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Thursday
Aug292013

Review: Nexus 7 (2013)

Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

By and large, last year's Google's Nexus 7 tablet was an incredibly successful product. Some could say its existence prodded Apple into creating the iPad mini, and you can also credit it for sparking the sudden interest in lower-cost 7-inch tablets from the likes of Samsung, Acer and Lenovo. One year later, the refreshed Nexus 7 is starting to ship in Canada. Here's what's new.

 

While thinner, lighter, and more powerful than its predecessor, the Nexus 7 (2013) has addressed many of the deficiencies that plagued the earlier Nexus 7 tablet.

These include dodgy build quality, light leakage from the display, the lack of a rear camera and the heft and weight that the original had.

The original Nexus 7 is still a great tablet and now that it has been discounted (a 32GB version with 4G data costs $259 at Staples), is a shoo-in for anyone's 7-inch tablet shortlist. The 2013 version offers the same endearing features, but taken to a whole new level.

Construction is more slate-like, it fits better in the hand thanks to thinner dimensions and smaller bezels surrounding the display.

The grippy pockmarked rubber finish on the original has been replaced by a more generic, black rubber coating which isn't as easy to hold but is more elegant if nondescript.

It is also more seamless and feels like a more unified device rather than a screen, a backplate and some buttons stuck haphazardly together to make a cheap tablet for a Google I/O giveaway.

There's now a serviceable rear facing camera for those people who insist that taking photos on a tablet is a good idea. The 5MP rear-facing autofocus camera is there and it works as well as any midrange smartphone from two years ago.

The Nexus 7 now sports stereo speakers which have been kicked up a notch with some engineering by Fraunhofer. Wireless charging is also on tap with compatible Qi charging accessories. 

The display is something to behold and leapfrogs some of the current displays we've seen on Android  tablet devices.


It has a vivid 7.02" 1920x1200 HD display (featuring a dense 323 ppi) in a 1080p HD IPS panel with Gorilla Glass. Compared to last year's version, the new display is brighter, more saturated and with a bluer overall hue. Pinch and zoom into photos and you can then see the difference in pixel density in the breadth and scope of details. Reading text is also a better overall experience.

The new Nexus 7 can even be considered a great option to the current crop of souped-up eReaders that also have access to the Android experience. It is thinner and even more portable and capable for one-handed use than the Kindle Fire or Kobo Arc.

The Nexus 7 is also way more powerful. Sporting a quad-core Snapdragon S4Pro processor clocked at 1.5GHz with an Adreno 320 at 400MHZ powering graphics performance and 2GB of RAM, the Nexus 7 (2013) is visibly faster, more responsive and more efficient at multitasking than the 2012 version. While not exactly twice as fast, it is palpably superior in almost every basic task we put it through.

Not that much if this performance will matter to most users who will be just as happy with last year's model provided which also runs the latest, greatest version of Android's Jelly Bean OS.

The Nexus 7 (2013) is a shot fired across the bow, not just to Apple's more expensive iPad mini but to other Android tablet manufacturers whose designs and user interfaces are starting to feel dated. Grab any 2013 tablet from Samsung, Toshiba, Acer, Lenovo and others and put it beside the Nexus 7 (2013) and they simply feel one or two years older.

That's just when dealing with the physical attributes of weight, thinness and materials. Fire up these tablets and the crowded mess of their widged-encrusted screens and touchy-feely overlay nonsense is suffocating compared to the clean, crisp and almost Zen-like Pure Google experience one enjoys on a Nexus device. 

The Nexus 7 (2013) doesn't really bring anything new to the 7-inch tablet space but it certainly does manage to bring the most relevant features and the best of today's available technologies into a slim, sexy package and one that users will definitely enjoy using on a day-to-day basis. 

Starting price is more expensive than last year's model and the 4G version has still to ship in the US with no guarantee of Canadian availability but the 16 GB ($229) and 32 GB ($269) versions are very strong products in this ever growing segment. The big news is that the Nexus 7 is no longer the cheapest Android  tablet around, not when you have products like the ASUS MeMO 7 HD for $159 and the ZTE Lite 3G at $199.

But for users that simply want the best that Google can offer on a 7-inch tablet, nothing comes close to the size, power and purity offered by this year's Nexus 7.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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