The Nexus 7 is a look at the inner working of Android. It serves as a sort of reference design to showcase Android as it was meant to be: pure, unadulterated “vanilla” Android. The original Nexus 7 is a fantastic device by all accounts, and in our own experiences – so much so, that at least half of our editorial staff owns or has owned one. When the new Nexus 7 arrived for testing we knew we had to find out whether Google and Asus could replicate the magic of last year’s best Android tablet.
The 2013 Google Nexus 7 has changed quite markedly in the looks department, compared to the original. Gone are the rubberised rear and faux metal accents, and their place there is now a refined matte black plastic exterior. The Nexus logo, embossed in gloss on the rear, has switched orientation from portrait to landscape giving a clue about in which orientation the Nexus 7 is best used.
The bezels on the flanks have been shrunk substantially, making the 2013 Nexus 7 much easier to handle with one hand, in portrait orientation. The top and bottom bezels have remained almost unchanged which, according to ASUS and Google, is to give users a place to put their hands when holding it in landscape mode, without having to touch the display. We have to agree with this decision, as we found it extremely comfortable in both viewing modes. ASUS also managed to shave nearly 50g in weight from the new Nexus 7, which also greatly helps with the single-handed usability.
The 2013 edition has received a major bump in processing power. Gone is the NVIDIA silicon – there’s now a Qualcomm processor handling grunt work, however it’s not a fancy Snapdragon 800. Instead, it’s last year’s S4 Pro doing duty. The Qualcomm chip is joined by 2GB of RAM, 16/32 GB of storage and the requisite wireless communications standards, including LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi.
The display has been given a huge upgrade from the 1280X800 resolution it had previously, with a full HD, 1920X1200 display now being used. This drastically increases the pixel density, resulting in much crisper images and even more reason to watch movies Google’s baby tablet. There is also the addition of a 5Mp rear camera this year, though you don’t want to be ‘that guy’ using his tablet to take photos at a concert.
Flanking the rear branding are two stereo speakers: a massive upgrade from the mono audio of the first-gen Nexus 7. We can’t help but think that these would’ve been even better had they been moved to the front of the tablet, but the sound quality was more than enough to disturb others with our public movie watching escapades.
The Snapdragon S4 Pro may not be the best or the fastest chip available in the market, but it still has enough grunt to deliver flawless HD movie viewing and impressive graphics in games. The 2GB of RAM keeps everything running along smoothly, even with several apps open at once.
For no apparent reason one of our test games, Dungeon Hunter 4, was prone to crashing during gameplay. We haven’t seen happening on any other high-end device, especially one with such competent hardware. However when games weren’t crashing, gaming was an absolute pleasure with little to no lag no matter the title. The extra bezel on the top and bottom of the Nexus 7 come especially in handy when gaming, giving you somewhere to put your hands while furiously thumbing the display.
(While we were busy editing this review , I was watching YouTube videos on the Nexus 7 the device began to reboot sporadically. Not a good sign.)
As noted in the hardware section, the display on the Nexus 7 is much improved over the original version. It’s bright enough for the most part and has exceptionally good viewing angles. The 16:10 aspect ratio does make it feel a bit stretched out at times but the extra width is appreciated for movies, and especially gaming, where on-screen controls can often obscure the action.
Depending on usage the Nexus 7’s battery life is either excellent or terrible. For browsing the web, replying to emails and reading books, the 3 950mAh battery is more than adequate to make it through a day or two. But when gaming, the battery takes a serious knock – all thanks to that high-res display. Expect about two-and-a-half to three hours of use, in this case. The Nexus 7 comes with Qi wireless charging built in and will work with compatible chargers like the ones that Nokia Lumia phones use.
While there is no set retail price in South Africa for the new Nexus 7, yet, the previous generation model came in at around R2 700 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model. We expect this to increase by around R500 due to the exchange rate having weakened, as well as a $30 increase in the US price for the new Nexus 7. Even then, the Nexus 7 is the best 7-inch Android tablet you can buy today, and if you’re looking for an alternative to the Samsung/Apple crowd then this is definitely the tablet for you.
Battery life: 3/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Price: R TBA
Display: Processor: Quad Core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 16/32GB non-expandable storage
Camera: 5Mp rear, 1.2Mp front
Networking: LTE, 3G, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Dual-band 802.11n wireless
Other: Qi wireless charging