The new Nexus 7 is a powerful, reliable tablet. It's nicely built, and offers a gateway into the Google Play Store, which has become a solid competitor to Apple's App Store and iTunes.
Frankly, when it comes to 7-inch tablets, it blows both the iPad mini and the original Nexus 7 clean out of the water, and does a whole lot more than a Kindle Fire HD for just a bit more cash. However, it's not the bottom dollar option that its predecessor was, and with the possibility of an iPad mini with Retina display on the horizon, should consumers hold out? Let's break it down.
The size and build of the Nexus 7 is very nice. The grippy, odd looking and divisive pockmarked backing of the original is gone, replaced with smooth black plastic. It holds up well against wear and tear, especially when compared to a metal iPad, and it's not so slick that it'll slide out of your hand. It's also a really nice size for holding in one hand like a paperback book, or tossing in a bag or coat pocket.
The battery life on the device is excellent. You'd have to try in order to wear down that 3950 mAh battery before the end of the day.
The Nexus 7 has best display of any 7-inch tablet currently on the market. On paper, it's better than that of an iPad 4 with retina, but it's hard to see the difference with fallible human eyes. And speaking of paper, the new Nexus is an excellent way to read on the web, and the most pleasing screen for a Kindle next to aKindle Paperwhite.
It's also a powerful performer. It's 1.5Ghz quad-core and 2GB of RAM ensure great performance in the most punishing of Android apps and games.
Android 4.3, while not a major overhaul by any definition, brings a few nice features with it. The improved graphics performance is obvious when gaming, and the battery-saving Bluetooth enhancements are appreciated.
Finally, it's well priced. $229/£200 is a good starting price for a 16GB tablet, although we recommend the 32GB version for reasons we're about to get into...
Is Android starting to get bloated? Our 32GB Nexus 7 tablet arrived with 26GB available. That means proprietary software is sucking up 6GB of space. We'd really be irked if we shelled out for a 16GB model, and only had 10GB to play. It would also be nice to have a 64GB option, since microSD seems to be out of the question.
It's not that 10GB or 26GB isn't enough room - we don't need to haul the entire Criterion Collection everywhere we go - it's just that it's starting to border on false advertising. It's like when you buy a $30 concert tickets and end up paying $41.95 with fees. Just be upfront about it!
The colors on the display are slightly inaccurate. You really need to make a one to one comparison to notice it, but it's worth mentioning with a screen that's otherwise stellar.
The camera is pretty unremarkable, but this is a tablet after all. If you take pictures with a tablet in public you deserve shoddy snaps as well as derisive looks.
Lastly, while the Nexus 7 is priced to move, especially when compared to the iPad mini, but it's no longer the dirt cheap option. That title now belongs to the Kindle Fire HD, which was neck and neck with the original Nexus 7, which debuted at $199 and moved down to $179.
Is the Nexus 7 the best 7-inch tablet on the market today? We think so. Is the best tablet full stop? That's debatable.
The plastic build isn't terribly attractive, but once you have it your hands you understand its charms. It's light, thin and durable, the perfect thing to toss in your bag as you run out the door. It could be a commuter's best friend.
You won't be at a loss for things to do on it either. Google Play has grown considerably in the tablet department, with lots of great apps optimized with for this high density display. And thanks to substantial battery life, you won't have to worry about it dying on you out of nowhere either.
While it's no longer the cheapest 7-incher on the market, it offers a lot more processing power and versatility than a Kindle Fire HD. We actually think that Amazon might have the most to worry about from Google's new tablet. Actually, as long as you keep buying your e-books from them, they probably don't care what tablet you own.
The only thing that really has us worried is Android itself. While it offered fast and stable performance on our Nexus 7, the amount of bloat the OS creates is concerning. We're also wondering if it's iterating too fast, leaving popular apps unsupported on new devices.
Still, if you're considering a tablet now and are already dabbling in the Android ecosystem, we see know reason why shouldn't take the plunge with a Nexus 7. If you haven't invested at all with Android, you're still in a good place to start. You could wait and see about the next iPad mini, which is advisable for those who have racked up a lot of App Store purchases, but there's no way it'll be as affordable as the new Nexus 7.