As reported on previously, this holiday season will likely be one of the busiest yet for the Android market – specifically, for tablets. Over 50% of people apparently want to get a tablet this Christmas and they are lucky to have so many to choose from. So, which ones are out there?
Well, the Nexus line has your back as its family has been completed with the arrival of the Nexus 10. With the previously released and very well received Nexus 7, there are now two different Google official tablets ready for your e-book reading/YouTube viewing/Netflix streaming/gaming delight. And because they are official Google devices, they will always remain up-to-date with the latest Android operating system. What more could you want?
So, which one do you pick? Well, this comparison will be focusing on the Nexus 7 and 10 created by Asus and Samsung, respectively – but on paper, one might find the story to be very one sided. After all, the Nexus 10 not only has a 3-inch larger screen and its updated specifications make the Nexus 7 look, quite literally, like last year’s model. So how could the Nexus 7 stand a chance?
That’s where this comparison comes in – while the technical aspects of both these tablets will definitely be scrutinized, I will go beyond that and ponder the difference between a 7-inch and 10-inch tablet in terms of practicality. There is a lot more to the story than sheer power and specifications here. See my video comparison at the end and read on for my thoughts.
Look and Feel
As with any proper comparison, we will go through the motions, albeit a little quicker because these are two different classes of device. The Nexus 7, produced by Asus and released earlier this year, came into a market slowly teeming with other devices of its size and hoped to come out on top. By this time, people were just getting used to the idea of having not quite an iPad sized device, but something bigger than a phone and, even then, bigger than a Samsung Galaxy Note. Would there be such a market?
As it turns out, there would be – the 7-inch tablet became quite a hit, as its form factor allowed for enhanced reading experiences akin to Kindles, better gaming, and more pleasing media consumption. Behind all of this was a device that could be used horizontally for good viewing angles and then in portrait for easier manipulation, much like the experience found on a phone. 7 was the magic number, as the Nexus 7 flew off the shelves and brought a complete tablet experience in a mid-sized body.
The 7-inch screen is surrounded by a border about half an inch thick, within which a front-facing camera lies at the top. The power and volume buttons are found on the right side, portrait-wise, and the headphone jack is found on the bottom alongside the microUSB charging port. The back is made of a perforated material and is the first time the ‘nexus’ designation has been proudly front and center. Below all of this is the ‘Asus’ branding and the speaker slit.
I have always enjoyed the aesthetic and handling of the Nexus 7, as it has the simplistic elegance of a smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus but seems all grown up. The weight is perfect, at 340g, and with the right cover, feels like a Moleskine notebook – something I love.
Google didn’t forget about the 10-inch tablet market and employed Samsung to make the big brother Nexus. What came out of it was a behemoth of a tablet whose size required a seasoned Nexus 7 user like me some getting used to. Nonetheless, the Nexus 10, released this past November, stormed into the market and brought with it very powerful specs, a rear camera, and the latest Android operating system, Jelly Bean 4.2. Better handled in landscape mode to take advantage of that incredible screen, the Nexus 10 became a viable choice for anyone wanting a ‘proper’ sized tablet.
The 10-inch screen on the front has a front facing camera on the top while a notification light is on the bottom. Looking in landscape, both side edges have speaker grills that provide inconspicuous but great sound. The power and volume button are together on the top. The left side has the microUSB charging port right next to the headphone jack while the opposite side has the mini-HDMI port.
I said in my in-depth Nexus 10 review that I didn’t like the back of the device. Despite having the ‘nexus’ designation again, the ‘Samsung’ branding below it, and the rear camera within a small pattered area, the overall look reminded me of the back of a laptop screen from the year 2000. It certainly isn’t an aspect of the tablet that breaks the experience – it is just something I noticed and couldn’t (and still can’t) quite get past. Nonetheless, the back is made of a plastic material that seems to almost stick to your hands and thus has a good gripping feel.
Being a larger device, the Nexus 10 is definitely something to get used to – either I would hold it with both of my hands or lie it on my hand like a waiter’s tray, with my other hand performing the presses. If I ever wanted to hold the tablet gripped in just one hand, it would certainly have a death grip. No, this tablet is meant for two handed operation and when not being handled, is perfect on a stand when viewing media content. Those are essentially the two modes that I found myself using the Nexus 10 in, and both experiences were enjoyable.
Verdict: This one is a tie for me, as these two tablets’ sizes serve particular purposes. Honestly, however, I do wish the Nexus 10 looked a little more like a bigger Nexus 7, as the 7’s simplicity seems to fit better than the bland back of the 10. When it comes to feel, the Nexus 7 is great for pretty much any situation, be it one handed, two, or sitting on a desk. The Nexus 10 is a beast meant to be handled by two hands or standing regally for viewing pleasure. Ultimately, both tablets set out to have specific functions and they do them very well – so, there isn’t really a clear winner here. Personal preference will dictate what you need.
Screen and Display
Don’t worry, ties won’t be a trend in this battle – the size and quality of the screens will be our first point of contest. The Nexus 7, obviously with the smaller screen, is a True IPS display with a resolution of 1280×800. 216 ppi is the density here, and it is all protected by Gorilla Glass. Colors on the Nexus 7 are not the most vibrant and the pixel density brings down the overall sharpness a tad. Games and video content nonetheless look very nice on this display, while reading is doable without much incident. Ultimately, having a larger display than that of a smartphone will make content enjoyable and easier to digest, but for those very critical of their displays, there is still a little to be desired here.
This is mostly because of the massively impressive screen of the Nexus 10. The RGB Real Stripe PLS screen is also encased in Gorilla Glass but this time boasts an amazing resolution of 2560×1600 at 300 ppi. There’s no denying how great content looks on this screen, especially when its quality and high resolution often make people compare it to Apple’s Retina display. The Nexus 10’s screen is brighter than its little sibling, while colors are very vibrant and the sharpness is showcased by how great text appears on the screen. While far from the size of a book the way the Nexus 7 is, reading on this display is an absolute joy. Movies and picture content are also a treat – I watched an entire season of a show on Netflix on this tablet rather than on my laptop because it is just that good.
Verdict: You’re going to have a great time with either of these devices, as having a larger display than that of a smartphone pretty much never gets old. That being said, however, the Nexus 10 takes this one for having an incredible display that makes the experience an absolute blast. Fire up a YouTube video in HD and enjoy how great this 2560×1600 display makes videos look, or open up an e-book and have no troubles with the extra sharp text, even blown up. You can do all of this on the Nexus 7 – and you’d still enjoy yourself – but the larger, crisper, better display of the 10 just does it all better.
Performance and Battery
You wouldn’t be able to enjoy anything on these two devices without the proper amount of power underneath the body and screen. Thankfully, both of these Nexus tablets came with processing packages made to go the distance. You get an optimized experience in both of these tablets with Jelly Bean 4.2 – there is no software section in this comparison primarily because despite some purely aesthetic differences, both essentially run the same operating system.
The Nexus 7 sports the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor and was the first tablet to do so at such a low price. The buttery smooth optimizations of Android since Ice Cream Sandwich coupled well with this processor, making the experience snappy and smooth with minimal incident. There are certain times when the Asus tablet has to take its time – like with the rather lengthy startup time – but once you are in the thick of it, there is no denying the speed of this tablet.
1GB of RAM allows for much multitasking, and there were no real hiccups while many different apps were running in the background. I will not get into benchmark tests with this, as they can be found on these two devices’ respective in-depth reviews, but rest assured that the Nexus 7 was definitely among its peers in the numbers. Even compared to larger tablets by Asus like the Transformer Prime and Infinity, the Nexus 7 definitely held its own. See for yourself, however, how easy it is to navigate and utilize this tablet – this was and still is an impressive performer.
However, a 10 inch tablet would definitely need a little more oomph than a smaller device. After all, the Nexus 10 has such an amazing screen and extra bells and whistles that require a processor not just capable of running it all, but one that could go the distance.
That is exactly what Samsung looked to put into their Nexus offering, and the 1.7GHz A15 processor definitely delivers. I said in my in-depth review of the Nexus 10 that while it didn’t blow away the competition through all of its benchmark tests, you would be hard pressed to really notice it in practice. This tablet absolutely flies, and you will find it hard to make the Jelly Bean OS stall. If the Nexus 7 feels like a high-end road car, then the Nexus 10 is the supercar capable of destroying the track.
As these tablets are supposed to have some gaming in mind, both of these performers do well in the graphics department. However, with a more powerful processor, the Nexus 10’s quad-core Mali T604 makes 2D and 3D gaming a real delight. Not to say that there are any problems with the Tegra 3 found in the Nexus 7 – after all, it is the graphics processor combo that sparked a number of games made to take advantage of its power – but the overall package and speed of the Nexus 10 is just a feat in and of itself.
In regards to battery, I know that my test on the Nexus 10 was, for lack of a better term, overkill. I sought out to drain the battery and that is exactly what I did. Some of our readers were a little disheartened to hear that my Nexus 10’s battery sunk at just under 6 hours. This was, as I have already made clear, done by using a streaming Netflix series and streaming the audio to my Bluetooth speaker. This is a lot of work for a tablet, especially in an endurance test, and while it was worth mentioning, it is not truly indicative of battery found in this 10 inch tablet.
However, after having the Nexus 10 for at least a few weeks, I can happily report that general usage really does make the experience better. While it still isn’t the best battery life I have experienced, I am aware that a 10 inch beast can suck power quite easily. Nonetheless, my daily usage of the Nexus 10 has been normal, with the device able to get me through maybe a few hours of work, media consumption, and reading in one day and then lay dormant until the next day, at which time the tablet just continues right where it left off. Unless you are going to work 8 hours straight on just this tablet, its battery is more than capable of going the distance.
The Nexus 7, on the other hand, benefits from its smaller and lower resolution screen because its battery life is just, objectively, better. Even now, my Nexus 10 sits at half battery after the last couple days of normal usage while my Nexus 7 is at 80%. I can leave the Nexus 7 to sit for hours or even a couple days at length and have no worries that it will run out of juice. This is the same on the Nexus 10, to be fair, but just to a lesser extent.
Verdict: The Nexus 10, perhaps unsurprisingly, takes the performance aspect of this review. While the experience on both of the tablets will be characteristically enjoyable, there is no denying just how much faster the 10 truly is. However, you can definitely get more mileage out of a road car than a supercar, and the Nexus 7, with its smaller screen, lower resolution, and lesser but still great processing package has a battery more capable of going the distance.
Hardware and Connectivity
Our last technical portion of this comparison will deal with the extra bells and whistles available in the two devices. The Nexus 7, well, doesn’t have much outside from what has already been discussed. The front facing camera of the 7 is adequate for Hangouts and maybe the occasional self portrait, but that’s about it. After that, the speaker found on the bottom portion of the back is a poor performer in practice, as it does not provide loud or even very rich sound.
Connectivity on the Nexus 7 fares a little better, as the recently released 32GB version adds in support for AT&T’s mobile HSPA+ network. This is a pretty big deal as the already very portable Nexus 7 now gets data pretty much anywhere. Speeds are reported to be around 2-5 Mbps, which might not be LTE, but is still very nice to have on a tablet for on-the-go data consumption. Other than that, the Nexus 7 comes with the usual bevy of features such as NFC for using Android Beam, Bluetooth, and GPS.
The Nexus 10 has been given a lot of features that definitely push it ahead of the Nexus 7 in the hardware department. One is already obvious on the back, and that is the rear camera. Tests with this camera actually showed it to be usable, albeit not all that exciting. Nonetheless, it is a feature that is welcome and might sometimes come in handy. The notification light found below the screen is a very useful addition that adds a useful way of knowing what your tablet is up to at a glance.
My main story in this portion, however, is the sound. Since tablets are usually notorious for having poor speaker offerings, Samsung thought out of the box and put two speakers on the sides of the front, seemingly pointed right at the user. The result is a very impressive sound experience that brings a loudness not often found on devices of this nature. It is truly a welcome addition that Samsung deserves credit for including.
Other options include the micro HDMI port on the right side that can be used with a separate cable to display your content on the screen, as well as the usual NFC, GPS, and Bluetooth features. While there is Miracast built into the Nexus 10 for wireless display capability, I do not have a compatible TV and thus cannot report on its effectiveness. Nonetheless, the Nexus 10 just has much more to offer in its understandably premium package.
Network connectivity, however, is lacking on the Nexus 10, as there are currently no models of the 10 capable of 3G or HSPA+. WiFi will have to be your way to connect to the internet here, and it is unknown at the moment if Google will decide to offer mobile connectivity for the Nexus 10.
Verdict: If mobile networking is a must, then your choice will have to be the Nexus 7, as its 32GB version is the only Nexus tablet able to do it. However, the Nexus 10 simply just has more in its premium package to offer – a camera, great sound from front facing speakers, and some extra ways of viewing. The Nexus 10 will get the point here for having the more robust package.
Now, here is where I will essentially conclude my comparison – with a new section that I believe will take a good look at not just these devices’ capabilities, but also the notion of practicality.
After all, what would it mean to you to have a 7 inch or a 10 inch tablet? Such is often the question when it comes to devices larger than smartphones – what would be practical? It is clear that the Nexus 10, looking to be the package far and beyond that found in the Nexus 7, is winning the general comparison – but what good is all of that amazingness if it is hard to bring such a monster of a tablet around with you? And, to be fair, the Nexus 7 is no slouch – it is still the best tablet of its class and is able to keep up, performance-wise.
I spent quite a lot of time with the Nexus 10 in various situations, only to find that it was completely practical in fewer instances than the Nexus 7. When I bought the Nexus 7, it was in contention with a number of different devices, the iPad 3 being one of them. It wasn’t until I actually went to a store and looked at a couple 7 inch tablets that I knew exactly what I wanted. After holding the tablet in my hands and understanding exactly what it was I wanted out of my new device, it was the Nexus 7 that I chose.
The Nexus 7 is the size of a book – for someone who is constantly taking notes, reading e-books, viewing internet articles, jotting down thoughts, and is a former Moleskine notebook addict, the size fit right in with what I was already used to. I worked with an iPad that my friend allowed me to test out, and all of these tasks were just… tougher.
The sheer size of a 10 inch tablet keeps it from being constantly in your hand, at the ready, and is thus typically relegated to some sort of bag. You have to fiddle to get it out and then use a stand, lay it down, or hold it up for viewing. Taking notes on the Nexus 10 isn’t as much a breeze as the 7, which can be used in portrait mode and typed on like an oversized smartphone. And unless you have a good case, the Nexus 10 didn’t feel like something you would have on you everywhere – it would be like an iPad, typically used in the home or in specific situations. Ultimately, I felt the Nexus 10 was better at stationary work or play – propped up on a desk and playing its content for all to see from the incredible screen. But when on the go, quickly and nimbly, the Nexus 10 just made my tasks a little harder to do.
In the end, the choice is yours – but you have to remember what it is that you want this tablet for. A person like me wants to have the power of Android at my fingertips at all times in order to perform tasks, jot notes, and generally have as a quick and easy but robust organizer. The Nexus 7 is capable of videos, games, internet, and the whole lot that tablets are supposed to do – but a 7 inch tablet just made more sense for what I wanted out of it.
Perhaps you know yourself as a real media person. Maybe you know that this tablet might not go too many places outside of the specific ones you know it will work well in. And maybe you really do want to take advantage of the large screen for viewing videos, playing games, or even showing off pictures. Then the Nexus 10 just might be your go-to device.
These are the questions I would implore people to ask themselves before jumping into either one camp or the other – these tablets are great for their respective prices, but they are still an investment. So, you really have to know what it is you want out of something like this. For me, I know that the Nexus 10 outperforms the 7 in more ways than one – but if I had to choose the tablet I know I will use to its fullest potential, I have to give it to the Nexus 7. It is simply the one for me.
So which is the tablet for you? The Nexus 7 comes at 16GB for $199, 32GB for $249, and finally the 32GB with mobile data for $299. The Nexus 10, on the other hand, comes in 16GB and 32GB without mobile data for $399 and $499, respectively.
And for all of the news and updates on these and all Android devices, keep it tuned here to Android Authority, your source for all things Android.