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Last year I bought a Nexus 7 Android tablet. Since then I have been on a quest to find the perfect case for it. The task isn’t easy. On the one hand, the Nexus 7 is such a nice tablet in itself that it seems genuinely a shame to have to encase it. It’s nice to look at and feels nice to hold, especially the dimpled plastic back that feels sort of like stretched leather. It is the only tablet, in fact, I have ever truly enjoyed both holding and looking at.
On the other hand, there are so many possibilities. Do I hold out for a case with a keyboard and mouse? Something that takes of advantage of the pogo ports? Do I go for something with a magnetic smart cover to take advantage of that function? Do I look for something to protect the device, or something that just looks good with it?
I kept looking for that case that would call me. I read many reviews, kept Nexus 7 as a custom section on Google News, searched Google+, but nothing seemed right, until I read a review by fellow Google Plusser Lars Fosdal about the BG-7 Bluetooth Keyboard case, a case designed or the Nexus 7. (If you’re wondering why I took pictures of the case and tablet on a fur background, it’s an inside joke; read the comments on Lars’ post).
In fact the BG-7 is quite possibly the one case I’ve seen that is truly designed for the Nexus 7, to go together in such a way that they just fit. Better yet was the pricetag: $24 with free shipping. How could I go wrong? If it was terrible, it still cost almost nothing. Here is my experience so far:
Ordering, Unboxing, & Setup
Free shipping took about two weeks and the unboxing process was painless. Although listed on the website of DealExtreme as “aluminum”, the BG-7 (Mobile Bluetooth Keyboard for Nexus 7 is what the box says) feels like plastic to me. Not chintzy plastic, but not premium plastic either. It’s not solid, but it doesn’t feel too fragile either. Pairing the keyboard with the tablet was easy using the nearly-flawless English language instructions that came with it.
The Back of the Case
The back of the case is a dimpled black plastic, kissing cousins with the back of the Nexus 7 tablet but feels smoother, with a less comfortable grip, and the dimples are farther apart. Since I won’t be holding it much, the feel is less important than that it makes stylistic sense.
The keys, like the rest of the case, don’t feel premium but don’t feel fragile either, I tend to bang hard on keyboards and, although I’m being more gentle deliberately, I feel confident the keys won’t break too easily.
The numbers are a bit close to the screen for my liking but I think I’ll adjust. Typing in general is an adjustment, since I’m not used to typing on such a small keyboard with keys placed so closely together. The layout is also slightly unconventional, but just barely (there’s no Tab key, one of the Shift keys is slightly smaller, etc…). I’m already getting used to it and, although I don’t think I’ll ever get as good on it as a larger keyboard, I think I’ll get much quicker.
My biggest complaint is the lack of a dedicated Talk-to-Text key. Since the onscreen key doesn’t come on when this is in use, it would sometimes be easier just to use Talk-to-Text but is impossible to do.
How Does It Work as a Tablet Stand?
First of all, do not try to use the channel on this case to stand the tablet up in portrait mode. In my experiments it did not work at all and failed so spectacularly, in fact, it made me nervous to keep trying.
For landscape mode, however, this works great. The Nexus 7 sits pretty solid in the channel and although its angle isn’t adjustable it is at a very good angle in general for viewing. It does not lock in, so you’ll still want to exercise caution with where you use it (it probably won’t work well on your legs unless you hold it very carefully, and shouldn’t be placed too near a precarious ledge).
Will it Protect My Nexus 7?
Oh good God, no! It offers no cushion unless it hits first and I doubt they’ll stay together if you drop them. I use an extra portfolio case I had around the house which I already used for the tablet. Luckily the case fits as well.
What About My Battery?
This will kill it a lot quicker, but so will any Bluetooth attachment. The battery on the keyboard, however, seems suitable for days of regular use without charging.
What is My Favorite Use So Far? Gaming!
I enjoy Android gaming, and one of the first things I tried was playing a game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 10th Anniversary Edition. This was an interesting one to try because it began its life as a PC game which was partly ported and partly redesigned for mobile (it’s also optimized for the N7’s NVidia Tegra processor and GPU).
I give Rockstar Games kudos for their effort in designing a fairly intuitive set of touchscreen controls, and there is something unique and fun about playing it that way. But played with a keyboard, its PC roots show. Nearly everything in the game is just easier to control with a keyboard, although the controls are not customizable and too many of them are on the number pad for my liking.
With a Bluetooth Mouse, I imagine, the game would be even better. I’m willing to wager many Android games would be better to play with a keyboard even if not really designed for one. So if you can’t imagine wanting a keyboard, how about a $24 game controller that’s also a tablet stand and a case that you can take with you everywhere?
Closing Thoughts: The Netbook That Should Have Been, the Keyboard Case Asus Should Have Made (But Better)
If you ever tried a Windows Netbook, my condolences. I never found one that was any good out of the box. They all had underpowered hardware and overpowered software (which was still somehow underpowered; Windows 7 Starter edition was just an abomination).
The Nexus 7 and Nexus 7 Bluetooth Keyboard Case, when put together, look like one cohesive unit, although they’d be more so obviously if they connected via a dock. Still, one look at the tablet nestled in its channel in front of its keyboard, and it definitely passes as some type of Netbook.
Unlike other Netbooks I’ve tried, however, this isn’t an underpowered Windows Netbook with poor battery life, it’s a quad-core Android Jellybean tablet with good battery life. It’s only a shame Asus didn’t design a keyboard case like this (but more premium) for the Nexus 7, possibly with a Mouse as well and maybe an extra battery for charging the tablet, which given their experience with the Transformer series they surely could have done.
Although Android still isn’t fully optimized for use with a keyboard (or keyboard and mouse), I am now more convinced than ever Android can migrate to PC’s, and that well-designed Android Netbook convertibles can be a part of this.