Before we begin, a quick look back.
There’s something about working with a new kind of device that helps you learn something about yourself. Android, as an operating system, is growing at a rapid pace and will mature from Jelly Bean and soon become a delicious Key Lime Pie; and there’s no doubt that with it, Google will be hoping to show us horizons of everyday tech that we didn’t even realize existed. With each release comes new features, and with new features come new experiences.
But the operating systems aren’t the only things that are growing – no, Google wants to make it clear to us that even though the Android market does seem a bit spread way too far, they are here to point us in the right direction of their ultimate plans. Thus came the Nexus line, a group of devices that not only show the versatility of the Android platform, but also showcase its growth from simple phone interface into something much more. And the devices themselves are testaments to that.
The Google Galaxy Nexus was the first phone to be widely accepted not only as the Google phone, sporting the newest operating system not available on any other device (at the time), but as a device that brought with it a great deal of freedom – with a little guidance, tinkering with the phone’s operating system proved easy for even the common consumer. Those without such zeal could still rest assured that their devices’ updates would be ahead of the rest. But growth needed to continue.
Then came the Nexus 7. While there were already tablet offerings from the likes of Samsung and Amazon, none had the spirit Google instilled in the Galaxy Nexus. The Nexus 7 changed the game, bringing a very affordable price for competitive specs and all the promises involved with having Google in your corner – the regular user would be on the cutting edge, while the adventurous types would potentially have a software ‘blank slate’ to do with as they pleased.
And now, we come to a new generation of Nexus devices. With the Nexus 4, Google has applied the manufacturing experience of LG to bring a powerful but accessible new entry in the smartphone market. But with the Nexus 10, Google is hoping to reach another new base of consumers who are looking for the same cutting edge software in a bigger package – and of course, the promise of being part of an exclusive, always up-to-date Nexus club. And now the big brother has come out to play, and Android tablet veteran Samsung has been taken to task.
But does the Nexus 10 continue this tradition of successful Nexus offerings? Read on to find out, and see my video review at the end.
Build and Design
Sometimes it’s hard to be fully prepared for what you’re going to get, and even with its to-the-point name, the Nexus 10 is certainly a sight to behold when you first take it out. The 10.1 inch screen makes for even more girth all around, making a side to side measurement a total of almost 10.4 inches (263.9 mm). From bottom to top, the device spans 7 inches (177.6 mm), and the thickness comes out to almost 9 mm.
Yes, we’re dealing with a pretty serious device here, and anyone looking to get their first tablet this holiday season better come prepared – if you’ve ever said before that ‘smartphones are getting bigger and bigger,’ you’re definitely going to be taken aback by the sheer size of the Nexus 10. It takes a little getting used to – at 603g, however, this tablet brings enough weight to feel sturdy without feeling like a medical textbook.
Some of the stagger fades away once you hold the tablet in your hands. Despite the size of it all, the Nexus 10 does feel like it fits – even for a smaller guy like me, I immediately felt like I knew how to handle it. The button layout and placement of the peripherals lead one to holding the tablet in the landscape mode, making the experience with the Nexus 10 decidedly different from the ‘sometimes-portrait-sometimes-landscape’ versatility of the 7.
On your left hand side you’ll find the power and the volume rockers in the top corner, found quite close to one another. The volume rockers are quite prominent and are easy to find without looking, but it felt like the power button, shaped slightly into the curve of the corner, blended in a little too well. While certainly not a tough button to find, I fear for the first time in quite a while that the power button may one day sink in and become unusable.
The left side holds the headphone jack, while right above it is the microUSB charging port. Opposite these two, on the right side, the mini HDMI port can be found. The bottom houses the pogo pins flanked by some magnetic strips – features that will hopefully be made useful due to docks that actually get released for once.
The top fifth of the back end is the only part reminiscent of the Nexus 7, with the patterned design and familiar texture. In the middle of this area is the 5 megapixel camera. Below all this action are the words ‘NEXUS’ and below that, ‘Samsung,’ all made of a material that felt satisfying to the grip. Tacky is the word to use, as skin seems to stick to it just well enough to make holding the Nexus 10 feel safe and secure. Just be ready for all of the fingerprints that are sure to adorn your new tablet’s back.
Tacky, however, is also the word I would use to describe how I feel about the look of the back. Branding obligations aside, having the two words on the back etched into a bland slate without texture or pattern to add color or any form of uniqueness felt quite stale. The overall look of the back reminded me of the back of a laptop screen, like someone had just ripped it right off of an old notebook from the early 2000s. Samsung is more than capable of designing sexy products – it’s any wonder why this all felt so, for lack of a better term, boring.
Perhaps all of this drab is supposed to bring eyes to the front – and the 10.1 inch screen absolutely beckons. Flanking the screen are two speakers, well hidden in the very edges of the side bezels. Above it is the front facing, 1.9 megapixel camera surely made for Hangouts, video chats, and silly self-portraits. Near the bottom of the front end is a notification light, a cosmetic but nonetheless potentially useful addition for those who take advantage of it.
And then there’s all that space inbetween.
Screen and Display
Samsung manages to put in its Nexus 10 one of the most impressive screens on not just any tablet, but nearly any device. For those looking for the technical terms, the Nexus 10 sports a WQXGA True RGB Real Stripe PLS screen capable of 300 dpi. Though ‘10.1 inch’, or just merely ‘10’, will certainly be hammered into your minds due to this tablet, there’s a much larger number that you should keep in mind: 2560 x 1600.
That behemoth set of numbers is the resolution of this screen, and being able to put such a display on what is supposed to be a highly mobile device is nothing short of a feat. Think for a second how some of your favorite videos on YouTube can be as high quality as 1080p – then realize that that number is the second value in a resolution measurement. Yes, this 10-inch screen will dwarf even some of your favorite YouTube Justin Bieber covers. As a result, perusing videos and Netflix on this display always turned out to be a wonderful experience.
Video aside, text and pictures pop on this dazzling display which has already been compared to Apple’s Retina display on their smaller laptop offerings. Viewing media on the Nexus 7 was already a blast, but with its insanely high resolution, the Nexus 10 takes it to another level. Jelly Bean’s colorful interface is as crisp and pleasing as ever, while web browsing proves a wonderful experience.
The brightness is adequate on this screen, though you may have a little trouble seeing things clearly in broad daylight. Viewing angles are also fine, and I learned that the nice thing about a screen this big is that you can zoom into content otherwise too small for normal sight without sacrificing too much real estate.
Apps and games fare very well, too, as the Play Store ecosystem has ensured that apps are always viewable on larger screens. While some may criticize the Android platform for having a lack of tablet-optimized options, you almost forget about all that when seeing the scaled up results on such a nice screen. Almost. You may wish for a bit more polish here and there from certain apps and games, but then again, you also might be having too much fun to care.
All of this beauty is protected behind a slate of Corning Gorilla Glass 2, so you can rest assured that your screen won’t be plagued by the tiny and simple scratches that most other devices might get. Of course, having a screen protector for added security is always a good idea.
While it might not pack the most advanced specs found in the tablet market, the Nexus 10 does bring some power to the table. Sporting a dual-core, 1.7 GHz A15 processor, this tablet also comes with 2 GB of RAM for running a bunch of apps at once.
One might scoff at the lack of cores in this particular offering, but the proof of performance is definitely felt in practice – the Nexus 10 felt consistently smooth throughout my experience, and I found no lag in web browsing, running apps, and multitasking.
Gaming is also on the agenda, as games I tested ran smoothly without any hiccups. This is due to the Mali T604, which is listed as a quad-core graphics processor. There is definitely some power behind the video capability of the Nexus 10, and it shows when you’re racing down to the finish line in Asphalt or using the Force in the new Angry Birds.
Benchmark tests show the Nexus 10 among some of the mid-to-top performers currently in the market, and while it might not sit completely atop the rest, I must reiterate that the performance is definitely felt in practice. Samsung has managed to provide a great user experience in their Nexus 10.
As far as capacity goes, this tablet comes in only 16GB and 32GB varieties – and that’s all you’re going to get. With a screen so crisp and sound (described in the next section) this good, you might want to take advantage and throw all of your content in – unfortunately, the Nexus 10 has fixed memory and expandable options are unavailable. While OTG (on-the-go) USB adapters are certainly an option, I found myself feeling like an opportunity was missed – throwing an SD card in to show others pictures I took seemed like a nice idea, given the high resolution screen. I suppose that it has become a trend to leave out expandable memory to keep the cost down on these devices.
The next piece of hardware is a part of this tablet I am definitely happy to report on – if you have seen my previous tips video regarding the Nexus 7, you will know that I usually hate the speakers found on phones and tablets. The Nexus 7 was unfortunately not immune to this disdain, as the small slit on the back proved not only lacking in power, but even lacking in overall clarity. I have my own Bluetooth speaker to mitigate that shortcoming, and the solution works perfectly.
However, Samsung has taken all of this into account and not only added in an extra speaker, but put them in brilliant positions – stereo on both sides and flanking the screen, presumably aimed right at the user. While you’re not getting surround sound or a loudspeaker in the Nexus 10, you’re sure to be surprised at how much louder and fuller it is compared to pretty much any other mobile device.
Having the two speakers positioned the way they are is incredibly ingenious, making the sound experience seem as if it is just for you. The Nexus 10 was able to deliver very adequate sound when viewing videos, and only when other people wanted to participate did I feel the need to get the Bluetooth speaker out.
Music is, of course, a different beast – the speakers don’t do audiophiles any further justice than being better than the competition. In this case, external sources are undoubtedly the better option. Nonetheless, Samsung is to be applauded for putting some thought into the sound department of the Nexus 10.
All of this craziness packed under a 10 inch screen should be backed by a powerful battery. Thankfully, the Nexus 10 can hold its own, even if its battery performance doesn’t particularly shine. Obviously because of the display, this tablet can go a full day if you’re quite frugal with your usage. Working continuously with this tablet will unsurprisingly limit your overall longevity.
The Samsung designed tablet comes with a charger and microUSB cable, which I should mention is longer than your average cord bundled with phones and some similar devices. Perhaps this is just me, but the placement of the microUSB charging slot makes the cord stick out like a sore thumb.
I put the Nexus 10 to task by using Netflix over my WiFi connection to continuously stream episodes of one of my favorite shows while broadcasting the audio to my Bluetooth speaker. With the brightness fixed at full, the tablet was able to last about four and a half hour long episodes. With some tinkering in-between episodes, the total battery life seen from this particular test was just under 5 hours. I imagine that for tasks much less intense on the wireless connectivity, the Nexus 10 should certainly be able to hit the 8 hour mark of continuous, non-stop usage.
Essentially, this means that if you are going to be working for extended sessions of time with the Nexus 10, chances are you will be in a setting with outlets, anyway. This doesn’t feel like a device made primarily for run and gun usage, but rather for longer periods of reading, browsing, and viewing; as far as work goes, I imagine a café with plugs and maybe even a wireless keyboard for good measure. Bottom line, you’re probably going to get used to bringing that power cord along and treating the Nexus 10 like a netbook (only it’s so much cooler than that).
Samsung has made waves with its camera offerings in the past – the optics on the Galaxy S3 were certainly worthy of mention, and the recent Galaxy Camera definitely help cement the Korean manufacturer as a true Android supporter and seasoned camera producer. With such a nice screen found on the Nexus 10, one would hope that the camera would shine and the resulting images would prove to be great viewing material.
Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case with Samsung’s latest offering. The camera brings with it a measly amount of 5 megapixels to work with, and it just feels like another missed opportunity considering Samsung’s pedigree of photographic devices. Even smartphones come with more megapixels than this, like the LG Optimus G with a whopping 13 – not to mention, Samsung’s own Galaxy S3 comes with 8.
Unsurprisingly, then, the camera underwhelms and resulting images lack true clarity or depth. While no one will complain about the mere ability to have a camera on the Nexus 10, expectations for it should be the same as all with all other tablet cameras – low. The front facing camera can do 1.9 megapixels, but it’s just there, as always, to make sure your video caller can see your face.
That being said, there are a few nice features available in the camera software provided in this 4.2 version of Android’s operating system. Extensively covered already is the new camera software, which leaves behind traditional menus for a touch and swipe interface that just feels right for touchscreen devices.
Google has also put into its new OS the Photo Sphere, a camera feature akin to panorama that instead allows for full 360-degree shots. While having the same technology that creates Google Street View images is certainly a nice novelty, in execution, getting those pictures just right is rather tough. This is especially true for the Nexus 10, as it just doesn’t have a good enough camera to take full advantage of these new features.
I definitely follow the ‘the best camera is the one on you’ mantra, but I would put the Nexus 10 down as ‘only when you have nothing else.’ And let’s be honest – you’d probably get the same reactions taking pictures with the Nexus 10 that many an iPad user have suffered.
The camera wasn’t the only thing enhanced in the new version of the Android operating system, 4.2 Jelly Bean. As this is a Nexus device, it is definitely a plus to know that it comes with the latest and greatest offering from Google HQ. Jelly Bean is as snappy and fun to use as ever, and along with the Nexus 4, Google further cements its devices as ‘official’ by ensuring they are at the cutting edge of software.
New features that adorn the experience of the Nexus 10 are the new keyboard, which takes a page from popular alternative Swype and adds gesture typing. I personally never had a problem with the original keyboard offerings of previous Android versions, and touch typing remains as easy as ever. The larger screen does allow for better full keyboard-like typing, but having the ability to swipe for words is still nice to have. However, that’s about all it is, as the gesture typing is adequate but probably won’t keep you from installing your own favorite keyboard anyway.
The interface of Jelly Bean brings with it new notification drop down menus that show you your notices on the left pull-down while having your most used options easily accessible on the right. This is a nice touch for Google to throw in, as I always loved the easy-to-use power widgets that typically come bundled in with custom ROMs. Sure, these buttons only bring you to the actual page found in Settings instead of just toggling the feature on and off, but there’s something about it that just feels proper. The extra presses were soon nothing but an afterthought.
Google Now has proven itself a well-received addition to the Android ecosystem with Jelly Bean 4.1 and continues to please in this new version. Cards appear appropriately after certain acts are performed across all of your synced Google experiences, as directions to a location you might have searched for magically appear in your notification dropdown and reminders for upcoming calendar events keep you on task. If you get annoyed by your tablet always reminding you how and how long will take to get ‘home’, you can always swipe away the card until it’s finally useful.
Voice commands remain as good as ever due to the included software in Google Now, taking from the well done Voice Search application found in previous Android versions. As many should already have experienced by now, Voice Search remains delightfully accurate at capturing the correct words and phrases – it remains a useful tool in this Nexus 10.
Having a Nexus device means that when the next iteration of Android comes out, you will most likely be one of the first who get to enjoy it. After all, it’s the Google Nexus 10 by Samsung and not the other way around. Android has already come a long way, but it’s always exciting to know that new experiences are always on the horizon.
The Nexus 10 has a lot going for it – with a powerful and delightfully crisp screen and the backing of Google’s update schedules, users will likely have a great time experiencing the latest and greatest that Android has to offer. Videos, games, and even reading are smooth, fast, and easy on such a device.
However, there are also a lot of things that are working against it. The Nexus 10 hopes to bring with it enough incentives for consumers to forego its competitors, but it comes in just a little late in the game after tablets like the Galaxy Tab and the ASUS Transformers have already established ground. Without packing in the best specifications to trump its rivals, the Nexus 10 is a moderately priced device that excels in certain aspects but remains average among its peers due to areas like battery life and camera.
And that isn’t even the end of the question – the Nexus 7 remains as a very viable alternative to this new device. Despite its growing age and the lack of good sound and a camera, the 7 remains one of the best smaller tablets available and its great early ratings still hold up. Personally, I love the size and experience my Nexus 7, so the learning curve of a much larger device was a little steep.
Ultimately, the decision will come down to personal preference. While the screen of the Nexus 10 is one of the best among all tablets, users will have to decide if that and Jelly Bean 4.2 and beyond are enough to justify a purchase. Then, the next layer is the size – with the Nexus 7 still available, one can opt for the smaller, more portable alternative rather than this behemoth of a device.
Which brings me full circle – I said at the beginning of this review that working with new devices always seem to make me learn something new about myself. With the Nexus 10, I had quite a bit of fun and would definitely recommend it for anyone looking to get a 10 inch tablet. Given all that its package offers, people looking to break into the larger tablet market will get a wonderful start with the capable Nexus 10.
However, I think I’m going to stick with my Nexus 7 – I learned that while I might love the larger screen and enhanced viewing performance therein, I just can’t see myself bringing this 10 incher everywhere with me the way I bring around my Nexus 7. Taking the tablet out for quick calendar entries, notes, and even quick reading or video sessions felt cumbersome, especially considering the ease with which the smaller 7 inch tablet could handle such tasks. The Nexus 10 felt right only in the comfort of my home, in a café, or anywhere I could just sit down and enjoy the experience.
But that’s just with me – and such is the beauty of technology today. With so many choices, anyone can choose which device would work best for them. For a device capable of handling a faster (or more hectic) pace, smaller offerings may prove easier and more useful, as the Nexus 7 proves. When you’re just looking to enjoy a movie, read a book, or simply browse your favorite websites in perhaps a calmer matter, larger devices bring greatly enhanced experiences, as was the case with the screen and snappy performance with the Nexus 10.
In the end, however, the choice is all up to you. See my video review above and stay tuned for more Nexus news here at Android Authority!