[Mini-Review + Video] Nexus 7 (2013)

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The 7-inch tablet market really consists of only tablets: the Nexus 7, and the iPad mini. While the next iPad mini update isn’t expected for a few more months, Google, partnered once again with ASUS, has updated their Nexus 7 (Google, Amazon) tablet with a number of good improvements that make the old one seem ancient.

Unboxing Video

Video Review

Specifications

The Nexus 7 (2013) is packed full of today’s latest and greatest tablet hardware, which includes the following:

  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU @ 1.5GHz
  • Adreno 320 GPU @ 400MHz
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB/32GB storage (not expandable)
  • Optional LTE model
  • NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 3950mAh battery
  • 7-inch 1920×1200 display (323 PPI) w/”scratch resistant Corning glass”
  • 5MP rear-facing camera
  • 1.2MP front-facing camera
  • Android 4.3

Design & Hardware

The new Nexus 7 model features a thin-and-light design, with a soft-touch backing for grip and general design. Gone are the days of a dotted back, as seen on the original Nexus 7. This soft-touch material allows for fewer fingerprints, something many are in favor for. Opposite of the back is the front, consisting of a large slab of glass with no touch-sensitive buttons.

In terms of a tour, the front of the device is where you’ll find the 7-inch display, various sensors, and an awkwardly-placed front-facing camera. All buttons are found on the right side, which includes the power button and the volume rocker. The top has the 3.5mm headset jack, while the bottom is where you’ll find the USB port. If you’re wondering, there’s nothing on the left side. The back of the Nexus 7 houses the rear-facing camera, and dual, rear-facing speakers that can actually provide you with some pretty good surround sound.

Everything about the tablet feels very solid, and is quite comfortable to hold, whether you decide to use both hands, or just one. In comparison with the iPad mini, the Nexus 7 is much narrowing, making it noticeably more friendly for one-handed operation.

Display

Bright, crisp, and pretty. Add to that the fact that the viewing angles are as good as they can get, and you have yourself an excellent display. Colors are accurate, saturated well, and are simply a pleasure to look at. Much else can’t really be said about this quality display.

Speaker Quality

Most shrug when it comes to tablet speakers, though the dual speakers on the new Nexus 7 are actually quite good. It features a bit of surround sound emulation, courtesy of Fraunhofer. And, actually, it works quite well. The speakers themselves can get quite loud and don’t easily distort. Audio is quite clear and is a pleasant to listen to, making it quite suitable for spoken tracks and some light music. For long-term listening, one should always head towards a dedicated set of speakers or headphones.

Software & Features

As this is a “Nexus” device, you get a completely stock version of Android, free from any manufacturer bloatware. This results in a very smooth and clutterless experience. If you’re an advanced user, several root methods and plenty of custom ROMs are available, making this tablet, obviously, very hacker friendly. Also, you get the latest Android updates before most of the Android world does.

The stock experience is one that I would usually recommend to others, as it gives you fewer things to worry about, and is much more easier to deal with.

And that’s really where this section stops, as because there aren’t any manufacturer skins or extras, there’s not much to explain in regards to the stock experience.

Although, maybe there is more than I can say.

The tablet application ecosystem for Android is still far behind Apple’s, with most Android apps simply being stretched-out versions of the smartphone apps. This makes for an odd, but usable user experience. Fortunately, the 7-inch screen makes this not as much of a problem as, let’s say, a 10-inch screen, something that you’ll find on the Nexus 10. Don’t let this stop you from your buying decision.

Performance

The general performance of the updated Nexus 7 is quite good, with smooth & snappy animations and speedy application launch times. Web pages loaded pretty fast with Chrome, and even Flash performance (using other web browsers, of course) was something to make note of. One thing that I wasn’t too impressed with was graphics performance. Perhaps games like Real Racing 3 and Riptide GP2 needed to be better optimized for this hardware? I’m not sure, but both had inconsistent framerates and general experiences. That’s not to say that gaming on the Nexus 7 is bad, and it’s far from that, but things just seem as though they could be better.

Battery Life

I first started to use the Nexus 7 with the brightness maxed-out, and this was a bad thing when it came to battery life. Quickly does the battery run itself down. Switching to automatic brightness provided a huge increase in battery life. With media playback, social networking, web browsing, and even some moderate gaming, you can easily get through the entire day. I don’t like giving people raw numbers, as their experiences are almost guaranteed to vary. As long as you don’t leave the brightness at its maximum value, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting through the entire day, or even two.

Camera

Unsurprisingly, both cameras on the new Nexus 7 aren’t anything to write home about, although they do get the job done when needed, which shouldn’t be often. Please, don’t use this for taking photos of things in public areas. You’ll look odd, and the photos will most likely be worse than the smartphone that you probably have in your pocket. The lack of flash makes low-light photos pretty bad. To reiterate, the smartphone that you probably have in your pocket will most likely take better photos. If you happen not to have a smartphone, then I take what I just said back.

Conclusion

The small tablet market has a number of contenders, but only two of them are worthy of any mention. At the moment, the new Nexus 7 offers a lot that easily propels it to being the best 7-inch tablet currently available. I’d hate to mention the iPad mini for a third time, but the next update to said device could really give the new Nexus 7 a challenge. But, that’s still a few months away, and for the time being, you simply cannot go wrong with opting to get a Nexus 7. There really isn’t anything wrong with it. It’s a thin and powerful device that works extremely well.

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