Truth be told, Google has made (or at least directed the making of) some of the best tablets on the market today. The original Nexus 7 was groundbreaking in that it offered a totally usable platform, married to the latest version of Android, for $199. The Nexus 10 gave us a very quick, ultra high resolution 10-inch tablet for $100 less than the flagship iPad (and with more storage). Both were easily recommendable due to their value, but this year Google is stepping out of the shadow of value and into one of excellence. It starts with the new Nexus 7.

Based on the success of the original Nexus 7, Google went back to ASUS for the second version. In the 12 months since the release of the Nexus 7, the world has changed quite a bit. Expectations for value tablets had been reset by the original Nexus 7 as well as Amazon's lineup of Kindle Fires. Simply showing up with another good value likely wouldn't do anything to further the brand (or market). I get the distinct impression that Google isn't big on not changing the world.

Nexus 7 Tablet Specification Comparison
  ASUS Nexus 7 (2012) ASUS Nexus 7 (2013)
Dimensions 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm 200 x 114 x 8.65mm
Chassis Plastic + Rubber back Plastic + Soft Touch back
Display 7-inch 1280x800 IPS 7.02-inch 1920x1200 IPS
Weight 340 g 290 grams (WiFi), 299 grams (LTE)
Processor 1.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (T30L - 4 x Cortex A9) 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro (APQ8064-1AA)
Memory 1 GB 2 GB DDR3L
Storage 8 GB / 16 GB 16 GB / 32 GB
Battery 16 Whr 15.01 Whr
WiFi/Connectivity 802.11b/g/n, BT, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, NFC
Camera 1.2MP Front Facing 5.0 MP Rear Facing w/AF
1.2MP Front Facing
Wireless Charging Yes (Qi Compatible)
Pricing $199/$249 $229/$269 (WiFi 16/32 GB)
$349 (LTE)

The result is the new Nexus 7. Identical only in name, manufacturer and screen size, the 2013 Nexus 7 is a downright Apple way to rev a product. Google made it thinner, lighter, faster and better in almost every way.


2013 Nexus 7 (left) vs. 2012 Nexus 7 (right)

The original Nexus 7 was rather thick but it got away with it since the overall footprint of the tablet was so small. The new Nexus 7 truly feels like a slate. It's the type of thing I expect to see carried around on the Enterprise.

I don't miss the rubber imitation leather from the original Nexus 7, it's replaced by a soft touch plastic back. You definitely don't get the premium aluminum feel of the iPad mini, but the device doesn't feel cheap either. The new Nexus 7 is still nice enough that I'm nervous about scratching or scuffing the back.

Both ASUS and Nexus logos are prominently featured on the back. ASUS continues to amaze me by just how far it's come as a company, and the new Nexus 7 is hands down its most impressive tablet creation yet. From a build quality standpoint I really have no complaints about the Nexus 7. While the MeMO Pad HD7 has some creaks and flex in the chassis, the new Nexus 7 feels like a solid slab of soft plastic and glass. It's nice.

Unlike the original Nexus 7, the new model features stereo speakers on back of the tablet. It's an easy feature to take for granted but going back to the old mono design sounds worse.

I agree with Brian that the power/lock and volume buttons are the only real sore spot on the physical execution. They aren't particularly well defined and feel a bit mushy. Even writing this paragraph feels like I'm nit picking though, the build here is really good.

The only other complaint I'd levy against the new Nexus 7 is that the design doesn't particularly stand out as being unique. The iPad has its aluminum, the Moto X has its wood, but the Nexus 7 falls victim to the fact that ultimately it's tough to make these ultra mobile devices stand out. You need a large glass surface and you need a back. Black also tends to be one of the easier colors to sell (get too creative and you end up with inventory problems). It's not a huge deal to me personally, but as mobile devices can often be fashion statements I don't know that the new Nexus 7 has all that much curb appeal.

The Display

What the Nexus 7 lacks in pizazz, it completely makes up for once you power on the display. The 7-inch 1920 x 1200 display produces colors that are not only vibrant but, for the first time ever in a Nexus device, accurate as well. Google really worked on color accuracy this time, with a two step calibration process - once at a high level by the panel maker and once again per device during final manufacturing. The result is just awesome:

The Nexus 7 display is not only visually appealing but stacks up incredibly well in our CalMAN display tests. Although it loses to the iPad 4, the Nexus 7 gets indiscernibly close in many cases and blows the non-Retina iPad mini out of the water. I won't even bother comparing it to everything else in the Android space, they don't hold a candle to it.

CalMAN Display - White Point

CalMAN Display - Grayscale

CalMAN Display - Gamut

CalMAN Display - Saturations

CalMAN Display - Gretag Macbeth

The new panel is also incredibly bright. I typically view 500 nits as the threshold for outdoor usability, and the new Nexus 7 definitely exceeds that threshold. The tablet will drink away all of your battery life if you leave it at this brightness setting indefinitely, but if you need to actually use your tablet outdoors for a while the Nexus 7 works.

Display Brightness - White Level

Display Brightness - Black Level

Black levels are a bit higher than on the original Nexus 7, but the resulting peak contrast ratio is still excellent:

Display Contrast Ratio

Pixel Density Comparison

Pixel density shoots through the roof with the new Nexus 7 display as well. Brian was quick to point out that a major advantage of the Android platform is in its flexible resolution handling. The 1920 x 1200 panel presents itself as a 960 x 600 panel to web pages in Chrome, while other apps can use every last pixel for unique content (e.g. games).

The beauty of not having to double the original Nexus 7's resolution but instead settling on an in-between option like 1920 x 1200 is that Google could get away with a performance mainstream SoC instead of something ridiculously high-end.

The display looks great when viewing everything from photos and movies to web pages and eBooks. My only complaint about the Nexus 7's display is its size. A 7-inch tablet is almost pocketable (in fact I did carry it around in my pocket for a day), but the screen can feel a little cramped.

Platform Power & Battery Life
POST A COMMENT

203 Comments

View All Comments

  • justacousin - Tuesday, September 03, 2013 - link

    Sorry, what I meant to ask was: So what is going to be Nexus' next steps to improving their device? Reply
  • harrydevlin - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    One big difference that is often overlooked when comparing tablets is the presence or absence of a GPS. The Nexus tablets all have a GPS receiver, even in the Wi-Fi only versions. iPads do not have a GPS receiver in the Wi-Fi only versions.

    Some of the most compelling tablet apps require a GPS receiver. For example, using a tablet as a GPS mapping device, with stored maps, requires a GPS.
    Reply
  • shermanx - Wednesday, October 02, 2013 - link

    the battery doesn't seem right for mine. I guess either I got a defective unit or this review did it with a "tablet sheet battery". I get maybe half of what's claimed here and the battery seems to drain very fast even when I don't use the tablet (battery dies in 2-3 days if I leave it idle). Reply
  • sireangelus - Saturday, October 05, 2013 - link

    Would you ming having an article on the nexus 7 2012 slow charging issue ??? it's frustrating. Maybe if you make a fuss something will be done about it- like warranty extension of something. Reply
  • SOORAJ - Wednesday, October 09, 2013 - link

    when it will be launched in India? and what will be the price? Reply
  • lookit77 - Saturday, October 12, 2013 - link

    How about a review of the LTE version of the Nexus 7 or an update to this review? Reply
  • Eugene88 - Saturday, October 26, 2013 - link

    I'm very curious about battery change. i.e. frequent usage of tablet drained battery, so it doesn't hold even for an hour. Is it possible to change battery? Haven't found any openings on tablet.

    Very well written article.
    Reply
  • WillyJ - Wednesday, November 06, 2013 - link

    Sadly, my daughter has shattered her display. Does anyone know a reliable source for replacement display assemblies? Reply
  • ESC2000 - Thursday, January 02, 2014 - link

    You know it's actually surprising to me how the nexus 7 blew the original iPad mini out of the water in every test except for one. Granted the original mini was a three months from the end of its life cycle. Apple is still selling it, though, for a super inflated price of $300, which makes it somewhat in the nexus 7's price range. The reins mini at $400 may surpass the nexus 7 but is not a good value with its low functionality:price ratio.

    I just remember the constant arguments with apple fans claiming the original mini was better than the nexus 7 2013, and I think the lopsided nature of these numbers shows that objectively it was not better (although in individual cases there may be some reason to purchase it over the nexus 7).
    Reply
  • mittoo - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    Nice review and a lot of insight on screen quality.

    I have on complaint though. Why is iPhone 5 included in the pixel per inch list? What, you don't like Google products on top? After praising the device so much you could let it have the top spot in that. Why randomly add a phone? And it is not like the iPhone 5 has the highest ppi either.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now