Google Nexus 7 (2013) review: Improved spec, great screen, top value

ZDNet Editors' Choice

Google Nexus 7 (2013) review: Improved spec, great screen, top value

Summary: The 2013 Nexus 7 is a sleeker, lighter and better-specified device than last year's model. There's still no Micro-SD card support, but good all-round performance and battery life, plus a competitive price, add up to superb value for money.

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  • Editors' rating:
    8.5
  • User rating:
    6.2
  • RRP:
    £199.00

Pros

  • Superb best-in-class screen
  • Good performance and battery life
  • Thin, light, hand-friendly design
  • Front and rear cameras
  • Optional LTE mobile broadband
  • Competitive price
  • Timely Android updates

Cons

  • Moderate camera quality
  • No Micro-SD card support

Google's original Nexus 7 tablet proved a smash hit when it launched last year. Built by Asus, this small-format 7-inch tablet took market share from e-readers as well as from full-size (mostly 10-inch) tablets. Apple even responded with its 7.9-inch iPad mini.

A year on, Google has followed up with another Asus-made Nexus 7 that's slimmer and has beefed-up specifications Three 2013 Nexus 7 models have been announced: 16GB of internal storage plus Wi-Fi for £199 (inc. VAT); 32GB+Wi-Fi for £239; and 32GB+Wi-Fi+LTE mobile broadband for £299. The LTE model is not yet available in the UK, however.

Design

The 2013 Nexus 7 has a sleeker design than its predecessor. Many felt that the original's rough-finish backplate slightly cheapened its overall look, and while we disagree, Google clearly took it to heart: the new Nexus 7 has a smooth back.

n7-2013-font-back
The 2013 Nexus 7 has a superb 323ppi IPS display, and comes with 16GB of 32GB of internal storage (but no external Micro-SD expansion) plus optional LTE mobile broadband. It's slimmer and lighter than the 2012 model, and has a smooth rather than a roughened back. (Image: Asus)

The silver band around the screen is gone, leaving the new Nexus 7 black all over. As before, branding is minimal, with nothing on the front and (glossy) 'Nexus' plus (matte) 'Asus' marques on the back. This makes for a very neat appearance. The backplate's soft-touch finish is comfortable in the hand and seems to have a coating that's remarkably good at repelling fingerprints.

Connectors are the same as before, except for one location change. The right side has a long volume rocker and a short power switch, while the Micro-USB port is on the bottom edge. Only the headset jack has moved, from its relatively awkward location on the bottom to the top.

The new Nexus 7 is slightly taller (200mm versus 198.5mm), narrower (114mm v. 120mm) and thinner (8.65mm v. 10.45mm) than its predecessor. The 2013 model's slightly narrower profile is achieved by having less bezel around the screen's long edges, but that's not the whole story: the new Nexus 7 also weighs 50g less (290g v. 340g). Less bulky and lighter than before, the new Nexus 7 is a much easier one-handed hold.

The screen is a vast improvement on its predecessor. It's minimally bigger (7.02in. versus 7in.), but the resolution is a huge improvement — 1,280 by 800 pixels (216 pixels per inch, or ppi) compared to 1,920 by 1,200 pixels (323ppi). This is a higher pixel density than you'll find on any other current tablet: to put it into perspective, the iPad mini's 7.9in. screen can only offer 1,024 by 768 pixels — that's 162ppi, or half the new Nexus 7's pixel density.

Add in great viewing angles from the IPS panel and the screen really is a delight to look at. We were as happy reading e-books as streaming video, and if we had the Nexus 7 long term would seriously consider ditching the Kindle. This can't bode well for Amazon.

Features

Many people choose a Google tablet over alternative Android models because Google sends out latest software updates to its own devices before other vendors get a look-in. The new Nexus 7 comes with Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), which you'll be hard pressed to find elsewhere at present.

Among the new features in Android 4.3 is the ability to set up multiple user profiles and control access to individual apps — handy if a device is shared around the family, and particularly useful if you need to use your tablet for work and want to restrict access to certain features.

Google and Asus use the same quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM as found in the Nexus 4 smartphone. We had no performance issues with the device, which adds NFC (a.k.a. Android Beam) to the wireless connectivity roster along with dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and optional penta-band LTE.

On the downside, owners of the new Nexus 7 will have to manage without a Micro-SD card slot to augment the internal storage. This is a deal-breaker for many potential buyers, and it's hard to see why Google has persisted with this arrangement when the lack of storage expansion on the original Nexus 7 was badly received.

Although it's not possible to install apps to external storage in Android releases beyond 4.0, it is the ideal repository for music and movies, which can eat the internal storage (especially if you have a 16GB model). Perhaps Google feels it's sufficient to match Apple in this respect, but it does feel like a trick missed.

The original Nexus 7 had a front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera but no rear camera, which was not particularly well received. This is now rectified, with a 5-megapixel rear camera complementing the 1.2-megapixel unit on the front. Photo quality is nothing special, though, and the main camera has no flash, but it's good to see user pressure acknowledged.

Audio quality was no better than average on the original Nexus 7, arguably denting its ability to function as a portable media device. Again, the new model sees a marked improvement. There are twin speakers top and bottom at the back of the chassis, with grilles that run around the curve of the edges so that even with the device flat on a desk the sound isn't muffled. Volume goes loud enough for video or movie watching, and sound quality is excellent on headphones.

Performance

The Nexus 7 has a closed chassis, so you can't access the 3,950mAh battery. Battery capacity is lower than on the original Nexus — probably because the chassis is thinner. Even so, Google's claimed nine hours of battery life should equate to a full day's use for most people.

In our real-world tests, which involved using the Nexus 7 for a standard array of functions including mobile email, web browsing, streaming and e-book reading for several days, we never found ourselves in desperate need of a power charge on any occasion. A quick boost each morning was enough to keep the device going.

Wireless charging is supported on the new Nexus 7. Like the Nexus 4 smartphone, it supports the Qi standard, and you can use the same charger for both devices. This is just as well, as it's not a cheap accessory: Amazon UK was selling the Nexus wireless charging orb for £79.95 at the time of writing.

Conclusion

The 2013 Nexus 7 is a sleeker, lighter and better-specified device than last year's model, with a stunning 323ppi screen, decent battery life, improved audio quality and optional LTE mobile broadband. There's still no Micro-SD card support, but good all-round performance and a competitive price add up to superb value for money.

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 114 x 8.65 x 200 cm
Weight 290 g
OS & software
Software included Android 4.3
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.5 GHz
Processor model Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
RAM 2048 MB
Storage
Internal 16000 MB
Display
Display technology TFT touch-screen (active matrix)
Display size 7.02 in
Native resolution 1920x1200 pixels
Connections
Ports Micro-USB, audio out
Networks
2.xG GPRS
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
3.xG HSPA+
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Short range Bluetooth 4.0
GPS technology
Antenna built in
GPS receiver yes
Input devices
Navigation button/wheel Yes
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash No
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 1.2 megapixels
Main camera resolution 5 megapixels
Power
Removable battery No
Battery capacity 3950 mAh
Claimed battery life 9 h
Number of batteries 1
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter, wireless charging orb (£79.95)
Expand

Prices

Price
Price GBP 199
Price USD 229

Topics: Tablets, Android, Google, Mobility, Reviews

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Talkback

37 comments
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  • Temptation

    I really like the Nexus 7 I've got but the new ones are so stinkin nice. No SD card slot is a negative, would really like to stick in a 64G micro sd to store movies. I'll probably talk myself into buying one soon, give the kids my old Nexus 7.
    FrankInKy
    • Agreed

      I recently needed a tablet, but passed on the Nexus due to the lack of an SD slot. The theory is that everything is wireless and SD are unnecessary. None of my cameras or sports cams have wireless, so I transfer or view pictures or videos by sharing the microSD cards between the devices. I cram an SD card with movies for road trips with the kids - I'm not about to pay for a pricey cellular data plan to have movies on the road.
      kurio99
    • 2nd gen Nexus 7

      9.0

      I am very satisfied with my new nexus, the processor's not that much faster, but internally its 10× faster, such as reading and writing internally. Just 1 more GB of RAM makes a huge difference, 1822MB of usable RAM. The resolution is amazing, in 1080p all day. It boots up much quicker when turning on, and the WiFi is blazing fast. I have the 32GB WiFi model so I can have my movies and apps on my device. Its worth 269.00 USD absolutely. Highly recommended.
      Chris Rosa
  • Nexus 7

    I would like to get a new Nexus 7 4G LTE and be able to use it with my Verizonwireless data plan. Has anybody heard of when this might be available?
    JohnARyan
    • ...

      It's already available.
      crzybliss
  • Unfortunately ...

    6.0

    This model won't fit into my SmartCar either :(
    harvey_rabbit
  • We keep hearing how Android is superior becuase it supports SD cards

    3.0

    and yet Google again offer a product with SD card support.

    I bought a Alcatel t10 and a Galaxy Tab 3 to see what the fuss was all about. Apps are supposed to run from the SD card on the t10, but don't (in fact trying to do so cut a swath through the OS and items on the SD Card) and the Tab 3 does not support apps running from an SD card. So, the only use for the SD card is for data, such as music, videos and documents . . . but all of those can be accessed from the Cloud.

    Seriously, those who think that SD card support makes Android superior have no idea what they are talking about!
    1,2,3
    • Maybe it is because SD card support sucks

      4.0

      Too many corrupted SD cards thanks to Androids horrendous SD card drivers.
      wackoae
    • Do fanbois really not get SD cards?

      Note the following phases used in the article about the lack of SD card support in the Nexus:

      -On the downside
      -This is a deal-breaker for many potential buyers
      - It's hard to see why Google has persisted with this arrangement
      - The lack of storage expansion on the original Nexus 7 was badly received

      The point: The article and most comments from Android users imply this omission by Google is a "negative".

      iOS devices and the Nexus "share" this criticism.

      The difference in iOS and Android that draws many to Android is not any single "feature" it is "choice". Just because the Nexus is "Google" means nothing to Android users because most of us aren't in love with a company. The OS supports SD card expansion which is what matters. We just want a device that fits our specific needs and those wishes vary.

      I have an Android phone (Note 2) because I want a ginormous phone. If you ask "me" why I don't want an iPhone that is "my" answer. That is not why others use Android. If you ask me why I love Android when there is some small Android options misses the point.

      This is no dis on iOS. There are advantages to Apples system as well. Limited former factors make accessory availability limitless. Apps are standardized. There are better tablet apps presently for the iPad (which I have).

      But I find it funny when someone is "confused" over a topic like this.

      The same person who disses iOS for lacking card support ain't getting a Nexus.

      Really this is not rocket science.
      Mauibro
  • Why No SD Card

    This was explained quite clearly by one of the Android team.

    Having a separate SD card means it has to have a separate filesystem.

    Being able to dismount this filesystem (to allow access by an external PC) means it cannot hold important OS data. In particular, it can't be used to store installed apps, otherwise those apps wouldn't work while the SD card was dismounted for external access.

    Having a separate SD card filesystem means less space for the main OS filesystem. Which means you could still have lots of space free on the SD card, but be unable to install new apps because the main OS filesystem was full.

    None of these reasons are Android-specific, you will note.
    ldo17
    • I do not understand your point

      3.0

      SD cards were constantly touted as an important aspect of Android and iDevices were constantly criticised for not supporting SD cards. That was my point. Are you now telling me that Google and a myriad blog trolls were wrong?
      1,2,3
      • Choice is the feature

        You are correct SD card support is an important feature of the Android platform. Millions of users like myself love not being prisoners to paying a hundred bucks for 10 dollars worth of storage.

        Thus those of us who USE expansion cards have no interest in the Nexus series. But Nexus is NOT the platform nor is it the perfect Android device for everyone.

        The best "feature" of the Android "platform" is choice.
        Mauibro
    • The bottom line is the bottom line

      If you put data and media on a card, rarely does one need more than 16 GBs internal for apps. Whether it is Google or Apple, true motive is the bottom line. Whether it is 40 bucks (Nexus) or a hundred (Apple), bumping up the size of memory is mostly pure profit. Add to that the number of people who love the device but upgrade in short order because they need more memory.

      You wonder why Google supports expansion cards but don't have them on their devices?

      If they or ANY company can make a sufficiently compelling device to get people to buy it, while forcing you to get a higher end device for lack of expansion they will do it.

      The bottom line is the bottom line.
      Mauibro
    • Ever used a PC?

      1.0

      You know, there is such thing as "portable programs" that can be copied to anywhere in the file system and run. Some Windows (that is, badly designed by definition) programs are forced to become portable by enthusiasts with the primary intend to copy them to a USB stick and connect to different PCs.

      You are right. None of these reasons are Android-specific. For these very reasons, they all are plain wrong, that is, blatant lies.
      gak@...
  • Simple

    7.0

    The SD Card is still a deal breaker for me. I didn't need to read any further than that in the initial description. Maybe next year. I'm still waiting to jump into the tablet society and would like to stay Android and Nexus 7 if possible..
    business@...
    • Yes, why no SD card slot?

      5.0

      I too wondered the same thing. Everyone gives Apple and its iPads a rough time over no SD card. This would have been a nice addition. Are they afraid people will buy the cheap model and add memory? Are they not already selling more base models then anything? For me my original got to feeling too small and got too slow.
      JohnnyES-25227553276394558534412264934521
  • Probably won't buy one

    5.0

    Its a refresh with a little better hardware and a second camera. If its behaves anything like my original it will receive a few updates and become much slower. When I first got my Nexus 7 I was thrilled with its response but after a year, not so much.
    JohnnyES-25227553276394558534412264934521
  • Have one and love it...

    9.0

    I have had mine for a few weeks now and am loving it. For those that want a little more storage I use an OTG USB cable and can use my 64GB USB thumb drive with it. You will need to shell out a few dollars for the Nexus Media Importer app from Google Play to read the thumb drive but it gives you the flexibility of additional storage.
    DRKline
    • Attach USB Stick

      A cost-saving alternative is the "USB Stick Plugin-TC" for the filemanager Total Command. It allows read and write access to attached USB Sticks without rooting the device. There is a full functional free version available in the Google Play store.
      ferench
      • reply to ferench concerning using USB stick//otg

        2.0

        That's fine for short term use, but battery drain is the main issue when using the main micro USB to host data drives this way.

        I could see doing this, if there was a way to get a splitter so you could OTG and also keep powered up.

        Where as my device has HDMI, Micro SD, and OTG/MicroUSB power port, I can keep powered via lighter//usb plug or external battery brick, the Nexus 7 cannot do this.

        That's the main deal breaker for me! I would buy one RIGHT NOW, if it just was up to date with those features.

        The idea of playing minimal is not a good idea when you are paying so much for a device and what do use it to its full capacity, and utilize any and all features with relative peripheral ports.
        Errata Erratum