Nexus 7 (2013) Review

July 28, 2013
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This week Google showed the world that the best 7-inch Android tablet could be even better. A little over a year after releasing their first 7-inch slate, they are back with an all-new and improved Nexus 7. With their second tablet, Google just outshined all the others on the market, and that includes the lustrous iPad mini. If you've been debating whether or not to buy a small 7-inch tablet you'll want to read on for our full thoughts on this new king of the hill.

When we say king of the hill we mean it. The new Nexus 7 improves on every single aspect over the original, while only increasing the price $30. No one could touch the first in terms of price/performance/quality, and things will be the same this time around. In case you don't know everything about the Nexus 7 2 already, enjoy our full review and tons of pictures below.

Hardware

When the first leaks stated this device would be selling for just $229, I instantly knew it would be a success. With the hardware they've designed along with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean this will be the slate to beat in 2013. Google's 7-inch Android tablet has a new and improved 1920 x 1200 full HD IPS display, and it looks stunningly beautiful. It sports the highest pixel density of any tablet available - coming in at 323 PPI. It is crisp, clear, vibrant, and truly hard to argue with.

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They've done quite a bit of slimming down, while also beefing up everything at the same time. Google and ASUS didn't hold back anywhere. Well, except for those darn bezels. There is 3mm less black bezel on both sides, but sadly the same on top and bottom, which makes them seem huge. And while it looks extremely sleek overall the iPad mini still has slightly smaller bezels. However, that's the only thing it has going for it, as the Nexus 7 stomps every other aspect.

For the full rundown we have a 7-inch 1920 x 1200 full HD IPS display, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, and a pretty powerful Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5 GHz quad-core processor under the hood. It comes with more power, double the RAM from 1GB to 2GB, and Google's added wireless charging, front 1.2 MP and a 5 megapixel rear camera. All of this to a better designed, prettier, more powerful tablet. While also making it thinner, lighter, and only increases the cost a few dollars. Sign me up! The old slate measures 7.81 x 4.72 x 0.41 inches and weighs 11.99 ounces, while the new slate comes in at 7.9 x 4.5 x 0.3 inches, weighing 11.2 ounces.

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The new Nexus 7 comes in three different variations. A 32GB WiFi model we're enjoying here, which will be $269. Then there is a standard 16GB WiFi for a mind-boggling -- no questions asked -- $229 price tag. We doubt anyone can beat that. Lastly Google stunned everyone by offering a 32GB 4G LTE model for only $349. The iPad mini 32GB with LTE is $550, just as a sad comparison. There's no question as to which I'll be choosing. One important note too is the LTE Nexus 7 supports AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon 4G LTE. All under the same device. One tablet will do it all, so you can switch carriers and have no issues. Well done!

As you can see above the entire design is almost the same as the original, and we haven't even got into those brand new speakers yet either. The power and volume up/down buttons are nicely located in the same right edge as before. And they even seem a bit easier to hit. There's also a noise cancellation mic pinhole below the volume rocker. The left edge is clean, and the bottom sports that micro-USB and slim-port enabled plug. Then on back is the new stuff.

The rear has been redesigned with a softer, more comfortable matte black soft plastic shell, and it is extremely comfortable to hold. There is now a large lens where we have a 5 megapixel rear camera, complete with Photoshere's and all. Then the convex NEXUS logo looks wonderful, the concave ASUS logo is smaller than before, and we now have stereo speakers. Lets get one thing straight, the new Nexus 7 has stunning sound. While it could be louder (like with most devices) the new virtual surround sound actually had me looking over my shoulder at times while playing a Google Play Movie. It's impressive, and we think many will love the new sound. There's a top and bottom speaker, but sadly, they still face down when the tablet is on a table. However they are angled enough to not get muffled, so that's a huge plus.

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Oh and did we mention it is also slimmer, sleeker, and more portable than the Kindle Fire HD. Yea, Google beat everyone with this tablet, that's for darn sure. If you've been looking for a slate that does it all, is comfortable, well designed, and just looks great, this is it. Our only complaint (since we know you're wondering) is the lack of a micro-SD slot, but we weren't expecting one. The Nexus 7 was a stellar tablet, but this round two shows that Google's learned a thing or two. Lets just end by saying the Nexus 7 is all grown up!

Display

While we already mentioned the stunning screen above, we needed to quickly talk about it again. The screen is arguably the most important part of a tablet for me. Yes apps, size, and weight are all important, but if I'm starring into this thing for hours, the screen needs to be wonderful. Where most tablets fall short, the Nexus 7 delivers.

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The 7-inch 1920 x 1200 WUXGA LED display is gorgeous. Those saying you don't need more than 720p haven't tried this! With 323 pixels-per-inch it has the highest pixel density of any tablet on the market, and goes beyond the "retina" term Apple users love. Whether I'm browsing Google Chrome sites (like AndroidCommunity) reading a book like Fight Flub (still haven't finished it, 3rd time) or watching movies this screen just shines. It truly completes the entire experience, and there's no other way to put it. Below you'll see three photos. One of the old vs new, and other showing both with a cropped image of the text zoomed in. The new is just crisp, of course!

If we did have one complaint, it's that it almost gets too bright. Yea, that's not a real complaint but whatever. I will say the small ledge and gap from the strengthened glass to the plastic sides wasn't my favorite, but we'll manage just fine. Overall the screen is one of the most important aspects of this device. It has excellent viewing angles, color reproduction is solid, and blacks are as inky-black as ever. This tablet will be easier on the eyes than most.

Software

We'll be digging into the software more over the week as we've only had 4-5 days now to fully enjoy this tablet, but overall there really isn't too much that's new here. Of course we're still on Jelly Bean (round 3) and sadly there is no Android 4.5 (5.0 or what not) Key Lime Pie, but we're okay with that. As an ecosystem the manufacturers could use the break, and Jelly Bean is a finely tuned and oiled machine that doesn't need too many changes. But we got some!

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Android 4.3 Jelly Bean was announced, and Google put a lot of effort into making it even more smooth than before. They called it project butter, and lets just say Android 4.3 is as buttery as it gets. Almost slippery smooth, and extremely stable. We won't get into specifics, but the touch response was a big focus, and you can certainly tell here. The camera interface has received some changes for the better and we now have photosphere on the Nexus 7.

The highlights include user restricted profiles so your kids can't buy stuff or cause issues, Google focused heavily on Open GL 3.0 for a huge boost in graphical performance, and games will surely benefit from that. Then we have "Bluetooth Smart" which is basically their term for Bluetooth LE (low energy) and will allow connections like never before. Think smartwatches, wearables like Google Glass, better support for audio with a brand new Bluetooth 4.0 stack for developers, and much more. Everything is basically under the hood, but head here for more details.

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Performance

Along with Android 4.3 came some huge performance increases. Project butter made Android smoother, but also faster. And while benchmarks are only a small part of that story, we do have a few to share. Again benchmarks don't represent real-world usage, and many aren't even updated with the new Nexus 7 being supported, but we'll share them anyways. We don't have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (or 800) and there isn't a Tegra 4 under the hood, but this thing holds its own extremely well.

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We ran Geekbench (which reads it as the old Tegra 3 Nexus), AnTuTu, Quadrant, Vellamo, and a few others. Instead of breaking it all down, just refer to the comments above. This thing is one of the fastest, smoothest, most accurate and enjoyable experiences on Android to date.

Playing games like Riptide GP2 were a blast on the beautiful HD display, which one again reassures us that this is the best 7-inch slate around. From browsing the web, casting with the new Chromecast (that's a story for another day) playing games, and viewing videos there's absolutely zero lag with the Nexus 7 or Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. We'll see how it does after a year of apps and heavy usage though.

Camera and Battery

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The original tablet from Google had a sad front facing camera, and no dedicated camera app to even use it. You relied on the then Google+ hangouts and 3rd party apps to use it. With this new slate we have a dedicated (and improved camera app) a 1.2 front shooter, and a pretty solid 5 megapixel rear camera. Not only did Photosphere stitching and lighting improve with 4.3, but it's now available on the Nexus 7. I don't need a camera on my tablet, do you really want to be that guy holding it up in public? I don't. That said, many wanted it, and Google delivered. So here's some samples.

In the end this is only a 5 megapixel camera. We can't expect (nor do we get) the quality of photos the Galaxy S4 and that 13MP lens offers, but it's better than what we had before. We had no complaints here, but then again I probably won't be using the camera much myself.

For those curious about battery life, fear not my friends. While Google went with a slightly smaller 3,950 mAh battery here, you won't notice it. Android 4.3 is more efficient, as is the Snapdragon S4 Pro, and Google quotes 9-10 hours of usage. Or over 10 with light web browsing or Play Magazine reading. In practice, they were almost spot on. Our first rundown test wasn't so good because we used the crap out of this thing. Second time around we had the slate last roughly 8 hours and 45 minutes. And that was with some pretty heavy usage.

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Old vs New vs the Competition

Below we have plenty of comparison photos next to the original just for good measure, but you all know what to expect. It's better built, thinner, lighter, prettier, and just overall the next phase of the Nexus 7. As we said above the N7 is all grown up, and you'll notice it right away.

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The original 2012 Nexus 7 is already removed from the Play Store, but that quad-core slate is still an excellent option for many, and will probably drop in price soon too. Obviously the new Nexi is the better choice (for reasons above) but you really can't go wrong. Here's also where other Android manufacturers are in serious trouble.

Take the HP Slate 7, the new Lenovo tablets, Acer's budget 7-inch slate, and even the iPad mini. All of the Android ones come in around $149, but offer dual-core processors and terrible 1024 x 600 resolution displays. There's absolutely ZERO reason to get one now that the original Nexus 7 will be discounted to probably around $159 or so. Then don't even get me started on the overpriced iPad mini. That aside, enjoy the gallery below.

Wrap-Up

Are you okay with upgrading to another awesome tablet every year and spending roughly $200? I sure am, and it looks like that just might be Google's plan moving forward. If Google's going to continue to step up the game, beat the competition, and deliver quality products like the Nexus 7 for this price, I'm all for it.

So what's the verdict? Google should have offered a Nexus 7 a long time ago! The market is flooded with cheap 7-inch Android slates, but everything we get with the ASUS Nexus 7 this year makes it completely worth the small splurge in price.

This device is the thinnest and lightest 7-inch Android tablet available. The only one with a stunning 1920 x 1200 full HD display, it's one of the most powerful tablets available, it has a high-def screen and stereo speakers all wrapped in a quality package running the latest and greatest mobile OS in the world, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. The screen is gorgeous, it's comfortable to use, and performance is top-tier. There is nothing not to like.

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This is the best Android tablet for your money, in this size, and possibly overall. There's nothing not to love and surely Android updates will be delivered quickly and this slate will only improve as time goes on. If you were to ask, we'd say this is the best value and product for your money, so go get one. They are available right this minute from the Google Play Store.


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  • Terrence

    Can you comment on whether the n7 will allow for hdmi out this tine around? It wasnt in the original n7, the n10 does though.

    • Luke Monahan

      It will do it with a SlimPort adapter — roughly $20-30 to buy one.

      • phor11

        And at that price, might as well just pick up a chromecast. :D

  • http://wealthbuilderbiz.com/ wealthbuilderbiz

    >> In the end this is only a 5 megapixel camera. We can’t expect (nor do we get) the quality of
    >> photos the Galaxy S4 and that 13MP lens offers, but it’s better than what we had before.

    You were implying that higher megapixels produces quality pictures. It does not.

    Thanks for the review, by the way.

    • Benjamin Rodriguez

      Higher megapixels DO produce a better image, if other necessary conditions are met. It’s not always necessarily that way, but i’m getting tired of people shouting that higher megapixels are somehow a bad thing. As long as the sensor size increases correspondingly, the software processing is adequate and the other parts such as software and lenses are kept the same quality: higher mpx=better picture

      • Hakro807

        Certainly agree, but why so many dislike the MP-race was because it was all too common that the sensor size was kept the same with current technology, resulting in reduced dynamic range and increased noise levels.

        We also have the “big enough” factor, i.e. how many pixels are needed for pictures primarily viewed on a monitor? HTC took a clear side when releasing the One with just a 4 MP sensor, instead aiming for low-light performance and dynamic range.

      • http://www.androidcommunity.com Cory Gunther

        Or how many MP’s do you need for a instagram or Facebook photo. Everyone’s needs differ, but you’re right.

      • http://wealthbuilderbiz.com/ wealthbuilderbiz

        @benjaminrodriguez:disqus I am not saying that high pixel is a bad thing. Higher megapixels does give you enough room to crop, if that’s your thing. But higher megapixels is not the primary variable for IQ.

        Fujifim Finepix F200EXR , for instance, is a 12-Megapixel point-and-shoot camera.
        It has an option to set the dynamic range to 400%, with a max resolution of 6M.
        At this setting, the difference of quality compared to a full 12M-setting is negligible.

    • http://www.androidcommunity.com Cory Gunther

      I don’t buy the megapixel number thing.. I know exactly what you mean, and agree completely. But in this case, 13MP GS4 will produce better photos.

      • http://wealthbuilderbiz.com/ wealthbuilderbiz

        Yes, I agree that GS4 will probably produce better photos.

        One thing I don’t like with the new Nexus 7 is the large bezel. It is even bigger than the old N7. From what I am doing, I think I’ll stay with my (old) Nexus 7

  • ben

    Is the volume loud when using headphones? The volume was way too low on the original. I repeat is the volume loud when using headphones?

    Thanks

    • Ezzy77

      Depends on the headphones. Get ones with lower impedance and you’ll be fine with any mobile device.

  • marclee

    I prefer a little larger display like 7.7 inch….

  • ImmaDroid

    So I just sold my 32gb Nexus 7 (1st gen) today for $175, obviously i had to take the hit because the price dropped to $199. Wanted to sell it incase I truly want to but this. Do you think its worth the purchase & the upgrade??

  • mickieIII

    if they allowed tethering on the tablet would be great. Until then not buying

    • ImmaDroid

      What do you mean they dont allow tethering?

    • Ezzy77

      Utter BS, Google doesn’t block tethering on Nexus devices.

  • Cal Rankin

    I bought a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 not long ago. Now I am waiting just a bit to unload this and get the Nexus 7. I might hold out a bit until the hype cools down, and then the 32 GB models will be ripe for the picking. The only things I’ll miss is the card slot (which is why I’m getting the 32 GB version, and I probably woudln’t mind, except that I bought a microSD card not long ago) and the full Polaris Office suite that came pre-installed. I’m kinda cheap, so I’m not looking forward to shelling out some cash for the full version. But I’m desperately looking forward to having a standard microUSB port (instead of that stupid proprietary one), fast OS updates, better performance, display, and battery life. I didn’t notice terrible pixellation on the 1024*600 display, but I want a much better display for videos and games like Plague, Inc. I also hate how small the battery is, and how quickly it depletes. The battery life and display alone on this have convinced me to switch.

  • http://www.mobilemartin.com/ Michael Martin

    What is odd is that they penny pinched (what a few cents) with an LED notification light that is only in white vs RGB – Unfortunately confirmed by sending the new N7 data to Lite Flow over the weekend.

  • Ramamoorthy Ramalingam

    After the recent updates nexus 7 is not booting magic jack free call