Nexus 7 review (2013)

nexus 7 review

Nexus 7 review (2013)

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Who knew affordable tablets could be so good? That was our reaction after reviewing the original Nexus 7 when it went on sale last year for $200; at the time, comparably specced products were going for at least $100 more. So, when this year’s follow-up came out at a slightly higher price ($229 and up), we were a little concerned the higher cost would dissuade penny-pinching shoppers from taking the plunge.

After we got a good look at the spec sheet, though, we quickly forgave Google and ASUS for their decision. For the money, you get a gorgeous 1,920 x 1,200 IPS display, 2GB of RAM, a rear camera, a quad-core processor, wireless charging and the latest version of Android, Jelly Bean 4.3. Now that we’ve had the opportunity to take the new and improved Nexus 7 for a spin, we’re ready to tackle all the obvious questions: is this still the best budget tablet on the market? How does it compare to the iPad mini? And does the spec sheet actually reflect real-world performance? Let’s find out.

Hardware

Behold: the Nexus 7 2.0. The latest iteration of Google’s small tablet takes everything we loved about the original and improves on it, all without adding much to the price. Google and ASUS — the OEM in charge of designing the new device — whipped up the first Nexus 7 in just four months, an impressive feat for any company tasked with building a quality product. This go-round, the two tech giants had much more time to perfect the device, which bodes well for the quality here, we’d say.

On first glance, the new Nexus certainly bears an obvious resemblance to its predecessor, but closer inspection shows that ASUS actually made a few significant changes. Weighing 10.23 ounces (290g) for the WiFi-only model and 10.55 ounces (299g) for the LTE version, it’s quite a bit lighter than the first edition, which tipped the scales at 11.99 ounces. At 200 x 114 x 8.7 mm (7.87 x 4.49 x 0.34 in), it’s 1.5mm taller, 6mm narrower and 1.8mm thinner as well. As you can imagine, then, while we didn’t have a problem fitting the first tablet into our khaki pants pockets, this second-gen model is even easier to hold and tote around.

In terms of aesthetics, ASUS eschewed the plastic faux-metal edges and the dimpled rubber back of the original, opting instead for an all-black, all-plastic exterior with a matte finish on the rear cover. We’ll admit that the rubber on last year’s device was an unconventional choice, yet it helped make the device feel surprisingly durable. And besides, the textured material just felt pleasant to put your fingers on. That’s all been removed, likely in an effort to make the tablet as compact as possible. All told, the difference is subtle, but still noticeable: the new Nexus is still a very solid device, but it feels just a tad more… vulnerable. Fortunately, its matte back at least offers a good grip while staying (mostly) immune to fingerprints. Always a plus.

On the front, the bezels surrounding the display are noticeably narrower — ASUS shaved off about 2.75mm on each side — but on the top and bottom they’re as wide as they ever were. According to the two companies, the idea is to ensure most users will have a place to hold the Nexus while using it in landscape mode (this is especially handy for games, we’ve noticed). Since those bezels have remained the same size even as the tablet has gotten narrower, the front looks a little awkward proportionally speaking, given the screen’s 16:10 aspect ratio. We suspect the top and bottom bezels could have been trimmed a bit too, and it wouldn’t actually have had much of an effect on the user experience. Read more: Nexus 7 review (2013)

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