit is manufactured by ASUS and is powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, making it the first seven-inch Android-powered tablet available with four-core CPU.

Speed was obviously among its designers' top priorities. Pages load quickly, games play smoothly, and running multiple apps is effortless. The tablet's discreet GPU also delivers immersive graphics with battery-saving efficiency.

Standard equipment includes 1 GB RAM and a 1280-by-800, high-resolution display protected by scratch-resistant Corning glass ("gorilla glass"). Android 4.1 ("Jelly Bean") runs the show, complete with Google Now (Google's answer to Apple's Siri), new widgets, and home screen customization.

Other hardware features include both gyroscopic and accelerometer sensors, along with a 1.2 MP front-facing camera, NFC ("Android Beam"), headphone jack, built-in speaker, 802.11b/g/n wireless networking, and Bluetooth.

No 3G or 4G cellular service is available, but the unit must be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi to access content from Google Play, such as games, movies, books, or magazines.

The battery is rated for over 9 hours of HD video playback, 10 hours of web browsing, 10 hours of e-reading, or up to 300 hours of standby time.

Many say the Nexus 7 makes the Kindle Fire feel prehistoric by comparison. Others think its debut increases the likelihood that the rumored Apple iPad Mini will become a reality.

Regardless, the Nexus 7 is undeniably the best $200 Android-powered tablet currently available. Don't expect miracles, however. The device is not an iPad killer nor is it designed to compete with top-of-the-line Adroid tablets, such as the ASUS Transformer Prime or the Toshiba Thrive.

It's a bargain, no question. The overall quality of the Nexus 7 belies its price tag, and for a limited time Google is even sweetening the deal with a $25 credit for the Google Play store and a bunch of free content, including the latest Transformers' movie ("Transformers: Dark of the Moon").

Not bad for an outlay of $199 or $249, depending whether you want 8GB or 16GB internal storage. For more information, visit the Nexus 7 product page.

Sphero reinvents the ball

Not since the Orb, seen in Woody Allen's 1973 sci-fi romp, "Sleeper", has a sphere been this much fun!

Sphero by Orbotix
is the ultimate geek toy. Its developers claim it reinvents the ball and has an enthusiastic, worldwide fan base.

The robotic globe can be controlled by both iOS and Android-powered devices, and its translucent plastic shell is both impact-resistant and waterproof up to 15 ft.

Capable of being radio controlled via Bluetooth within a 50-foot radius, Sphero's propulsion system uses a multi-colored LED to provide both a navigational aid ("taillight") and a dazzling, customizable light show.

Top speed is 3 feet per second. An induction charging station keeps the rechargeable battery ready to provide up to an hour of continuous movement.

A variety of free apps, including Sphero Draw N' Drive, SpheroCam, Sphero Golf, and Sphero Chromo, make the device captivating for both humans and pets (cats are reportedly big fans.) Orbotix even provides an SDK so programmers can create their own apps.

Sphero is sold by Brookstone, the Apple Store,,, and other retailers. The price is $129.99. For more information, visit