Has Apple lived up to its own hype with its new flagship device?
Nexus 7 review (2013)
What is it?
The second-generation Nexus 7 is Google’s new flagship small tablet, with its 7-inch screen boasting a stunning 1920 x 1200 resolution.
The screen’s sharpness and colour reproduction has rivals soundly beaten, and build quality and performance are top class.
Android tablets still want for compelling tablet apps, making the Nexus more suited for consuming than creating.
The bottom line:
The Nexus 7’s screen, performance and build quality match or better the iPad mini’s, and given its far cheaper price it makes a truly tempting alternative to Apple’s tablet.
Google Nexus 7: Review
As with the original Nexus 7, Google has turned to Asus to manufacture this tablet and the company has done a stellar job. The 2013 Nexus 7 is slimmer than its predecessor, with a narrower bezel surrounding the 7-inch Gorilla Glass-fronted screen. Despite its skinny 7.6mm depth, it’s a very solid piece of gear with no excessive plastic use (we’re looking at you, Samsung) and no signs of creakiness or flex. The back is made from grippy, soft-touch plastic that feels nice in your mitt, and at 290g the tablet is light enough to comfortably hold one-handed for an extended period of time.
Google Nexus 7: Screen
Google has gone all out on the Nexus 7’s display. With a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and pixel density of 323ppi, it offers the highest resolution of any 7-inch tablet on the market. The screen is far sharper than the iPad mini’s 163ppi 1024 x 768 7.9-inch display, and boasts (to our eyes at least) equally impressive colour reproduction. The screen’s size makes it ideal for consuming content: movies, ebooks and web browsing all suit the display brilliantly.
Google Nexus 7: Speakers and camera
The Nexus 7 comes with built-in stereo speakers, with rear-facing grilles located at the top and bottom of the tablet. This means that when you hold it in landscape orientation to watch a video, they’re at the ideal left and right side of the screen. While a pair of headphones will always be preferable, the speakers pump out reasonably powerful, clear audio.
The original Nexus 7 only had a 1.2MP front camera, but the new model adds a 5MP rear snapper with auto focus too. There’s no flash, so it’s pretty useless in dim conditions, but in bright light you can capture decent video and stills. Colours are muted and scenes with a wide dynamic range will come out with parts either under- or overexposed, however – there’s no HDR mode here.
Google Nexus 7: Performance
Google and Asus have equipped the tablet with a powerful quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU and 2GB of RAM, which equals speedy performance all-round in real-world use: the Nexus 7 skims through menu screens with nary a stutter and excels at multitasking. We found it only got really warmed up when running complex 3D graphics, such as the Google Earth app’s 3D satellite view.
Running the AnTuTu Benchmark app, we wrung an overall score of just over 19,000 out of the tablet, making it comparable to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note II tablet or Google Nexus 4, Sony Xperia Z and LG Optimus G smartphones. The original Nexus 7 scores around 12,000, for comparison.
Despite all this power, battery life feels lengthy. We got through the entirety of Hilary Mantel’s novel Bring Up The Bodies through the Kindle app with no need to charge, and from our tests you can expect around 11 hours of web browsing and video watching on a full charge.
Google Nexus 7: Software
The Nexus 7 comes with Android Jelly Bean 4.3 on board, free of any non-Google embellishments. It’s a slick, good-looking OS unburdened by unnecessary bloatware and in possession of a handful of minor improvements over 4.2.2 (the ability to set up restricted profiles for kids and strangers being the most notable – it helps prevent little Johnny racking up a hefty bill in Candy Crush, for one thing).
One area where Android is lagging behind iOS is tablet apps, and that’s an issue anyone who buys the Nexus 7 will have to live with. Until more developers start building apps specifically for Android tablets – and we’re aware that the fractured nature of the OS is the culprit for this, not the devs – iOS is always going to have an edge on that front. Most apps on the Nexus 7 are simply scaled-up versions of the phone equivalent, and that’s not making full use of its fantastic screen.
Google Nexus 7: Verdict
The new Nexus 7 is a marked step up from the original model, and its excellent build quality, lengthy battery life, powerful processor, stereo speakers and above all, its class-leading 7-inch screen, make it a compelling alternative to the likes of the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and Apple iPad mini – especially considering its affordable price. Google, however, needs to encourage Android developers to make more tablet-friendly apps, as having to rely on blown-up smartphone software doesn’t do this fine hardware justice.
Google Nexus 7: Available 28 August – £199 (16GB), £239 (32GB), £299 (32GB with 4G LTE)