The Android Tablet to Beat
Each time we get an Android tablet to review here at Unbox there’s always a feeling of dread since we’ve never really had a good experience with them ever since the first models entered the market. Recently though things have started to pick up. The last two Android tablets we reviewed were actually pretty cool — the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. That’s why we were very hopeful when we got the new Google Nexus 7. After spending a week with it we can definitely say that the time of Android tablets has finally come. This is without a doubt the best Android tablet in the market today. Read on for our full review.
Again before we get to the specifics, let’s quickly do a rundown of the specifications.
New Nexus 7 (2013) Spec Sheet
- 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro Processor
- OpenGL ES 3.0 Support
- Smart Bluetooth
- 7-inch Full HD Display, 1920×1200 resolution (1080p)
- 2GB RAM
- WiFi, WiFi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, 3G, HSPA+, LTE
- 5.0-megapixel rear-facing camera
- 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera
- Dual Speakers
- Android Jelly Bean 4.3
- Battery life improved by 1 hour versus previous model
Not bad right? About to get better folks.
Hardware: Easy to handle, light on the arms, perfect for the eyes
The new Nexus 7, described in a word, is stunning. Google and ASUS really went all out in refining and perfecting this new tablet offering. Let’s start with the hardware. We get a crazy thin device that’s equally crazy light. This makes it perfect to hold and use with just one hand, which is the best way to enjoy 7-inch devices. Gone also is the rubber back that we saw with the original Nexus 7 and now we have an all black and sleek finish that makes it look even sexier.
At the front we have the 7-inch screen. Bezels on the side are noticeably thinner but the top and bottom seem kinda thicker. There are no physical buttons. On the sides we have the volume rocker and power lock. At the bottom is the micro USB port for data transfer and charging. At the top we have the standard audio jack. All the buttons have a glossy piano black finish.
The real beauty of the Nexus 7 though comes to life when you turn it on. The display is gorgeous. Full HD 1920×1200 (1080p) resolution on a 7-inch device. We loaded the Iron Man 3 Wallpaper and we were completely blown away with the experience (and that’s just a wallpaper). This extended of course to watching videos, playing games, and yes, even reading eBooks from the Amazon Kindle Store. They say that the display is the window or portal to the world of Android. If that’s the case then you’ll definitely have the best 7-inch Android experience here because this is the best 7-inch Android tablet display available to date.
But wait… there’s more. The Google Nexus 7 is just as beautiful inside as it is outside. This device is a screamer. The quad-core snapdragon processor combined with the optimizations brought about by Android Jelly Bean 4.3 and OpenGL ES 3.0 Support brings the Android tablet experience to a whole new level.
Unrivaled Android Tablet Performance
This is the first Android tablet we’ve ever used that delivered a near lag-free experience. We kid you not. This is even with the Iron Man 3 Live Wallpaper on (which hogs memory and graphics) and several active widgets on the home screen. Transitions and animations were all smooth. App loading times were fast. It was actually a very surreal experience for us since we’ve kinda gotten used to Android tablets sucking big time, hehe. We were so impressed with the performance that we actually went on a theme and live wallpaper shopping spree on the Google Play store, lol.
The Antutu Benchmark Test results were impressive as well. It scored well over 19,000 making it one of the more powerful Android devices out there.
How does this number translate to real world usage? Well, everything we did on the tablet was almost lag and crash free. We played a couple of graphics intensive games like Bard’s Tale (HD version 3.5GB), Dead Trigger, NBA 2k13, and of course our current favorite Minion Rush. All of them, including Bard’s Tale, played out very well!
To get a better feel for how the Google Nexus 7 performs for gaming, check out the two videos below. The first is our hands-on video which is very short (around 4 minutes) followed by the latest Unbox Video Podcast episode where we featured the Nexus 7.
For the podcast just jump to 17:34 if you want to skip straight to the segment of the Nexus 7.
Amazing performance right? The games played out superbly. Gotta love the Iron Man 3 Live Wallpaper too, hehe.
As a Media Player: We Need App Updates!!!
We do have one complaint about our experience with the Nexus 7. It was definitely made for watching videos BUT the app developers haven’t updated their apps yet to support Android Jelly Bean 4.3. Our favorite video player, MX Player Pro, still doesn’t work which means we have to make do with the default Android video player which is just complete and utter garbage.
We’re definitely hoping and praying that app devs start updating their apps already so we can fully enjoy this baby. By the way, when you buy your Nexus 7 we recommend you go with the 32GB or 64GB models. The display and form factor is just perfect for watching videos but to fully enjoy it you need decent amounts of storage for your content. Unfortunately the 2013 Google Nexus 7 still doesn’t have a microSD slot for expandable storage.
Android Jelly Bean 4.3: What’s New?
The biggest upgrade that 4.3 brings are the features that you don’t see — Open GL ES 3 Support and Smart Bluetooth. They enhance the over-all experience of Android. Other features that came along with this update like Google Games and Restricted Profiles aren’t really that new.
What about the apps?
The Android Tablet ecosystem is definitely growing but it’s not yet at the same level as the iPad. The good news is that there is consistent and reliable growth. There are also a lot of local made apps popping up on the Google Play store that are really useful like Project NOAH, MMDA, Sweldong Pinoy, and heck even Pinoy Pick Up Lines, hehe.
For the gaming part the usual suspects are here, and we can expect that major titles (with the exception of exclusives) will also be present on the Google Play store. For social all bases are covered as there are apps for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., and all of them get regular updates.
Camera: Surprisingly Decent but not really useable
The 2013 Nexus 7 has a 5.0-megapixel rear-facing camera. It takes decent photos when you have good lighting but it becomes too noisy when it’s a bit dark. It’s an emergency camera that you take out only if your smartphone has low bat and you absolutely need to take a photo of something.
Here are two sample shots.
As you can see it can take in detail and color but it tends to get noisy. What more with darker lighting environments?
Battery Life: Noticeable Improvement
Google and ASUS also did a pretty sweet job with the battery life. We averaged around 8-9 hours on a full charge which is already laudable given the previous generation Nexus 7 only got us 6-8. This is definitely much closer to the legendary 10-hour battery life of the Apple iPad.
By the way, during our tests we did a mix of gaming, reading, browsing, watching movies, and more gaming (got hooked on Minion Rush, lol). Sent out e-mails every now and then but it was on sync and WiFi on the whole time. Brightness changing from 40-60%. So 8-9 hours is very respectable given the activity.
Verdict: It truly is the best Android tablet to-date
Google and ASUS nailed it with the new 2013 Nexus 7. We get fantastic hardware coupled with monstrous internals, a gorgeous display, and a more mature operating system. There’s no pricing yet since it hasn’t been launched locally but if they sell this for less similar to the pricing of the current generation Nexus 7 then expect these devices to fly off the shelves (the 32GB Nexus 7 WiFi only first generation sells for around Php10,500 on Widget City and Kimstore). Hopefully it will be priced less than Php12,000 (*fingers crossed*). Add that price to the mix and you have an epic, winning, and good value Android tablet that’s hard to beat.
Want to read more about the Google Nexus 7? Check out our previous posts about it.