Google's second-generation Nexus 7 tablet packs a more powerful processor, a full HD screen and strong speakers into a slimmer package.
With its second 7-inch Android device, Google just served notice on the tablet makers of the world. Again. The new Nexus 7 (starting at $229, $269 as tested) sports an even sleeker profile than before, a high-def 1920 x 1200-pixel screen, a powerful processor and stereo speakers. It's also the first device to run Android 4.3. Is all that worth $30 more than the original? You bet it is.
The new Nexus 7 has usurped theiPad mini's long-held reign as the thinnest sub-10-inch tablet around. At 7.9 x 4.5 x 0.34 inches and 10.24 ounces, the new Nexus 7 is narrower, thinner and lighter than Apple's 8-inch tablet (7.87 x 5.3 x 0.28 inches, 11.04 ounces).
The new Nexus 7 is slightly taller, but narrower and thinner than theoriginal Nexus 7(7.8 x 4.7 x 0.41 inches), Nexus 7 2013 Weight almost two ounces lighter. It also cuts a slimmer profile than theAmazon Kindle Fire HD(7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches, 13.9 ounces).
Click to EnlargeLike most other 7-inch tablets, the Nexus 7 is designed to be held in portrait mode, and its thinner dimensions make it easier to do so with just one hand. As before, this ASUS-made tablet has a soft-touch plastic back, but the dimples from the original Nexus 7 are gone, which isn't a great loss.
Click to EnlargeThe new Nexus 7 is the first 7-inch tablet to sport a 1920 x 1200 display, and the difference shows. The highest resolution to this point on a 7-inch tablet has been 1280 x 800, such as on theMeMO Pad HD 7and the Kindle Fire HD.
Donald Sutherland's white beard and eye wrinkles were sharp and defined as we watched a 1080p trailer for "The Hunger Games." While these details were also fairly sharp on the MeMO Pad HD 7, we noticed that they weren't as crisp, and there was a lot more visual noise in the gray wall behind Sutherland than on the Nexus 7.
Click to EnlargeWhen looking at a 1920 x 1200 image of a black cat on the new Nexus 7 and the MeMO Pad, there was much greater definition in its face on the Nexus 7, and the Nexus 7 did a better job of showing the nuances where the light bounced off the cat's black fur. Also, there was virtually no pixelation in the white whiskers, whereas they appeared more pixelated on the MeMO Pad.
The IPS panel made everything viewable even from oblique angles, and the Gorilla Glass helps protect the Nexus 7 against accidental falls. It's also very bright: At 531 lux, the Nexus 7's display was nearly 200 points higher than the tablet average (360 lux), and outshone the iPad mini (457 lux) and the Kindle Fire HD (436 lux).
For its second 7-inch tablet, Google added a second speaker, and it makes a world of difference. Where the original single-speaker Nexus sounded a bit tinny, the stereo speakers on the new Nexus 7 belted out loud and crisp audio.
The guitar in The Lumineers "Charlie Boy" strummed out plaintively, and high and midtones were well-balanced. Still, you can't get decent bass on something so thin. Low ends, such as the bass line on Jay Z's "On to the Next One," were barely audible.
Like the Kindle Fire HD 7, the Nexus 7's speakers are on the long ends, so things sound best when you're holding the tablet in landscape mode. Don't grip it too tight, though, or you'll risk covering the speakers.
Click to EnlargeAlthough it's running Android 4.3, Nexus 7's keyboard layout remains unchanged. In portrait and landscape mode, users get a full QWERTY keyboard with gray letters on a black background. What's different now is that the keyboard supports Swype-style Gesture Typing. We appreciate that floating previews appear above where you're swiping. We also like the current-word completion capability and next-word suggestions.
Go into the Language & Input control panel, though, and you can enable the new Emoji keyboard, of which there are hundreds to choose from. It's not a critical improvement, but it's nice to have.
Packing a 1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB of RAM and a 400-MHz Adreno 320 GPU, the new Nexus 7 simply blew away the competition in our benchmark tests.
On Quadrant, which measures overall performance, the new Nexus 7's score of 4,949 was about 1,500 points higher than average (3,449), as well as the MeMO Pad HD 7 (3,414). The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 came close, at 4,603.
The Nexus 7 really shone when it came to graphics performance. On 3DMark11 Ice Storm, the new Nexus 7 racked up a score of 11,580, nearly triple the category average of 4,140, as well as the original Nexus 7 (3,408), the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 (3,117) and even more expensive tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 (3,069).
Click to EnlargeWhat does all that extra horsepower mean? It took just 7 seconds to launch "Riptide GP 2" on the Nexus 7. By comparison, the MeMO Pad HD 7 took an excruciating 44 seconds. Within the game itself, scenes were much faster to load on the Nexus 7, too.
On the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the 3950 mAh battery in the Nexus 7 lasted 8 hours and 26 minutes. That's about 1:20 longer than the category average, and an hour longer than the original Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD (7:26 and 7:30). The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 lasted a few minutes longer, at 8:39, and the iPad Mini lasted 8:16 over LTE.
ASUS packed a bunch of wireless radios into the new Nexus 7, including dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) 802.11 a/b/g/n, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 LE. Bluetooth 4.0 LE will allow the tablet to connect to Bluetooth Smart devices; for example, low-power gadgets such as heart rate monitors. However, we can't see many people taking their tablet out for a run.
Google will offer three versions of the Nexus 7. Our review unit, which has 32GB of storage, costs $269. The starting model costs $229, and has 16GB of storage. A 4G LTE version, which will be offered through AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon for $349.
Click to EnlargeThe market for 7-inch Android tablets is flooded with dozens of inexpensive devices that cost less than $200. Some of these slates are very good, too, such as the $149 ASUS MeMo Pad 7. But the new Google Nexus 7 tablet is well worth the slight splurge. Not only is it the thinnest and lightest slate with this screen size, it's the most powerful, too, and boasts a high-definition screen and stereo speakers. We just wish Google included a microSD Card slot.
In terms of the small tablet competition, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD offers better parental controls, but the new Nexus 7 has it beat on screen resolution, performance and battery life. The $100 more expensive Apple iPad mini benefits from a much larger selection of tablet apps, and some may prefer its larger 8-inch screen size. However, its 1024 x 768 resolution looks positively dated compared to the new Nexus. Those looking for more features, such as the ability to control their TV, will like the $299 Galaxy Tab 3 8.0. Overall, though, the Nexus 7 is now the best 7-inch tablet and offers the most value of any slate under 10 inches.