Google Nexus 7 (2013) Android tablet
The best Android tablet on the market. Full stop.
- Thinner & lighter design
- Fantastic display
- Excellent performance
- No microSD card slot
- Very large bezel
The new Nexus 7 (2013) improves on its predecessor thanks to a fantastic display, a thinner and lighter design, and excellent performance. This is the best Android tablet on the market and the only competitor to the iPad mini. Full stop.
Google's second generation Nexus 7 tablet has a lot to live up to. The original model represented a significant milestone in the Android tablet market, offering a compelling alternative despite costing significantly less than Apple's iPad mini. The new Nexus 7 (2013) improves on that model with a fantastic display, a thinner and lighter design, and excellent performance. This is the best Android tablet on the market. Full stop.
Thick bezel, razor thin tablet
Thinner, lighter, and narrower than its predecessor.
The new Nexus 7 feels like a second generation product in more ways than one. For starters, it's thinner (8.65mm), lighter (290g), and narrower than the previous Nexus 7. That means it's very easy to hold and use single-handedly, though we did find the thin bezel on the sides (when held in landscape orientation) often left us accidentally bumping the edges of the screen.
Despite a reduction in weight, there's no real evidence that the Nexus 7 is a budget device. It feels impressively constructed, doesn't creak or rattle when you apply force to its case, and can't be easily scratched or marked. We particularly like the side mounted volume rocker and power/lock key — both provide good tactility and are well positioned.
We miss the rear finish of the previous model, but the Nexus 7 remains comfortable to hold.
There are two key design changes on the new Nexus 7. Gone is the soft feeling, almost leather-like material on the back, replaced by plain, matte black plastic that also feels soft to touch. While we miss the finish of the previous model, the new Nexus 7 remains comfortable to hold. The finish almost feels like rubber, so it provides decent grip. It's certainly an improvement on most other Android tablets, particularly the slippery, glossy back of Samsung's Galaxy Note 8, for example.
The second main design change is the fact that the new Nexus 7 is taller than the older model. This has resulted in very large bezels on the top and bottom of the tablet when held in portrait orientation. While the landscape branded "Nexus" logo on the back suggests Google wants you to use the device in this manner, the large bezels look out of place otherwise, particularly if you're reading a book. They also make the 7in screen look far smaller than it actually is.
The Nexus 7 has a host of upgraded specifications compared to its predecessor, but the star of the show is clearly the full HD, IPS display. With a resolution of 1920x1200 providing a pixel density of 323ppi, the Nexus 7's screen is one of the best on any tablet we've seen, including the full sized iPad, and Google's larger Nexus 10. It's a significant upgrade over both its predecessors 1280x800 screen, and the iPad mini's 1024x768 display, producing bright, vibrant colours, super sharp text and hugely impressive viewing angles.
Stock Android at its best
The new Nexus 7 is one of the the first devices to run the latest version of Google's Android OS, 4.3 Jelly Bean. Jelly Bean 4.3 is a very minor upgrade to the previous 4.2 version with no real outstanding new features. Additions include restricted user profiles for children, Bluetooth Low Energy support, and OpenGL ES 3.0. The latter is targeted at Android games and allows for lens flares, reflections and more sophisticated shadows in graphics, according to Google.
Android 4.3 on the Nexus 7 is the fastest and smoothest we've ever used.
While nothing much has changed from the outside, Android 4.3 on the new Nexus 7 is the fastest and smoothest version of the platform we've ever used. There is no sign of lag during most everyday tasks. Home screens are smooth to swipe through, even with multiple widgets on the screens. Apps open quickly, with minimal delay. The Google Chrome browser is fast, and renders pages efficiently. While the overall user experience isn't as buttery smooth as Apple's iOS platform, Android continues to improve with every iteration, and this is the best example yet.
A big advantage of opting for the Nexus 7 over rival Android tablets is software updates. Regardless of what model Nexus 7 you own, you'll always receive the updates as soon as Google makes them available. Most other Android tablets are currently stuck on older software versions of Android. Some of these models may not ever see the latest Android updates and if they do, it will be months after they are made available on the Nexus 7.
The new Nexus 7 is a great tablet for gaming. While the iPad mini may be able to claim more games purely as a number, most of the hugely popular titles are available on Android, too. The excellent screen also gives the Nexus 7 a huge advantage over the iPad mini, while the two built-in speakers on the back are a big improvement over the original model and output decent quality sound.
There are still some minor issues with the Android platform on tablets.
Most games we played on the new Nexus 7 ran effortlessly. Graphically intense titles like Real Racing 3, Shadowgun, and Dead Trigger look superb. The device is also aided by Google Play Games, a new Android 4.3 feature that allows users to track their progress in games through a central portal. You can compare and play available titles against friends who own Android devices.
Despite the largely positive user experience, there are still some minor issues with the Android platform. Scrolling remains jittery in various apps, the Play Store a prime example. There also aren't enough apps on the Google Play Store designed specifically for tablets, so plenty of smartphone apps are just scaled up to fit the larger screen of the Nexus 7. The situation is improving, but some apps don't work as well as they should on the Nexus 7.
The new Nexus 7 has significantly upgraded internals. It is now powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with Adreno 320 graphics, and has 2GB of RAM instead of the 1GB of last year's model. It comes in 16GB and 32GB models but there is disappointingly no microSD card slot to expand the on-board memory. A 32GB Wi-Fi+LTE model is also available, and it supports the 1800MHz 4G networks used in Australia by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
Rear camera, built-in wireless charging
Google has added a rear-camera on the new Nexus 7, a feature that wasn't present on the original device. The 5-megapixel snapper doubles as a full HD, 1080p video recorder, while the front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera remains the same as last year's model. We can't imagine too many people making use of the rear camera, but it produces reasonable, if not outstanding photos. The front-facing camera works reasonably well, but its position off-center above the screen can make it difficult to accurately frame your face.
If you're using the Nexus 7 constantly it does suck up a lot of battery.
The Google Nexus 7 comes standard with NFC connectivity, and also includes built-in wireless charging based on the Qi standard. However, there's been no word on any wireless charging accessories, so this seems like a future proof feature for now. The Nexus 7's bottom-mounted micro-USB port is SlimPort enabled, which means it can be used to output HDMI video and audio using an optional microUSB-to-HDMI adapter.
Google says the Nexus 7's battery will last for up to nine hours of "active use". It should easily last most users for two full days before requiring a recharge, though excessive users may have to reach for the charger every night. If you're using the Nexus 7 constantly it does tend to suck up a lot of battery power, though we found it was efficient in sleep mode.
The new Nexus 7 Wi-Fi models are available in Australia through "a number" of retailers including JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and Dick Smith. The 16GB Wi-Fi model sells for $299, while the 32GB Wi-Fi model is available for $339. A 32GB Wi-Fi+LTE Nexus 7 model is priced at $439 and will be available soon.
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