Review: Google's official Nexus 7 Cover disappoints

When the Nexus 7 tablet debuted, Google also announced the official Nexus 7 Cover, priced at a surprisingly reasonable $20. Oddly, you couldn’t pre-order the case along with your Nexus 7—the case wasn’t available for order until a few weeks after the tablet, and the case didn’t ship until several days after the Nexus 7 itself starting finding its way into early adopters’ hands.

Unfortunately for those of us who waited anxiously for the Cover to arrive—there weren’t many third-party cases available at the time—the official Google case was somewhat disappointing. After a couple months of use, the case hasn’t won me over.

The rear of the Cover is essentially a form-fitting, plastic skin that covers the back of the Nexus 7 and wraps around its sides; a lip around the edge of the tablet holds this back piece in place. This part of the case fits the Nexus 7 well—it’s a little loose along the left and right edges, but not enough to be annoying while using the tablet. Along the right-hand edge are sections molded specifically to cover the tablet’s power and volume buttons, letting you press those buttons through the case. Along the top edge is a small hole for the Nexus 7’s microphone, and the bottom edge provides openings for the headphone jack and the Micro-USB port. On the back of the case, near the bottom, is a horizontal opening for the tablet’s rear speaker. As you would expect of a case from the Nexus 7’s maker, the openings and button overlays work well.

Along the left-hand edge is a thin, half-inch-wide plastic hinge for the case’s screen cover. That screen cover is a solid piece of plastic, just slightly thicker than the back of the case. Like the rest of the case, the cover is stiffer than the soft-silicone material frequently used for phone and tablet cases, but it’s not completely rigid, either.

Unlike the back of the case, the screen cover just doesn’t fit well. The cover flap’s hinge feels flimsy and doesn’t keep the cover in place—the cover frequently slides half a centimeter or so to the left, leaving the edge of the tablet’s screen exposed. There’s also no clasp, strap, or other way to keep the cover closed, so it flops open easily. The cover does flip around to the back of the case, but it’s not sturdy enough to double as a stand, as with the cover on some other Nexus 7 cases. Finally, though the Nexus 7 includes the hardware for an iPad-like magnetic sleep/wake feature—with a supported case, closing the cover puts the tablet to sleep, and opening the cover wakes it up—the Nexus 7 Cover doesn’t include the requisite magnet(s) in the screen flap. In my opinion, this omission is inexcusable considering that the Cover is the official Nexus 7 case.

The Nexus 7 Cover doesn’t add a lot of bulk to the tablet—just a few millimeters in each dimension. However, at 4.5 ounces, it increases the Nexus 7’s weight by nearly 40 percent. The surface of the case is covered in tiny dimples to match the back of the tablet itself, but the case’s plastic material feels cheaper and isn’t as grippy as the material used for the back of the Nexus 7.

Bottom line

At just $20, Google’s Nexus 7 Cover is reasonably priced and offers decent protection. But considering the solid construction of the Nexus 7 itself, and that this is the official case for Google’s flagship Android tablet, the case’s poor screen-cover fit, cheap feel, and lack of support for the tablet’s sleep/wake feature are disappointing. The Nexus 7 is currently the best mid-sized tablet on the market, and it deserves a better case. If you like to use the tablet bare, and you just need something to keep it safe in your bag, check out WaterField Designs’ $29 Nexus 7 Slip Case, an attractive, lightweight, padded sleeve with a rigid front to protect the tablet’s screen. For a use-in case, DodoCase’s Hardcover for Nexus 7 gives your Nexus 7 a hardcover-book-like cover without adding much bulk or weight.

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