Tablets Guide

Google Nexus 7 (2012) review

Google Nexus 7 - Cream of the Crop

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Launch SRP S$349

Overall rating 9/10
Design:
9
Features:
8.5
User-Friendliness:
9
Performance:
9.5
Value:
9
THE GOOD
Very attractive price point
Superb overall performance
Great design and handling
THE BAD
Lack of memory card slot
Lack of mobile data connectivity
No rear-facing camera
More Awards:
Editor's Choice


Performance and Conclusion

Performance

Running the show is the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB RAM, which puts it in the same league as the quad-core ASUS Transformer Pad Prime and the more affordable Transformer Pad TF300. Would this mean that the Nexus 7 will blow the competition out of the water? 

To get a gauge of the Nexus 7's standing among the other 7-inch tablets, we compared it against the duo of Samsung tablets, the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) and Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, and the Huawei MediaPad. Of course not to forget is the customary comparison with the Apple iPad (2012). The following benchmarks are used for raw performance evaluation: -

  • Quadrant evaluates the CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance. This is an Android OS based test.
     
  • Smartbench 2011 is a multi-core friendly benchmark application that includes both the Productivity and Games indices for a more complete gauge of the overall performance of Android tablets.
     
  • SunSpider Javascript benchmark measures the browsing performance of the tablet. 

How the Tablets Stack up
Device Google Nexus 7 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Huawei MediaPad Apple iPad (2012)
CPU NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP 4430 dual-core 1GHz Exynos dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8260 dual-core 1.2GHz Apple A5X dual-core 1GHz
GPU 12-core GeForce PowerVR SGX540 Mali-400MP Adreno 220 PowerVR SGX543MP4+
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB  1GB 
OS Android 4.1.1 Google Android 4.0.4 Google Android 3.2 Google Android 3.2 Apple iOS 5.1

 

It would have been an obvious lie if we said that the results were unexpected. The Nexus 7 topped the benchmarks except losing its lead in the Smartbench 2011 (Games) where the Mali-400MP GPU in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus managed to inch a step or two ahead. However, that minor setback did not stop the Nexus 7 in its tracks to supremacy, as it edged out the champ, the Apple iPad (2012) in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark. A combination of Jelly Bean optimization and quad-core prowess gave the Nexus 7 an overwhelming lead over most of its competitors, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7.

Synthetic benchmarks aside, the Nexus 7 showed no sign of slowdown or any hint of processing lag in our daily usage thanks to "Project Butter", a processing framework that Google embarked on to address the perceived lag in previous Android devices. Compared to the other Android tablets we've tested this year, the Nexus 7 was evidently snappier in all aspects, from sideway navigation to web browsing.  It is not exaggerating to claim that Android has finally cracked it; the user interface navigation is as fluid as the Apple iPads. 

 

Multimedia Performance

The Nexus 7's base price of US$199 means that certain multimedia features have to be sacrificed in order to keep costs low. One of the more significant sacrifices is the lack of memory card support. The choice of 8GB and 16GB storage capacity may be a deal breaker for power users who plan to load their huge libraries of music and video content onto the Nexus 7. If you need more memory space, you may want to consider using Google's cloud service, Drive as it provides 5GB free online storage capacity.

Another sacrifice is the absence of 3G SIM card support. The Nexus 7 comes only in Wi-Fi versions, and this restricts its usage to Wi-Fi zones and homes if you have a wireless network set up. However, this limitation can be easily be resolved using Wi-Fi tethering from your smartphone.

While most tablets these days come with rear-facing cameras, the Nexus 7 is equipped with only a front camera to facilitate video chats/conferencing needs. Although taking photos with tablets that sport a rear camera is not ideal, some consumers may lament the option to capture a candid shot on the Nexus 7. If you want to know the rationale behind it, here's the full statement from ASUS

“Why is there no rear camera?

To make this device accessible to the widest possible market, price is very important. ASUS believes that for this device a good rear camera is important. Adding a high quality rear facing camera will increase the price point and many users would not have a use for it. Adding a lower quality rear facing camera would compromise on the overall user experience so the decision was made not to include a rear facing camera therefore keeping the price down and user experience extremely high.” – ASUS

To put it simply, ASUS has to keep the costs of building the tablet as minimal as possible, while at the same time giving consumers a optimal user experience on the Nexus 7. In fact, it is pretty amazing to know that it costs Google and ASUS US$151.75 to build the 8GB Nexus 7 and US$159.25 for the 16GB Nexus 7. To be honest, the lack of a rear camera is an aspect we are willing to overlook for now.

On the positive side, the 7-inch display makes up for all the camera drawbacks with its resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels which translates to a pixel density of 216ppi. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) and Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus have a pixel density of 170ppi. The only 7-inch tablet that is on-par with the Nexus 7 is Huawei MediaPad, although you have to go through a couple of extra steps to ramp up the screen resolution as it is by default, 1024 x 600 pixels.

The display outputs sharp text and good colors, although it is not as bright as the Super AMOLED Plus display of the Galaxy Tab 7.7. Even though it is a far cry from the eye-popping retina display of the Apple iPad (2012), it is in a different league altogether. Moreover, the display is reinforced with Corning Fit Glass that is scratch-resistant. For its price and screen size, the Nexus 7 certainly ranks among the top.

 

Battery Performance

Next, we ran the Nexus 7 on an intensive battery test, which involves a video with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels being looped on the unit. The test is performed under specific parameters, such as:

  • Screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

Test Tablets Compared
Specifications/Device Google Nexus 7 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Huawei MediaPad
Processor
  • Quad-core 1.2GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Dual-core 1.2GHz
  • Dual-core 1.2GHz
Display Size
  • 7.0-inch
  • 7.0-inch
  • 7.0-inch
  • 7.0-inch
Display Type
  • Back-lit IPS LCD
  • PLS LCD
  • PLS LCD
  • IPS LCD
Display Resolution
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
  • 1,024 x 600 pixels 
  • 1,024 x 600 pixels
  • 1,280 x 800 pixels
Dimensions
  • 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm
  • 193.7 x 122.4 x 10.5mm
  • 193.65 x 122.37 x 9.96mm
  • 190 x 124 x 10.5mm
Weight
  • 340g
  • 344g
  •  345g
  • 390g
Battery Capacity
  • 4325mAh
  • 4000mAh 
  •  4000mAh
  • 4100mAh

 

If there is one area which caught us by surprise, it would be its battery mileage. The Nexus 7 lasted a whopping 10 hours and 45 minutes, which is more than twice that of any 7-inch tablet, and in fact has the longest battery life among all the tablets today. We attributed its performance to its slightly larger battery capacity and better power management of Android 4.1. This is evident in the Power Consumption chart where the Nexus 7 registered the lowest among the four tablets. As a result, the Nexus 7 also topped the Portability Index where each device is assessed on how well it balances battery life with their physical attributes (weight and volume).

If you're wondering how the Apple iPad (2012) fares in comparison, it only managed 325 minutes in the same test whereas the iPad 2 clocked 545 minutes. The next best is Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7 which managed a pretty commendable 582 minutes. The Google Nexus 7 pulls ahead of all these major contenders convincingly.

 

Conclusion

There is little cause to doubt that we are looking at the best Android tablet in the market at the moment. The Google Nexus 7 receives nearly full marks in almost every aspect that makes up a top-performing device.

In terms of appearances and aesthetics, the Nexus 7 is well-designed, has solid build quality and offers great handling. Its lightweight form factor certainly makes it easier for consuming multimedia content on-the-go, and the rubberized back gives a comfortable and assuring grip of the Nexus 7.

Software-wise, the Android tablet platform has finally found its speed and agility, enabling it to be as smooth as Apple iOS. "Project Butter" is largely credited for the much-needed improvements in user experience on Jelly Bean, with its software optimizations that ensure the user interface animations run consistently at 60fps. 

With the Tegra 3 quad-core processor and Jelly Bean working their magic inside, the overall performance of the Nexus 7 is unrivaled. It trashes most of the competition in all of our tests and provides a flawless user experience in reality. 

The Nexus 7 is of course not without its shortfalls. The lack of a memory card slot, a rear facing camera and 3G connectivity are minor niggles considering its price point. Moreover, Google still needs to address the last but most crucial hurdle for Android, which is the number of tablet-optimized apps. It is common knowledge that the ecosystem of apps and services can make or break a mobile platform, and if Google plans to take on Apple in the tablet market, it needs to have more tablet-optimized apps. The smaller 7-inch screen could be more forgiving in this aspect, but the user experience can only get better with true tablet-optimized apps.

At US$199 (8GB) and US$249 (16GB), the Nexus 7 basically undercuts the competition and throws the entire tablet space into a cut-throat price war. None of its immediate competitors, the S$598 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0), the S$768 Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and the S$498 Huawei MediaPad, come close to matching the Nexus 7's perfect combination of performance, design, features and value. For now, Google and ASUS definitely have a winner on their hands unless Apple enters the scene with its alleged iPad Mini and spoils the party. Well, we'll find out in a month's time.

*Update on 28/9: The Google Nexus 7 (16GB) Wi-Fi version will be available at S$399. At point of publication, ASUS Singapore has no plans to bring in the 8GB(Wi-Fi) variant.