I’ve had my hands on Google’s 2013 Nexus 7 now for a little over a week, and to say I’m impressed would be an understatement.
With the Google branded Asus 7-inch tablet, both parties have set a high bar for how mini-tablets should be, and it’s definitely a competitor for the best tablet of 2013. In the past few days I’ve written about why you should choose a Nexus device, and also my top 10 apps on the Nexus 7, but how does the actual device shape up? Let’s take a look…
Google released its first 7-inch tablet last year, also called the Nexus 7. It came at a very decent price of around £160 for an 8GB version, but offered up premium hardware specs that revolutionised the small tablet market. This year’s Nexus 7, whilst confusingly still called a Nexus 7, is by no means just a cheeky money-making upgrade – it’s a full-blown transformation under the hood, which also features a pleasant aesthetic change that keeps Google at the top of the tablet game. The Nexus 7 2013 comes with a much improved screen, faster processor and a new camera, all running with Android’s latest showboat, Android 4.3.
Design-wise, it may be called the same as last year’s device, but it doesn’t look the same. Taiwanese manufacturer Asus is still with the project and offers a beautiful black chassis that feels good in the hand. The back is no longer rubberised. Instead, we’re treated to a smooth back which despite its looks is still fairly easy to grip. Weighing in at a slimmed down 290 grams, the Nexus 7 is a pleasure to hold in one hand or two, and makes using it for prolonged purposes very forgiving. I’ve been using my device as an e-reader a fair bit, and have come across no problems with the weight, size or shape. It’s a little longer than last year’s Nexus 7, coming in at a length of 200mm. The portrait-orientated bevels have grown a little larger, but this doesn’t prove to be a problem and, to be honest, is helpful in landscape mode as they don’t allow your hands to block the screen when holding.
Now, the real showstopper of the 2013 Nexus 7 is the screen – one of the best I’ve ever seen on a tablet. With a razor-sharp 1920 x 1200 pixel display, the screen gives us 323ppi, which looks impressive. Auto-brightness mode usually suffices too, as when the screen is at full brightness you definitely have to don some shades, but it helps when using in sunlight. All the colours are very rich and vibrant but, at the same time, pretty accurate – a feather that’s not in the cap of competitors’ Amoled screens for example.
Looks-wise, this thing is a black beauty. Differing from last year’s version, the all blackness almost makes it look like an all-in-one unopenable tablet, much like the iPad design. With a tablet at the lower end of the price range, like Tesco’s Hudl, you may expect to come up with some concessions on design, but the Nexus 7 delivers and it looks fantastic.
With the new Nexus 7, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean makes its debut. Whilst only offering a few small changes to it predecessor, it still feels good to have the latest version in your hands. New features include the ability to set up different profiles with varying access privileges, therefore giving you the means of creating a child-friendly account with limited Internet access. Android 4.4 Kit Kat is due for release soon, and Kit Kat will likely bring bigger and more impressive features. The good news is that when new versions launch, the Nexus 7 will be first for the update giving it an advantage over any other budget Android tablets and mobiles.
There is also support for wireless charging, which is something Google says should work with any Qi-compatible charger.
In terms of under-the-hood hardware, the quad-core Qualocomm Snapdragon S4Pro processor is clocked to 1.l5GHz, which is a shift up from the previous 1.2GHz Cortex processor. RAM has been increased from 1GB to 2 GB, making it an extremely fast device with no noticeable delay. I’ve been playing a few HD games, including a rather taxing flight simulator called Infinite Flight. It runs smoothly and the screen handles well. It’s not top of the game for processors, but it’s only realy competitors at the moment are 5-inch phones, so it’s impossible to compare fairly at this stage.
The speakers are also worth a mention at this point too. I was expecting the usual quality from a tablet, but was surprised at the volume and depth the Nexus 7 can reach. A pleasure for gaming or watching movies, I’ve not felt the need to download a third-party equaliser or bass-boost yet.
Continue to page 2 for the Nexus 7 review…
A new feature is the 5MP camera on the back, adding to the 1.2MP front-facing camera already on the previous Nexus 7. Perhaps this is one area that lets the Nexus 7 down a little. With an unimpressive range of features and the colour looking a little drab, this definitely won’t be your primary picture-taking device but then again whose tablet is? The autofocus works well however, and does the job if you need it to. Google has had to make some concessions fitting everything in to a device this small and cheap, and it’s obvious here have been some big ones, but don’t let that put you off.
An unedited shot from CBR towers. Colours are a bit drab but that could just be England.
The new Nexus 7 comes in either a 16GB or 32GB version, banishing the 8GB version that was available last year. With no SD card or any means of removable storage, this size may prove a problem with some users who don’t want to adopt the cloud. However, I’m finding my 16GB big enough as I won’t be using it for movies or videos, and all my documents go up on Google Drive.
Very impressed with the battery so far. Although it’s not removable, the Li-Ion 3950 mAh battery typically gives around 10 hours active use. Avergae benchmarks from the web give around that for continuous playback of a HD video, so it seems to be working for Google. I’ve been reading on it for a few days now, and will only have to charge it up tonight when I get home.
Google’s new Nexus 7 upgrades massively on last year’s model, and is hands down one of the best mini-tablets on the market currently. Until I get my mitts on one of the new iPad Minis coming out in a few weeks, I won’t know for sure if this will be the best of 2013, but I’ve got a feeling that the hardware specs combined with Android 4.3 might just nip it the trophy.
With a gorgeous feel, seamless software and a great look, Nexus 7 delivers an awesome all-round tablet experience that shouldn’t disappoint anyone looking for a mini-tablet. I might add, also, that the screen quality almost negates the fact that this is a 7-inch device, as with the crystal-clarity, you may as well be looking at a 8 or 9 inch screen, as the resolution more than makes up for the size.
Pros – Screen quality, weight, hardware, price
Cons – Poor camera, no removable storage