Overview, Design and Features
The first generation Nexus 7 was a massive hit for Google and ASUS; global sales of the tablet hit one million units per month. The tablet was very attractive to consumers because of its superb performance and affordable price tag.
As Google I/O 2013 approached, rumors and speculations suggested that the next generation tablet would make an appearance at the event. More importantly, DigiTimes claimed in a report that the next Nexus 7 will run on a Qualcomm chipset. Weeks later, Reuters reported that the device would only be launched in July, and reiterated that there would be a change to Qualcomm processors.
In the following months, more leaks appeared pointing to a Qualcomm-powered tablet with 4G LTE connectivity and a higher resolution display. The first credible leak came in July when images and a video of the Nexus 7 leaked. Subsequently, Google officially announced the Nexus 7 (2013). Here's a quick look at its specifications and how it compares with its predecessor: -
Design and Handling
If the design and build quality of the first-gen Nexus 7 is good, the second-gen Nexus 7 is even better. Google and ASUS brought the feel up a notch with a complete redesign of the chassis. Gone are the rubberized back, thick side profile and thick bezels.
The back of the Nexus 7 is made of sturdy polycarbonate and they've given it a matte finishing which makes it less of a fingerprint magnet than a glossy surface. Moreover, there is a NEXUS brand splashed in a landscape fashion across its back. Compared to its predecessor, we much prefer the updated look as it's sleeker and more classy.
With the recent trend of tablets becoming thinner and lighter, the Nexus 7 also shed some weight; the Nexus 7 is 50g lighter than its predecessor, and sees its side profile slimmed down from 10.45mm to 8.65mm. While it is a hairline thicker than the 7.9-inch Apple iPad mini, the Nexus 7 is close to 20g lighter than its counterpart. It also competes favorably against the current crop of 7-inch Android tablets: -
- Nexus 7 (2013) Wi-Fi: 200 x 114 x 8.65mm, 290g
- ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7: 196.8 x 120.6 x 10.8mm, 302g
- HP Slate 7: 197 x 116 x 10.7mm, 370g
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (7.0): 111.1 x 188 x 9.9mm, 315g
The Nexus 7 also sports thinner bezels on both sides of the display, and based on initial observations, they are only slightly thicker than those of the Apple iPad mini. Users with large hands (and fingers) need not worry about accidentally touching the screen and invoking unintended actions as there's still sufficient room for your fingers to hold and grasp the device.
Like its predecessor, the Nexus 7 (2013) lacks a memory card slot. This is a sore point for consumers who hope that the Nexus 7 would become their main device for multimedia consumption. With less than 16 GB of storage space available out-of-the-box, the Nexus 7 can hardly hold more than a day's worth of video and music files.
With high resolution displays becoming more of a norm these days in mobile phones, Google and ASUS upped the ante on the Nexus 7's display; it now comes with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, which is currently "the sharpest 7-inch tablet screen ever" at 323ppi. To put it simply, the Nexus 7 sweeps the existing competition away : -
- ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7: 1,280 x 800 pixels (216ppi)
- Apple iPad mini: 1,024 x 768 pixels (163ppi)
- Google Nexus 7 (2012): 1,280 x 800 pixels (216ppi)
- HP Slate 7: 1,024 x 600 pixels (170ppi)
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (7.0): 1,024 x 600 pixels (170ppi)
As expected of IPS panels, the Nexus 7 delivered great color reproduction, good contrast and excellent viewing angles. In addition, the display is brighter and more vivid, making it a feast for the eyes. However, the improvement in the viewing experience does comes at a price. We will elaborate on this in the battery test section.
Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
Each release of a Nexus device usually bears the latest version of the Android OS. For the Nexus 7 (2013), it is the flagship bearer for Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. The upcoming Android version 4.4 (KitKat) is likely to be shipped with the Nexus 5 smartphone.
Android 4.3 Jelly Bean is just an incremental update over Android 4.2. In the context of the Nexus 7 and Android tablets, there are three main features that you should take note of:
1. Bluetooth Smart Support
Bluetooth Smart Support, also known as Bluetooth Low-Energy (LE) allows devices to use Bluetooth Smart technology, which reduces energy usage (less battery usage) while transmitting data to and from Bluetooth smart sensors.
While this feature has little application at the moment, its introduction paves the way for Google to introduce hardware that can take advantage of this technology in the near future. There are reports that Google is planning to introduce Android hardware like game consoles and smartwatches. The search giant also recently confirmed that it has acquired the smartwatch manufacturer WIMM Labs; clearing the way for more wearables.
2. Restricted Profiles
Restricted profiles allows users to manage access to apps and content. This enables users to set up parental controls on their devices, use devices as kiosks that show product information, or simply share the tablet with other people.
Besides being used as a "kids-mode", restricted profiles allow you to easily turn the Nexus 7 into a guest device at a moment's notice. You can select the apps that can be accessed on the "guest profile" (or whatever profile name you want to give it). Even if someone deletes an app on the "guest profile", the app is still present when you login to your profile.
3. OpenGL ES 3.0
OpenGL ES 3.0 is the latest industry standard for accelerated 3D graphics on mobile devices. It brings photorealism, enhanced detail and sophisticated effects like shadows that will enhance the 3D gaming experience on Android devices.
If this feature sounds familiar, it is because Apple's recently announced A7 processor also supports this industry standard. As cool as it sounds, there aren't many game apps that support OpenGL ES 3.0 at the moment. While it takes time for game developers to create apps to take advantage of the newer OpenGL ES 3.0 standard supported by the hardware and OS, we feel it is a step in the right direction in the name of progress and of course to better compete with Apple. And yes, the Qualcomm SnapDragon S4 Pro used on this new tablet does lend support to this new graphics standard, hence making this device a perfect showcase of this graphics API standard.