preview Google has announced a second generation of its flagship seven inch tablet, the Nexus 7. Its predecessor proved a hit in Australia and helped Android finally succeed in challenging Apple’s dominance in the tablet sector. But will the new 2013 version of the Nexus 7 be a hit or a failure? Read on to find out.
Note: This article represents an advanced look at the design, features and likely performance of this product, but we haven’t actually tested or played with it extensively ourselves it yet. A follow-up full review will be published when we have.
The design of the previous Nexus 7 was one of the aspects of the device which we liked the most (see Delimiter’s review here). It was light enough, thin enough and small enough to hold in one hand, yet had a velvety leathery back which made it eminently grippable in a way that the iPad mini, the Nexus 7’s closest competitor, just never had.
The design of the new Nexus 7 follows this same scheme, but it looks as though Google has improved the tablet even further. You get a similar leathery, grippy dark grey/black back cover for the tablet, but it looks a great deal more classy. The same buttons (volume, on/off) are in the same places on the left-hand side of the tablet, but they also look a little more refined.
The new Nexus 7 is a little bit lighter than the old (290g versus 340g), and it’s also a little thinner, at 8.65mm compared with 10.45mm. It’s also a little taller, at 200mm compared with 198.5mm, and a little shorter length-wise (if you’re holding the tablet vertically) at 114mm compared with 120mm. Overall, we really like the improvements to the tablet’s size and weight — we think they will make it even easier to hold and use an already very comfortable tablet in one hand, with the other used for navigation.
The last thing which you really need to be aware of when it comes to the new Nexus 7’s design is it multimedia capabilities. The screen resolution of the tablet has been bumped up dramatically (to 1920×1200) compared with the old model’s 1280×800, giving the new Nexus 7 one of the highest resolution screens on the market at 323 pixels per inch. It’s also gotten a new pair of in-built stereo speakers. What this means is that Google has been able to substantially beef up the main design element of the Nexus 7 — its screen — as well as integrating what we expect to be much better sound capabilities.
Many areas of the new Nexus 7 have been improved, when it comes to its featureset. We’ve already mentioned its new screen and stereo speakers. In our view, these are almost reason in themselves to upgrade, with the new screen resolution likely making the Nexus 7’s screen one of the best on the market for any tablet, bar none. Great speakers are also rapidly becoming a necessity in any modern tablet, given how much we all use them for consuming multimedia (for me, it’s YouTube videos of Dark Souls PvP matches, while lying on the couch). Google says the new speakers deliver “surround sound” by German research group Fraunhofer.
There’s also a new five megapixel camera on the back of the new Nexus 7 (the old model had no rear-facing camera). The new CPU is a beastly Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro running at 1.5GHz, and an Adreno 320 graphics chip running at 400Mhz is also on-board. You also get the latest version 4.3 of Android, although previous Nexus 7 devices are also upgradable to this version from 4.2, so that’s not a huge exclusive feature.
Apart from these upgrades, much of the rest of the new Nexus 7’s features are similar to those of the old Nexus 7. You get a battery of about the same size, dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4Ghz/5Ghz) up to 802.11n, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, wireless charging, a microUSB port, 3.5mm audio, an in-built microphone, GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass and ambient light sensors, and support for 4G mobile broadband is optional, including the 1800Mhz band primarily used in Australia. 2GB of RAM is up from 1GB of RAM in the previous model, and you can again get 16GB or 32GB of on-board storage.
What we see in general from the new Nexus 7 in terms of its featureset is that it really brings the model up to date in terms of the wider market, and pushes the bar further out in some areas, such as its screen. Of course, a lot of the ‘secret sauce’ in tablets these days is not in feature lists per se — but relates more to the design and software integration of the devices. Android tablets have been around for some time with high-end features — but it wasn’t really until Google’s highly cohesive and inexpensive Nexus line came around that they started gaining ground on the iPad. We expect to see more of the same from the new Nexus 7.
It’s hard to predict the performance of a device ahead of time, when we haven’t tested it, but we can already make a few guesses at some aspects of the Nexus 7’s strengths and weaknesses.
For starters, its five megapixel rear-facing camera isn’t going to be great; neither is its front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera. There are just better options out there, and we expect to see vastly improved cameras on the upcoming refreshed Apple iPads which will no doubt be out later this year. In addition, it is very likely that any tablet with a screen as high-resolution as the new Nexus 7’s, with its support for 4G speeds, is going to struggle occasionally with battery life.
However, in general, given the very strong performance of the old Nexus 7, we do expect the new Nexus 7 to be among the best-performing tablets on the market. This theory is supported by early reviews of the device. For example, The Verge tells us:
“There are plenty of people for whom the iPad mini is definitely the right tablet. But before you pick, look through the Play Store and see if you can find everything you need. Because outside of that discrepancy, the Nexus 7 is a better tablet than the iPad mini. It’s so comfortable in one hand, the screen is incredible, and its performance is virtually flawless.”
“As long as you don’t mind the selection of tablet-optimized apps in the Play Store, you’d have to be an extreme power user to not enjoy the latest Nexus 7, and you’d most definitely be paying through the nose to land anything better.”
Google got itself easily to second base with the initial launch of the Nexus 7 last year, and it looks as though its upgraded model will take it all the way with a home run. With new cameras, one of the best tablet screens on the market, better speakers, and a thinner and lighter build, this is one tablet which looks to be a sensational buy. And to boot, we expect the upgraded model’s pricing to start at less than $300 in the Australian market, just like the old one.
If you’re an Android tablet fan and you like the seven inch form factor, this is very likely going to be an instant purchase for you. Start thinking about selling your old model and upgrading. If you have an existing iPad model, and it’s not a recent one, you may also want to think about upgrading, or at least keeping the new Nexus 7 on your list until we find out what Apple has planned for later this year. Android is getting very good, and the Nexus line is also very good. Right now, we’re putting the Nexus line in general at least on par with Apple’s iPads for most uses.
It’s hard to say definitely right now, without a review unit, but on paper the new Nexus 7 is looking like a winner. Stay tuned for an Australian launch shortly.
Image credit: Google