Nexus 7 (2013) Review: Still The Best 7-Inch Android Tablet

The original Nexus 7 swept onto the scene dramatically in 2012 and took a neat chunk out of Apple's 7 inch IPS screen Android 4.2 8GB tablet android cinesi share with its fast and clean performance on stock Android, competetive spec line-up and, crucially, a much lower price point than any of its rivals.

So it's not exactly surprising that Google has decided to reboot the concept with the Nexus 7 2013 edition. The name may not have changed save for the timestamp on the end, but the important thing is that Google's gone back and checked over the original Nexus 7, figured out what worked and what didn't and has refined and distilled the concept into something even more impressive.

While much has changed on the exterior, it's worth bearing in mind that although the processor and other internals are upgraded this is what might be considered an incremental upgrade (akin to the iPhone 'S' models) rather than a massive overhaul.

Nexus 7 (2013) Review: Design

As much as we liked the design of the original Nexus 7, it was abundantly clear that it was made as cheaply as possible. From the all-plastic casing to the hollow-feeling back cover (which could be popped off completely if one were so inclined) the device simply couldn't compete with the build quality of Apple's products – but few complained, because the Nexus 7 was less than half the price of an iPad.

Thankfully, while the value of the device hasn't risen all that sharply (it's now £199 instead of £159 for the entry-level model) the standard of the construction has. It is now thinner and lighter than its predecessor, although it does stand a little taller when held in portrait. It's not as wide though, which means you can wrap a hand around it quite comfortably - handy for those times when you need another hand free (we won't speculate as to why).

The back of the device has a soft-touch texture that should prevent unwanted drops, but it does pick up scuffs and marks incredibly easily. We'd barely had our review unit out of the box minutes before we noticed a scratch on the back.

In terms of colour, Google have now added a white version of the Nexus 7 to the Google Play Store. This is only avaliable on the more expensive 32GB option and isn't yet avaliable on the 4G LTE version. Once you take this version out of the box there will be a cheeky little Android 4.4 KitKat update awaiting as well.

Nexus 7 (2013) Review: Specifications

What a difference a year makes. Tegra 3 is out and Qualcomm's 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro is in - the very same processor that shipped inside the Nexus 4 phone. And even though its powering a display with more pixels, the chipset performs admirably. Benchmark scores are excellent, although they fall short of being at the cutting-edge of the Android sector.

Running 3DMark's Ice Storm graphical benchmark on the 2013 Nexus 7 returns a score of 11489, which is very respectable indeed. GeekBench 2 – which benchmarks all kinds of performance details – comes up with 2589, which is a big improvement over the 1558 posted by the previous year's model. While the Nexus 7 can't match Tegra 4 beasts like the Nvidia Shield, it's still got more than enough raw power to do everything you could possibly want it to.

Nexus 7 (2013) Review: Software

The 2012 Nexus 7 was the first Android product to launch with 4.1 - better known as Jelly Bean. This newer model has 4.3 on board, which also goes by the name of Jelly Bean. Confused? Don't be - like the tablet itself, the software represents an evolution rather than a revolution. Android 4.4 KitKat is also now avaliable but we're not sure in what capacity.

There are improvements such as OpenGL ES 3.0 support for better 3D performance and Bluetooth low-energy compatibility, something that will come in very handy as the much-hyped "smart watch" revolution kicks off. For long-suffering parents there's the welcome ability to run restricted profiles on the device, which means you can disable in-app purchases in games to avoid having your pesky offspring spend thousands of pounds of digital goods.

The fact that many of Android 4.3's improvements are hard to see makes it feel very much the same as 4.2. In fact, if you didn't know you might even assume it was the same version of the OS. However, when you take into account the level of polish that is now applied to Android, it's hard to grumble - it's an exceptionally good operating system with excellent stability and customisation.

Android 4.4 KitKat Update And Related Issues

Nexus 7 is now receiving the update to Android 4.4 KitKat, with it comes a brand new UI design, lighter and brighter interface and even bigger icons. Google Now is fully integrated into the launcher for the first time ever which makes Nexus devices a lot better to use. Expect to be asking your china shopping on line tablet a lot more questions very soon. Hangouts have also been reworked, and the KitKat will also run on 512MB of RAM – not that you need to worry about that with the Nexus 7!

The Nexus 7 is now on the latest version of Android which is 4.4.2. Expect it to be updated to 4.4.3 pretty soon after it comes out, Google is usually pretty good to us like that.

As with anything though, there have been teething problems. Nexus 7 users have claimed there’s a media storage crash which stops you from moving files between the computer and phone. This hasn’t been fixed by the update but it could be in the works for Android 4.4.3 KitKat.

A small number of users have also complained about some fault Bluetooth connectivity which hasn’t been fixed as of yet. The last problem is broken NFC tags but that is only from a couple of sources. All in all, the problems are small and affect a minimal number of users, but it’s still annoying if they crop up on your Nexus 7.

Android 4.4.3 is likely to land soon though, hopefully that’ll iron out all these issues left over from the jump to Android 4.4.


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