Nexus 7 review (2013)

People claim to buy different tablets for different purposes. Some want a brilliant display and powerful chip for gaming, while others want a smaller display and decent specs for simply reading eBooks. However, there is also that group of people who just want the best - whether it is from Apple, Samsung, Google and Asus, etc.

Tablets like the new Nexus 7 could appeal to any of those groups of people. It's mini. It’s robust. It's well-built. Moreover, it's the latest Nexus device equipped with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. That means you can use it to watch season four of Arrested Development in 1080p on Netflix, or you could even download and read Fifty Shades of Grey. We mean, The Great Gastby.

But, how does the new Nexus 7 compare to the original Nexus 7? Is it one of those tablets that's only worth upgrading bi-annually? And how does it measure up to Apple's iPad mini? Whether you're a gamer or bookworm, it's time to find out if you should buy Google's new $229 Nexus 7.

Design

Let's start by recalling the original Nexus 7: no cheap plastic bezel, sleek glass front fused to a neat metal band, and edges curve into a gripped, dimpled back that's both soft and comfortable.

The newer Nexus 7 has tossed all that rubberised plushness in favour of an all-plastic black shell with a matte finish. It's certainly not as rugged-feeling as the original Nexus 7, but it's less prone to fingerprints and looks quite svelte.

As for the bezels, they're 2.75mm thinner on each side, making it easier to hold with one hand. The top and bottom bezels haven't changed, though. The new 16:10 aspect ratio and different bezel measurements create a somewhat odd proportion size, especially at first glance, but you quickly get used to the experience and find yourself zipping and playing along without another thought.

The new Nexus 7 is also more lightweight than the original at 290g and 8.65mm thin for the Wi-Fi-only model. Yes - for those keeping score - that means the new Nexus 7 is also slightly thicker than the iPad mini. They're almost the same in height, however.

Before jumping into hardware, we have to mention controls. The new Nexus 7 has virtual navigation buttons, of course, so the front is glossy smooth; there's also a Micro USB port and speaker grilles on the bottom edge, 3.5mm headphone jack, on the top edge, volume and power buttons on the right edge and a non-centred camera lens on the front top-bezel.

The original Nexus 7 had a centred lens on the front, which we think looked more aesthetically pleasing. Lastly, Asus has put a 5-megapixel shooter on the back corner, as well as Asus branding and a mammoth, now-vertical Nexus logo.

Hardware

Starting with the two cameras, there isn't too much to go on about. The larger lens on the back captures respectable photos. But there's no LED flash. However, there is speaker grille for true stereo sound. That's a distinctive plus when compared to the original Nexus 7's mono sound.

As for that awkwardly placed front shooter we mentioned earlier - well, it's a pain for selfies. Not that we recommend using a tablet for selfies anyway. but it definitely captures decent pictures; it's just cumbersome to line up, especially if you're more familiar with a centred camera lens.

 

The new Nexus 7's cameras might not win us over, but the 7.02-inch, 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD display sure did. Everything looks first-class with this display - from unpleasant selfies to stunning 1080p Netflix. At 323ppi with brilliant colours and impeccable viewing angles, the new Nexus 7's display could give Apple's iPad a run for its money. Also, in case you were wondering, the original Nexus 7's display only offered 216 ppi.

Going under the hood: the 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro is a major boost over the 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 chip found in the original Nexus 7. There's also an Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. All of this combined equals a tablet that's both super-responsive and fast. We didn't notice any hiccups, slow loading or lagging, which surprised us considering the high demands of the display.

Speaking of the display again, in terms of performance, you must turn the brightness down to get adequate battery life. The battery is only 3,950mAh, which is less than the 4,324mAh found in the original Nexus 7.

That means a full battery will give you about 8 hours of use when consuming lots of video, and that's with the display at 50 per cent brightness. More brightness coupled with limited video and regular use will provide just enough battery life to last an entire day.

Software

The new Nexus 7 comes with Android 4.3. It's still Jelly Bean, but it boasts support for Bluetooth LE, which opens up a new world of accessories like watches, and OpenGL ES 3.0 for better graphics. These OS features aren't exactly wow-worthy in our opinion. So, it's basically the same software that powered the original Nexus 7.

The most noticeable software change is the addition of restricted profiles, which disables in-app purchases, but it's also a mere settings tool that has long been provided by eReaders from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And let's not forget about Google Play Games. It's a prettier version of Apple's Game Center, providing the ability to track scores and progress with friends via a network connection.

As for tablet-optimised games to play with friends - well, there just aren't that many. Let us clarify: there are many Android apps in Google Play these days, but a lot of them are simply scaled-up phone apps. Apple's App Store has much more to offer.

Beyond what's new and available, the performance in Android 4.3 isn't much different from the last version. The new Nexus 7 is still one of the speediest and smoothest Android tablets on the market, but we think that's more down to hardware than software.

Verdict

There's no denying the new Nexus 7 is an amazing tablet. But it's also just an upgrade.

For $229 (around £150) with 16GB of internal storage, you get a more-stylish exterior and some beefier internals. That's actually a decent price to pay if you want the latest and greatest from Google and Asus. However, some people - who would be upgrading their old 32GB Wi-Fi-only model or 32GB LTE model - might not want to cough up $269 and $349 respectively for so few improvements and tweaks. 

A year from now, Google will likely unveil a new, new Nexus 7. And it might be just another yearly upgrade - or it could be completely revamped tablet loaded with Key Lime Pie OS. This is all speculation, of course, but that's the tech world for you.

At the end of the day, if you have the money to spare and want a stellar Android tablet for occasional gaming, Netflix-ing and reading, than the new Nexus 7 is the ideal machine for you. It fits comfortably in one hand, and it offers a crisp display, snappy performance and the newest version of Android. What's not to love?  



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