Nexus 7 (2013) review (video)

July 31, 2013
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About a year ago, Google, in partnership with ASUS, brought a tablet to its increasingly popular Nexus line of products. It was called the Nexus 7, and just about everyone loved the device. After all, what’s not to love about updates straight from Google and top of the line hardware, all at a very affordable price?

In the world of technology, and especially when it comes to Android, hardware is improving at a very fast pace. After a mere year, 5-inch 1080p quad-core smartphones have become the standard, performance is rising like never before, and our smartphones are sometimes more powerful than our own computer’s. With such advancements, the Nexus 7 (2012) began to show its age, and the masses wanted more. And Google, in partnership with ASUS, answered.

Enter, the Nexus 7 (2013). Have Google and ASUS succeeded in creating one of the greatest tablets ever? Find out in our review.

Design

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Upon looking at the Nexus 7 (2013), you immediately notice the difference between last year’s model. It’s thinner, narrower, and lighter, further perfecting the 7-inch form factor. Looking at the front, you see that the side bezels have been shrunken down, and any space that was created by doing so has been shaved off. What you get is a narrower profile that is almost 6mm less than last year’s tech. The bezels at the top and bottom basically stay the same, and actually, I think that’s pretty genius (more on that later).

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The power button and volume rocker remains above where your right hand would land. When you look around the back, you notice that the dimpled design of the original has been done away with, instead opting for a slightly rubberized material that makes grip even easier. Couple this with the thinner profile and narrower sides, and you get a very comfortable, one handed grip.

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In the very corner, you get something the Nexus 7 (2012) just didn’t have — a 5-megapixel camera, and stereo speakers adorned on the top and bottom — or sides, depending on how you hold it.

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Simply put, the Nexus 7 (2013) is quite a looker — slim, sleek, and simple. I really think that in design, they’ve truly perfected it. You can infer this from the “nexus” logo on the back — it’s now sideways, implying that this tablet is at it’s best when in landscape, and the bezels even support this philosophy.

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First, let’s say you’re reading Flipboard in portrait mode. The thin bezels, slim profile, and lightweight make it easy for your one hand to perform the most important tasks without any strain or discomfort. And when you need a better grip, you can really wrap your hand around the entire device.

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But then, put the Nexus 7 on its side, in landscape. By keeping the bezels thick on the top and bottom of this tablet, you get great positioning on your gripping hands without accidentally touching the screen. Control is then easy and simple.

You’ve heard me say before that I love ‘black slate’ designs. A design that is simplistically elegant and unobtrusive so that it never gets in the way of what’s most important — because when you turn that screen on, the possibilities feel endless. As a tablet as easy to carry, hold, and throw around as this, the Nexus 7 is currently as black slate as you can get.

Display

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In just one year, we’ve seen an incredible boom and demand of 1080p displays on handheld devices.  The Nexus 7 (2013) joins that trend with a screen capable of 323 pixels per inch, effectively giving the tablet one of the most beautiful and sharp displays in the tablet market. Yes, the actual full resolution is 1920×1200, but in display terms, that is still considered Full HD, which is better known as 1080p capable. Since a device around this size is typically geared towards reading, rest assured that the Nexus 7 (2013) will be your new hub for ebooks, magazines, web news, and the like. Media consumption isn’t that bad either, especially if you have a Chromecast to go with it!

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Speaking of media, the screen delivers very good color range, and nothing ever struck me as dull. Viewing angles are all great, and the brightness of the display makes the Nexus 7 (2013) an optimal device for travel, such as taking it to the beach to sit and read a good book. Gamers who quickly found themselves disappointed with the Nexus 7’s (2012) gaming promises will find them rekindled in this year’s version.

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The higher resolution and overall better quality screen makes gaming a treat. Overall you have a Nexus 7 that has leapt into the technology present and this screen is a great example of that.

Performance

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The Tegra 3 powered Nexus 7 (2012) promised great performance at an affordable price, and it lived up to that claim… for awhile. Most recently, users have begun complaining about lag, stutter, and an overall slowness in their 7-inch tablet. In the time that the Tegra 3 supposedly aged, many other processing packages have been able to prove their worth.

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Sure, we have Snapdragon 600s in our current generation smartphones, but plenty of people are using the S4 Pros of yesteryear, and to tell you the truth, the S4 Pro is still not a bad processing package. At all. In fact, some claim it’s basically an underclocked Snapdragon 600.

So, the Nexus 7 (2013) takes on the Snapdragon S4 Pro processing package to bring great performance at an affordable price. The CPU clocks in at 1.5GHz, and is backed by the tried and true Adreno 320 GPU, along with a bump up to 2GB of RAM.

I have yet to notice any real hiccups and all tasks speed very well and multitasking has remained a breeze. You don’t necessarily need the cutting edge to get great and reliable performance, and it shows in the Nexus 7 (2013).

Hardware

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Simplicity is the general idea when it comes to hardware in a Nexus device. You don’t get a microSD card slot or removable batteries, which is usually the case when it comes to tablets anyway. Regardless, the Nexus 7 (2013) still tries its best to deliver. The Nexus 7 (2013) comes in either 16GB or 32GB of storage, and the bits underneath are largely the standard — Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and NFC, you name it. However, the big difference here is that you can charge this tablet with a Qi Wireless Charger.

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The real story here, and probably one of the cooler hardware features, is the sound. We learned with the HTC One that front facing stereo speakers can be incredible, but on the Nexus 7 (2013) they’re still found on the back side. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the stereo sound from these speakers is a vast improvement over last year’s tech.

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They are surprisingly loud for a device this size, and higher volumes offers some pretty rich sound — at lower volumes, however, that rich sound does taper off, and some sort of noise or hiss is audible. It’s a minor hiccup, but it’s noticeable.

Battery

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With claims of 9 hours of video and 10 hours of web browsing, there’s bound to be some real optimization going into this new device, considering the battery capacity is actually smaller than last year’s model. Brought down to just 3,950 mAh, you get a smaller unit in this Nexus 7 (2013), but it does still hold up pretty nicely.

In a video looping test, I was able to get the battery down to 75% in just two hours, making a full rundown possibly crack 7 hours. Usage during the day has been the real story, however, as performing typical, routine tasks, along with the occasional YouTube video or some gaming, didn’t cause significant dents in battery life. Standby time has also been greatly improved — without plugging in the Nexus 7 for overnight charging, I found I had just about the same amount of power the morning after.

With moderate usage, you should be able to get a day and half out of this tablet, possibly more. It’s a pretty impressive improvement over last year’s edition.

Camera

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One of the more significant updates to the Nexus 7 (2013) is the inclusion of a 5-megapixel camera where previously there was none. Even though camera usage isn’t very optimal on a tablet, it is a nice addition when you just need a simple shot and nothing too fancy.

The camera app brings all the usual capabilities you get in a stock Android camera app, and that includes Photo Sphere, an improved Photo Sphere, in fact. Picture quality is decent enough, but honestly, it’s nothing to get too excited about. The camera on the Nexus 7 (2013) is somewhat required, but it’s hardly a selling point.

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Shot with the Nexus 7 (2013)

 

Software

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Software is another place where the Nexus 7 (2013) has an advantage, as it is the only device currently to shop with the newest version of Android — Jelly Bean 4.3. This new incremental update is no overhaul, and the added changes may not be overly noticeable. The main new feature you may or may not use is with multi user restricted profiles. And with that, the owner gets more control over what content is available for other users registered to the Nexus 7 (2013). It can be a handy feature if the tablet is frequently shared.

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I do notice some improved smoothness, and the overall speed has definitely had an increase, but ultimately, this is stock Android the way you remember it. As a Nexus device, of course, it will be privy to new updates before any other devices, and that’s always been a draw.

Video review

Price

Finally, we end at the price. The Nexus 7 (2012) somewhat revolutionized tablet expectations when it had some pretty impressive hardware at a very affordable price. For the base model of the Nexus 7 (2013) at $229, what are you get for those extra 30 dollars?

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Simple — you get enhancements that now make the Nexus 7 (2013) possibly one of the best tablets available. Last year’s Nexus 7 (2012) was a great first start that some say helped energize the tablet craze, and this year’s model gets closer to perfecting the form. Great power in an easily accessible package, sleek and elegant design hiding reliable and fast performance, and quite simply an experience that I think anyone can love.

When a tablet has the ability to reach everyone from general user to music addict to power gamer and everything in between, I think that gives it the right to be called one of the best.

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