Google shook up the tablet market last year with the Nexus 7 and with the starting price of $249, combined with Android 4.1 Jellybean software, and premium quality hardware from ASUS, here was a seven-inch tablet making a big statement.
In a market that was saturated with expensive 10-inch tablets, the competitive price point and comparatively smaller footprint immediately translated into strong sales spurring its biggest competitor, Apple, to release the iPad mini later that year.
However, with new iPads just around the corner and Microsoft making significant investments into the tablet market, the second generation Nexus 7 faces more competition than ever and expectations are understandably high. So how does the Nexus 7 2013 stack up?
In short, what Google and ASUS have managed to deliver for an asking price of $299 is quite incredible. The starting price may be $50 higher than last year’s effort but what you get in return is a level of performance and hardware that you won’t get anywhere else for the price.
One of the best displays on the market
Let’s start with the 1920x1200 resolution IPS display which is leaps and bounds ahead of last year’s model, let alone the competition.
It’s the highest-resolution 7-inch tablet and almost twice the resolution of Apple’s iPad mini. The difference in pixel density is apparent, especially when compared side-by-side with the iPad mini’s lesser 1024x768 resolution screen. There is also a noticeable sharpness to text and a natural vibrancy to videos and images.
The colour accuracy is also impressive. Google has implemented a two-step calibration process this time around and the additional effort shows in terms of the screens ability to produce accurate whites, grays and black levels in addition to a wider colour gamut. The only complaint with the screen is that skin tones can look a bit too light, giving it a slightly washed-out look.
The screen is also incredibly bright, clocking in at over 500 NITS or candela per square metre (cd/m2), which means that it will cope fine with outdoor use. However, it does take a real toll on the battery once you begin to ratchet up the brightness.
All in all, the new Nexus 7 possesses one of the best displays you will find on any tablet.
Impressive battery life
Battery life has also been improved over its predecessor with our video playback loop test clocking in close to 12 hours, echoing the same results as the Apple iPad mini and blowing away other Android tablets such as the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 and Google Nexus 10.
Expect to get around 2-3 days of moderate use before needing to reach for the charger. As is always the case with tablets, demanding apps such as 3D games will drain the battery much quicker.
Still feels great in the hand
One of the real strong points of the original Nexus 7 was how comfortable it felt to hold the device in one hand, something the iPad Mini lacked due to its rather wide 4:3 aspect ratio screen.
The trade-off with the Nexus 7 2013’s 16:10 screen is that you don’t get as much screen real estate than you do with the iPad Mini’s 7.9-inch display and as a result, the iPad Mini has a slight edge when it comes to web browsing and general productivity tools such as writing emails.
That said, the Nexus 7 2013 is ideal for playing HD video with a lot less black-bar space than the iPad mini. It’s also worth remembering that the Android OS has been optimised for keyboard and mouse input as well, allowing you to very easily pair a bluetooth enabled mouse/keyboard combo for when you need to type out those long emails or documents.
Google and Asus have also refined some design elements with the build, making the device slightly thinner and lighter. It’s still an all plastic design and although it doesn’t feel as premium as the aluminium body of the iPad, it doesn’t feel cheap either. The plastic build is also much more resistant to scratches than the scratch prone frame of the iPad.
Google and Asus have also integrated Qi wireless charging into the back cover of the device which may not be the quickest means of charging but it’s a nice bonus especially if you have a compatible wireless charger lying around.
Smooth like butter
The other key advantage of a Nexus device is that you get the pure Android experience without the bloat of OEM custom skins. As a result, the OS experience feels very polished and lightweight that easily zips through apps and web browsing without any sign of stutter.
Internally, the Nexus 7 is using last generation’s quad-core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2GB of RAM. The Nexus 7 may not be packing the latest and greatest processor but Android has never felt quicker than it does with the Nexus 7, which is a testament to how well Google has tuned the performance of the OS to the hardware.
Also if you are in the habit of sharing the tablet around the office or at home, you will appreciate the out of the box support of multiple user profiles.
It’s worth noting that the speakers have also been upgraded to dual stereo speakers that are well-placed and difficult to muffle with your hands when holding the tablet. Though the speakers aren’t terribly loud, they don’t distort when the volume is cranked to the maximum either which is appreciated.
Google and ASUS have taken everything that was great about the original Nexus 7 and improved it with a class leading display and incredible performance whilst still conforming to the sub $300 price tag.
While we would have loved to have seen a MicroSD card slot for expandable storage and some of the bezel space sacrificed for a bit more screen, it is still the best Android tablet on the market and outshines the more expensive iPad mini in almost every respect.
Krishan Sharma is a Brisbane-based Freelance Journalist and writes for a number of different publications covering Business IT and Consumer Technology.