Google’s Nexus 7 was the best small tablet of 2012. Rather than mess
with success, Google did something uncharacteristically conservative: It
made little improvements here and there and left the rest mostly as is.
The result? This year’s Nexus 7 is more low rumble than tectonic shift,
but it’s still our new favorite tablet. For now, at least.
Nexus 7 2013
What Is It?
It’s Google’s new 7-inch tablet. The hardware was made by Asus, and
the operating system is the latest and greatest pure Android experience
from Google (Android 4.3 Jelly Bean). It starts at the very easy entry
point of $230 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version.
Who’s It For?
Commuters, travelers. People who want their tablets to be as portable
as possible. People who do a lot of reading on their tablets. Gamers.
People who want a more capable e-book reader
This tablet could fit in the rear pocket of a lot of people’s jeans,
and almost everybody’s jacket. That’s a huge advantage. It comes in at
7.87 x 4.49 x 0.34 inches, versus 7.81 x 4.72 x 0.41 inches on the 2012
Nexus 7. In other words it got only slightly longer, but noticeably
narrower and thinner. It also only weighs 10.5 ounces verses 12 ounces
for the last version. The result is a tablet that doesn’t feel quite as
bulky, which was one of the main knocks against the previous iteration.
It has a soft-touch plastic back (non-removable) and sadly no removable
battery or expandable storage slot.
Despite that slimming down, the new Nexus 7 got fat with pixels. Its
HD IPS screen has a resolution of 1920 x 1200 for a pixel density of 323
pixels per inch (PPI). That’s an unprecedented resolution from a tablet
this size-or any size (the current-generation iPad has a PPI of 264,
while the iPad mini is stuck at a sad 163. (Shown below: 2013 Nexus 7 on
Left, 2012 Nexus 7 on right)
There are now two separate speakers-one on each side if you’re
holding it landscape-to give the tablet actual stereo sound. The whole
thing is powered by a 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU,
an Adreno 320 GPU, and 2GB of RAM (twice last year’s). The micro USB
port doubles as a SlimPort for mirroring your tablet to your TV (via an
adaptor or a cable sold separately), and you can charge the tablet
wirelessly via the Qi protocol. Oh, and it has a rear camera now. It’s
5MP, but really, who cares?
For starters, Android 4.3 is nearly identical to Android 4.2. It’s a
very incremental update. The most tangible new benefit is that Bluetooth
4.0 Low Energy is now supported. That means you can use it with new
heart rate monitors and/or activity trackers like the Fitbit One. I
tested it with the Withings Pulse and it worked flawlessly. There are a
few other perks, like profiles you can set up to keep your kiddies from
making in-game purchases. And there are some yet-to-be-quantified
performance enhancements. On the surface that’s about it.
In practice, the tablet itself hauls ass. Apps open up
lightning-quick, scrolling is smooth, and it auto-rotates quickly, all
things which my 2012 Nexus 7 has been failing to do lately. The reduced
size makes it once again hands-down the easiest tablet to carry with
you. Hand-fatigue, even on long subway rides, is extremely minimal.
Android tablet apps have come a long way over the last year, and
while it still doesn’t have as many truly optimized tablet apps as iOS,
it’s very nearly caught up, and most of the ones you care about look
just as good on both platforms. Spotify, IMDB, Instagram, Kindle,
Evernote, for example, are all solid. This is a different story from
just a year ago. The good news is that even apps that aren’t optimized
don’t look so bad when stretched to seven inches, since they’re all made
to work on phones that are 5.5-inches now anyway.
The Best Part
That would have to be the upgraded screen. It is absolutely gorgeous.
Not only does text look sharper on it than on any other tablet to date,
but it’s very bright, and colors are wonderfully accurate. The old
Nexus 7′s screen had sort of an orange-ish tint to it; this year the
whites look white. It blows every other small tablet out of the water.
(Above: the new Nexus is on the left, the old Nexus is on the right.)
The new Nexus features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. The
HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 both use Qualcomm’s newer, faster
Snapdragon 600 processor, and soon devices will be released in the U.S.
with the even fasterer Snapdragon 800 or Nvidia’s Tegra 4. It is utterly
baffling that Google/Asus would choose to go with an outdated
processor. Yes, it’s plenty fast now (faster than any tablet, but slower
than the HTC One), but so was my 2012 Nexus 7, and now it’s slow as
hell. This seems like bad future-proofing, even if it did help keep the
This Is Weird…
You may recall that 2012′s Nexus 7 had some Wi-Fi issues. The Wi-Fi
radio performed very inconsistently and struggled to deliver a solid
connection. The new Wi-Fi radio performs better, but not by very much.
We used the app Wi-Fi Analytics Tool from Amped Wireless and started
walking down the block with both tablets, slowly getting further from
our router. While the newer Nexus was often 10 or 20 dB better than the
older one, it wasn’t consistent. Sometimes the older one would even pull
ahead. This is really the only place were the iPad mini beats the new
Nexus 7 handily. Google and Asus had the chance to make this much
better, and they didn’t do much with it.
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Should I Buy It?
Probably, but it’s a tougher call than it should be. Google missed an
opportunity to really pull ahead in the small tablet battle. Instead,
it chose a still-good-but-definitely-outdated processor. This all but
guarantees that the Nexus 7 will be surpassed in power and speed sooner
rather than later. It’s definitely an upgrade, but it’s a little more
incremental than we’d hoped it would be.
That said, this tablet is absolutely terrific and it’s the one we’ll
be carrying with us for the foreseeable future. The screen is absolutely
unsurpassed in the small-tablet category (or arguably any tablet
category), and that’s a big deal. It’s simply a joy to look at, it’s
effortless to carry, it’s extremely fast, and it’s very cheap for how
good it is. The 2013 Nexus 7 comes in at $230 for the 16GB Wi-Fi
version, which is a cool $100 less than the not-nearly-as-good iPad mini
with the same setup. Or it’s $30 more than the Kindle Fire HD, though
the Nexus 7 is better in virtually every way.
At the very least, though, it’s probably worth waiting. While we’d
definitely recommend this Nexus 7 over the current competition, keep in
mind that the 2013 versions of the iPad mini and the Kindle Fire will
probably be coming in the next few months. We’d bet the Nexus 7 will
probably still be the best buy, but it doesn’t hurt to sit tight.
Basically, we love this thing. We just can’t shake the feeling that we’ll be falling even harder for something else soon.
Google Nexus 7 2013 Specs
: 7-inch 1920×1200 (323 PPI) LED-backlit IPS
Networking: Wi-Fi (LTE option)
Display: 1920×1200 (323 PPI) LED-backlit IPS
Processor:1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro Processor
OS: Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean)
Camera: 5MP rear / 1.2MP Front
Dimensions: 7.87 x 4.49 x 0.34 inches
Weight: 10.5 ounces
Battery: 3,950 mAh Li-Ion
Price: 15k to 18k Wi-Fi / 22k Wi-Fi + LTE