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Camera, Performance and Conclusion
A Rear Camera Comes to the Nexus 7
Fortunately, the Nexus 7 (2013) comes with a 5-megapixel rear autofocus camera and a 1.2-megapixel fixed focus front-facing camera. If you recall, the previous generation Nexus 7 lacks a rear camera due to the price factor. Since the rear cameras of tablets are merely secondary or auxiliary in nature, we didn't place high expectations of the Nexus 7's imaging capability. As seen below, the performance was about where we expected it to be:-
Google and ASUS decided to drop NVIDIA Tegra processors and opted for Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets. Reports suggest that the decision was based on Qualcomm's superiority in a processor's communication process and power efficiency. Well, judging by the Tegra 4 based Toshiba Excite Write that we reviewed, those reports might be right after all.
As part of its overall strategy to keep costs low, the Nexus 7 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core 1.5GHz processor and 2GB RAM. This configuration is found in many of the flagship mobile devices launched last year such as the Nexus 4. For this article, we will be pitting the Nexus 7 (2013) up against the Nexus 7 (2012), ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 and HP Slate 7.
Quadrant evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance.
Google and ASUS made a wise choice by equipping the Nexus 7 (2013) with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor; it ran circles around the competition with its chart topping score of 5,158. As a point of comparison, the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4-powered Sony Xperia Tablet Z scored 7,745. The higher score registered by the Sony tablet is most probably due to the additional 1GB RAM.
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms including Android OS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.
For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, 3DMark consists of two test sections:
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme raises the off-screen rendering resolution to 1080p and uses higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets.
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited is used to make chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets, CPUs and GPUs without vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result.
Once again, the Nexus 7 (2013) blew the competition out of the water with its performance in the 3DMark benchmarks; its Ice Storm Extreme's score is at least three times better than its rivals. In terms of chip-to-chip performance, the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor has no equal in this comparison.
Benchmark numbers are just one part of the equation. Putting the benchmark results aside, the Nexus 7 (2013) sped through everything we threw at it. Interface navigation was a breeze and web browsing was smooth. Coupled with the fact that it runs on stock Android, the Nexus 7 has the smoothest tablet user experience we've seen thus far.
Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:
• Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
• Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
• Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
With the battery capacity shrinking from 4,325mAh to 3,950mAh and having to power more pixels, we were not optimistic that the Nexus 7 (2013) could match up to its predecessor. To recap, our battery life test of the previous generation Nexus 7 (2012) lasted an impressive 10 hours and 45 minutes.
So it was not really a surprise when the Nexus 7 (2013) struggled to even hit the seven-hour mark; it managed a mere 6 hours and 48 minutes of battery uptime. Compared to the Nexus 7 (2012), the battery mileage may seem like a huge disappointment. As mentioned earlier, we have to take into account the higher resolution display (there's more than twice the number of pixels on the screen) and smaller battery capacity. Moreover, as noted earlier in the review, the Nexus 7 (2013) has a brighter display which could result to an increased drain on the battery.
However, if you take the Nexus 7 (2012) out of the picture, the new Nexus 7 (2013) is still a fairly capable tablet when it comes to battery mileage. The ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 lasted about 46 minutes shorter while the HP Slate 7 lasted close to three hours shorter. Just for comparison's sake, the 7.9-inch Apple iPad mini had a mileage of 7 hours with its larger 4,440mAh battery. And all of these competitors run at much lower resolutions than the new Nexus 7. So in fact, the newcomer actually fares rather well for its specifications and capabilities. As seen in the power consumption chart below that further solidifies the standings of the Nexus 7 (2013), its brighter and higher resolution display naturally registered a higher power draw than its predecessor, but it still fared much better than the MeMO Pad HD 7 and Slate 7.
In the Portability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage against its size and mass, the Nexus 7 (2013) ranked a far second from its predecessor despite having a slimmer and lighter form factor. The difference in battery mileage (four hours) outweighs the benefits of its more portable form factor. However, similar to how we stress that we should compare products within the same class of devices, given what we found from dissecting its battery life, you can easily tell that the new Nexus 7 (2013) is in a class of its own, even within the 7-inch space. As such, portability ratios for such highly specced products might tend to rank where the Nexus 7 (2013) sits and it becomes a new norm.
Priced at $379 (16GB, Wi-Fi), the Nexus 7 (2013) costs $30 more than its predecessor. For the measly extra you are paying, you get a better processor, a higher resolution display and a much more portable form factor. Oh and a rear-facing camera if you must use it.
However, the high resolution screen comes at a price - battery performance. It is not as long-lasting as its predecessor, but the Nexus 7 (2013) still fares better than most of its 7-inch rivals. We are also annoyed by the absence of a memory card slot, which severely limits the user to the limited onboard storage capacity.
Nonetheless, the attractive price point and solid overall performance still won us over although we feel the Nexus 7 (2013) doesn't break any new ground or record like its predecessor. The playing field has no doubt become more competitive this year, with ASUS themselves offering a cheaper albeit slightly inferior alternative - the $249 ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7.
It is likely to beat the next Apple iPad mini in price and match it in terms of display resolution, but Apple still holds the trump card when it comes to apps, build quality, design and user experience. Until the official announcement of the next generation iPad mini, we are hard pressed to find any worthy rivals in the market at the moment - that is if you can live with just 16GB internal storage.
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