Hi, excuse the intrusion. Google found this thread while I was looking for something else, but I'd thought I'd chime in seeing such nice people posting.
1. I know that the Nexus 7 forces portrait view for its 'home' screens, but does it also force third party apps to stay in portrait mode? I am particularly concerned with the browser (Chrome), does it not have the ability to work in landscape view?
Chrome will function in landscape. The auto-rotate is initially locked, but the icon to unlock is conveniently located in the top-middle of the notification drop down.
2. I know it is a Google device and so is heavily branded by them, but Does the device REQUIRE a Google account to function, as in “I do not have one so my Nexus 7 is an expensive paperweight”? Or can it work as a simple internet enabled tablet even if no Google account is currently signed into? (I actually do have a Google account but I have not used it much due primarily to privacy concerns.
I managed to get to the home screen accidentally without putting in a valid Google account. I was in a bit of a hurry, but managed to tap on something which promptly complained that I needed a valid Google account for it to function. That said, I don't think Chrome actually needs one to run, but does use one to at least share tabs, bookmarks, and other little things via a subset of their cloud, which would be what will stop you from using it without a Google account if it ties into the core function a little tightly. If you are able to get apps/apk files on another computer and port it in via microUSB, you should be able to get some better functionality out of the Nexus 7. You'd have to go into settings and allow installation from non-Google Play locations in order to run the apk files (essentially what the Apple people call "jailbreaking", just it's a tick box on 'droids)
On a side note, Google wrote the Android OS. The services preinstalled on it are typically also on other, non-Nexus products, though the manufacturers usually have variants that show up more prominently the designed specifically for their product. It technically has the least amount of bloatware as a result of the "purity" of the Android OS.
1. It seems the micro USB port can be used to charge it through the included wall adapter or by plugging into another device, though charging in general sounds buggy. My question is, can the micro USB port be used to transfer files to and from the Nexus when plugged into a Windows PC? This is hinted at in a couple of articles but never explicitly stated.
I have yet to try with the Nexus 7 (and have little reason to which I'll point out later), but have done so with my Samsung Galaxy S2. It should be noted that I plugged it into an XP computer and that I installed Samsung Kies beforehand, which took care of all the drivers so cannot attest to whether Windows will have any issues with getting drivers.
And yes charging via a USB port for data is gimped. The last time I looked, the power supplied was 300mA for the first gen, then they upped it to 500mA. I think I remember some years back, Toshiba promoted/sold a laptop that had one of its USB ports modified to output 700mA or higher to better charge your device. Also read recently somewhere that a modern smartphone will not charge while plugged into a computer's USB port unless it was in sleep mode. Anyway, the few devices I do have, their power adaptors with the USB port on the back that you plug into the mains outputs 2A, or 2000mA, to charge the devices.
2. Can the Nexus access a shared drive, folder or partition over a network for streaming files and media (particularly a Windows drive)? It would be nice to have a network drive set up to keep files on so they don't have to be stored on the device.
Yes. But to do so involves installing an app. I just noticed there doesn't appear to be a preinstalled file browser on it, but as I favoured one on Google Play on my other 'droids, I just installed that one without a second thought. It's ES File Explorer. You can access computers on the same network by tapping the button "Local" in the corner and selecting "LAN" then either put in the details of the drive/folder you've setup or (and it's news to me as I started using it before it had this ability) tell it to scan for shared folders on the network. You can further bookmark them so you needn't scan for it every time you restart the file browser.
I've yet to try, but on my other 'droids, streaming video was not well supported natively, stuttering very badly, so I ran MX Player using the Software Decoder setting to stream videos, which it does quite well. I'm half testing another streaming player on the rise called MoboPlayer which seems to do just as well. Only difference, as far as I can tell is MX streams (low bandwidth usage), while Mobo downloads it (high bandwidth usage), playing and deleting as it goes.