[Community] FYI 2013 Nexus 7 reviewed

kardan kardan at riseup.net
Sun Aug 11 10:42:18 CEST 2013

may this be of interest for compareism. which features of the
following would you like to have in a open hardware phone/tablet?

Cheaper than most, better than all: the 2013 Nexus 7 reviewed
Great screen, fast internals make this refreshed tablet a great deal at
any price.

by Andrew Cunningham - Jul 31, 2013 1:00 pm UTC, Android Tablets

It's the same size, but everything else about the new Nexus 7 is
totally different.

Just over a year ago, Google released its first Nexus tablet. The 2012
Nexus 7 wasn't perfect by a long shot, but it was the kick in the pants
that the Android tablet ecosystem needed at the time. Up until that
point, the best Android tablets (and we use that term loosely) were
trying to pretend like they weren't even Android tablets. Among the
Galaxy Tabs and Motorola Xooms of the world, no one tablet really did
well enough to merit the attention of developers or users. The Nexus 7
also redefined what people could expect to get for $200—an entirely
usable (if not cutting-edge) general-purpose tablet without
performance-sucking third-party skins or OEM-exclusive app stores.

Since then, the seven-to-eight-inch tablet category has gotten much
more competitive thanks to lower prices from Amazon and a new, smaller
iPad from Apple. Since it launched, praise for the original Nexus 7 has
also gotten more muted, as storage-related performance degradation has
set in and made the tablet feel slower than it did at first. With this
follow-up, Google and Asus don't just have to provide a decisive answer
to the iPad mini—they also have to quell doubts about their tablet's
longevity. Luckily for us, they've managed to do both. Body and build
Everything you need to know about the new Nexus 7 in 90 seconds. Specs
at a glance: 

2013 Nexus 7
* Screen 	1920×1200 7.02" (323 PPI) IPS LCD
* OS		Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
* CPU 		Quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
* RAM 		2GB GPU 	Qualcomm Adreno 320
* Storage 	16GB or 32GB (non-upgradeable)
* Networking	802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, optional LTE
(700/750/850/1700/1900/2100MHz), HSPA+ (850/900/1900/2100MHz/AWS), GSM
* Ports 	Micro-USB, headphones
* Camera	5MP rear camera, 1.2MP front camera
* Size 	7.87" × 4.49" × 0.34" (200 x 114 x 8.65 mm)
* Weight 	10.23 oz. (290 g) Battery 3950 mAh
* Starting price 	$229 Price as reviewed $269

The short version: The 2013 Nexus 7 is more compact and, overall, feels
a little better put together than last year's model. This is plastic
done right. Adjustments to the tablet's weight and measurements make it
easier to hold in both portrait and landscape modes.

The long version: The 2013 Nexus 7 is an all-black, mostly plastic slab
with a 7-inch 1920×1200 display on the front. There's also a 1.2MP
front-facing camera set slightly right-of-center above the screen, a
5MP camera with no LED flash on the back, and stereo speaker grilles on
the back of the tablet at its top and bottom. A new notification LED
will slowly pulse at you from the bezel below the screen, but the
tablet still lacks any sort of vibrator motor for notifications (or
haptic feedback). The Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 both support this feature,
so its continued omission from the Nexus 7 is a little puzzling, even
if it isn't in any way deal-breaking.

Other new features include built-in support for the Qi wireless
charging standard, HDMI output through the micro USB port via the
SlimPort standard (adapter sold separately), wireless display support
via the Miracast standard, and 4G LTE support on Verizon, AT&T, and
T-Mobile in the US (as long as you buy the LTE-equipped model, which is
slated to go on sale in the coming weeks). Many of these features made
an appearance in the Nexus 4 when it was launched late last year, and
they're all welcome (if mostly niche) additions to the Nexus 7.

The new Nexus 7 sports both reduced thickness (0.34 inches, compared to
0.42 for the last Nexus 7 and 0.28 for the iPad mini) and weight (10.23
ounces, compared to 12 for the last Nexus 7 and 10.88 for the iPad
mini) relative to last year's model. These measurements make the tablet
feel better in your hand, but the best part is that Asus was able to
shrink these measurements while also upping its build quality game.
There's none of the creaking or flexing you might associate with an
all-plastic tablet at this price point. The old Nexus 7 merely felt
good for the price; the new one feels just plain good, though the
aluminum construction of the ($100 more expensive) iPad mini still
edges it out by just a bit.

It's the subtle changes that really show how Asus has improved the
design. For instance: in the year or so that I've owned it, my 2012
Nexus 7 has made two trips to the ground. It survived both falls, but
each time the silver trim that surrounds the display has separated
slightly from the back of the tablet. It snapped back into place
without issue in both cases, but it's a fit-and-finish deficiency
that's not present in the more expensive Nexus 10 or either iPad.
Enlarge / The new Nexus 7's finish is reminiscent of the iPad mini's,
except it's soft-touch plastic instead of aluminum. 

We can't deny that we miss the unique texture of last year's
Nexus 7 (right), though. 
The old Nexus 7 (bottom) is decidedly huskier than the new one (top).
Also note that the tablet's headphone jack has migrated to the top of
the device. It's more comparable in thickness and height to the iPad
mini, though the Nexus is still narrower.

The 2013 Nexus 7 also has a plastic rim around the screen that can be
pried away from the back of the tablet to expose its innards, but the
rim is recessed compared to last year's model. Drop the 2012 Nexus 7,
and the tablet's silvery edge is likely to absorb the blow and come
apart from the rest of the tablet. Drop the 2013 model, and the edges
most likely to absorb the impact are of a piece with the back of the
tablet (and thus are less likely to separate from the screen).

The back of the tablet is now a flat black "soft-touch" plastic that
lacks the pleasant texture of last year's model. The tablet doesn't
have the slippery, glossy plastic feel of one of Samsung's phones or
tablets (the Nexus 10 notwithstanding), but it's not quite as grippy as
either its predecessor or its larger relative. In practice, the tablet
is quite easy to hold in one hand or two, but the decision to make the
tablet both narrower and taller than the previous Nexus 7 makes it
easier to hold in portrait and landscape modes.

For instance, the narrower side bezels make it more comfortable to
really grip the tablet in the palm of your hand like so: Enlarge / Even
in my relatively large hands, I couldn't hold the old Nexus 7 like this
without straining.

Or, if I need to, I can use my thumb to interact with onscreen elements
while the tablet is balanced against my pinky, much as I do with the
larger Android smartphones. Since the bezels are thinner, it's more
difficult to rest my thumb against the side bezel without also
accidentally brushing the screen, but it's still possible. Enlarge /
Seriously, does anyone else hold stuff like this, or am I just a freak?

Neither tablet is particularly fatiguing to hold in one hand for
extended tablet-ing sessions, but I feel like I have a better grip on
the newer Nexus. I'd call this an improvement, though whether you do
depends on how you hold your tablet most of the time. Enlarge / Holding
the tablet in landscape mode is also more comfortable, thanks to the
sort-of-awkward-looking but functional top and bottom bezels. Andrew

The tablet has larger top and bottom bezels, which make the new Nexus 7
easier to hold in landscape mode than the old model as long as you're
using two hands. Because of its light weight, you can still hold the
tablet with one hand in landscape mode for a while, but the elongated
design can be a bit difficult to balance. The alignment of the Nexus
logo on the back of the tablet really drives this newfound love for
landscape mode home—if you'll recall, the original Nexus 7's home
screen wouldn't even work in landscape mode out of the box until an
update enabled it. The adjusted bezel thickness makes the tablet look a
little awkward, but in actual use we'd call it an improvement over the
prior model. It's proof positive that "plastic" doesn't always have to
mean "cheap." A great screen at any price Enlarge / The 2013 Nexus 7
(left) has a 323 PPI screen, compared to 216 PPI for the old version

The short version: The 1920×1200 display has much brighter colors than
last year's 1280×800 panel, and at 323 PPI, it outdoes both the 300 PPI
Nexus 10 and 264 PPI Retina iPads. Until there's a Retina iPad mini, no
other small-tablet screen comes close.

The long version: Our review of the first eight-inch Windows 8 tablet
really drives home the importance of the screen to the smartphone and
tablet experience. Use a crappy screen, and it doesn't matter how good
the rest of your tablet is—the user's experience is going to be bad.

There are two big things to consider when evaluating a tablet's screen:
the resolution (and thus, pixel density) of that screen and the actual
quality of the screen itself. In both respects, the new Nexus 7 beats
the pants off of its predecessor and the iPad mini.
The iPad mini's individual pixels are easy to discern when you get
close up. It's not too hard to do it with last year's
Nexus 7, either, though text already looks a bit smoother.
Even very close up, it's difficult to resolve individual pixels on the
new Nexus 7's display.

The new Nexus 7's screen is very similar in pixel density to that of
the Nexus 10, and it has most of the same virtues and drawbacks. Text
across almost all apps is universally crisp and clear, as you can see
in the pictures. Images that have been optimized for high-resolution,
high-density screens are also clear and crisp, though images that
haven't been optimized will be slightly blurry as they are on the Nexus
10, the Chromebook Pixel, and the various Retina-equipped Apple

Everyone will have different opinions about pixel density and how much
it matters. Plenty of people are perfectly happy with the iPad mini's
163 PPI density, though I think it's a little pixelated (especially for
text—I spend most of my tablet-time reading either webpages or
e-books). To my eyes, there's a line just above 200 PPI—right around
the screen density of the 2012 Nexus 7—after which additional
improvements to tablet screens are nice but not necessary. I can tell
the difference between the 2012 Nexus 7's 216 PPI and the higher PPIs
of the Retina iPad, the Nexus 10, and the 2013 Nexus 7, but it's that
line between the iPad mini and the 2012 Nexus 7 that will probably make
the biggest difference to the most people.

*Internals and performance: The CPU, GPU, storage, and Wi-Fi*

The short version: The 2013 Nexus 7 is sort of like a slightly faster
Nexus 4 in a tablet-sized body. These internals aren't the newest on
the block anymore, but they're still very quick. The new tablet runs
circles around last year's model, and there doesn't appear to be any
heat-related speed throttling like in the Nexus 4. Faster storage and
support for TRIM in Android 4.3 should help prevent performance
degradation over time.

The long version: We've already taken a quick look at the new Nexus 7's
performance, which is delivered by a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm
Snapdragon S4 Pro, its 400MHz Adreno 320 GPU, and 2GB of DDR3L memory.
We'll throw some fresh charts at you in a moment, but there's something
we need to clarify first.

In our previous article, we noted that the 2013 Nexus 7 was
consistently faster than the Nexus 4 despite the fact that the two
ostensibly share the same system-on-a-chip (SoC). We posited that the
differences came down to three things: additional optimizations in
Android 4.3, differing thermal constraints, and faster RAM. All three
of these are true—the Nexus 4 gets a measurable performance boost from
Android 4.3, the new Nexus 7 doesn't appear to have the speed
throttling problems that the phone continues to have, and the Nexus 4
uses slightly slower LPDDR2 rather than DDR3L. There's one more issue:
these two Snapdragon S4 Pros are not in fact the same chip.

Sleuthing by AnandTech's Brian Klug found that the 2013 Nexus 7's SoC
had a part number of APQ8064-1AA, compared to APQ8064 for the Nexus 4's
SoC. That extra 1AA denotes a chip that is essentially a lower-clocked
Snapdragon 600, complete with the newer and slightly more efficient
Krait 300 CPU architecture. The Snapdragon 600 SoCs we've seen so far
have been 1.7GHz and 1.9GHz variants, but because of the lower 1.5GHz
clock speed, Qualcomm has apparently decided to fudge its branding a
bit and slap the older S4 moniker on what is actually a newer chip.

Even with all of these changes, it's not far off the mark to call the
2013 Nexus 7 a Nexus 4 in a tablet's body. It's faster than the Nexus 4
in many small ways, but most importantly it's much more powerful than
last year's Nexus 7. It even frequently challenges the beefier Nexus
10. And the iPad mini's two-and-a-half-year-old Apple A5? It's not even
close. All Nexus devices are running Android 4.3. The iPad mini is
running iOS 6.1.3. Browser benchmarks are in Chrome on Android, and in
Safari on iOS.

The old Apple A5 in the iPad mini does a pretty good job given its age.
The two Cortex-A9 CPU cores can't stand up to four Krait 300 cores, but
in GFXBench the dual-core PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU is still well-matched
to that tablet's 1024×768 display (see the Onscreen tests). Even with a
$100 smaller price tag, though, the 2013 Nexus 7 can boast a much
better-looking high-resolution screen and superior graphics performance
despite the fact that some of the Adreno 320's power is spent driving
those extra pixels.

Especially when making comparisons between iOS and Android, these
benchmark numbers are only part of the story. Apple has long used its
tight integration between hardware and software to squeeze more
performance out of less hardware—the iPad mini with its dual-core Apple
A5 and 512MB of RAM holds up better against the new Nexus than you
might think from looking at the spec sheet.

To make the best apples-to-Apples comparison possible, we loaded up the
Ars and New York Times home pages and timed them to get an idea of how
quickly each tablet could pull the pages down over our 5GHz 802.11n
connection (2.4GHz for the old Nexus 7). In between runs, all browser
tabs were closed and the browsers were forcibly quit to keep caching
from affecting the results. Loading times are measured from the time
"Go" is pressed on the keyboard to the time to last page element loads.
Each page was loaded at least three times and the results were

Device 		Ars homepage 	NYT homepage
2013 Nexus 7	2.50 seconds 	4.72 seconds
2012 Nexus 7 	5.75 seconds 	6.15 seconds 2012
iPad mini 	4.05 seconds	5.51 seconds

The new Nexus 7 is unquestionably the fastest tablet on the (dining
room) table here, but the iPad mini actually acquits itself pretty
well. Apple's small tablet is noticeably faster than last year's Nexus
7, and compared to the new Nexus 7 it's not quite as slow as the gaping
chasm between their numbers in the benchmark charts would suggest. It's
also worth noting that there was sometimes less variance between runs
on the iPad than on the Nexus tablets, which could load the Times
homepage in four seconds in one run but in six seconds the next (we ran
the Times test in particular a few more times on both Nexus tablets to
make sure we were getting a representative average).

Moving on to storage performance, we noted last week the new Nexus 7
boasts NAND flash speeds that can more than double the speeds of the
older tablet. This difference can get even larger depending on whether
you had the 8GB model of the tablet that was introduced in June or the
higher-end 16GB and 32GB models. The flash memory isn't quite as quick
as the Nexus 10, but the storage shouldn't be nearly the bottleneck it
was last year.

But what about performance over time? Android 4.3 adds a crucial
feature that should help stave off the performance degradation that has
soured some people on the original Nexus 7: TRIM. Though we've
explained it more fully elsewhere, the short explanation is that the
TRIM command cleans up previously used flash memory after the operating
system marks a file as deleted. Without TRIM, storage blocks that are
reported to the OS as "empty" can actually still have previously
deleted data in them, and writing data to these blocks takes more time
than writing to a block that is truly empty. Thus, without TRIM's
so-called garbage collection, performance slows over time as all of
your storage blocks fill up with junk that isn't being cleaned up.

Word on the street is that the Android 4.3 update also enables TRIM for
older devices like the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus, so users of those
devices may see performance improve post-update as the feature kicks in
and begins its garbage collection. Anecdotally, I can say that my
year-old 8GB 2012 Nexus 7 certainly feels more consistent after the
Android 4.3 update, but we'll be attempting to quantify these
improvements in our proper Android 4.3 review later this week.

Finally, let's briefly touch on Wi-Fi performance. The new Nexus 7
supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n—the tablet appears to support one
two-way stream, giving it a maximum theoretical connection speed of
150Mbps. Using the iPerf network performance testing tool, we found
that the 2013 Nexus 7's Wi-Fi performance wasn't too far short of the
Nexus 10's on a 5GHz 802.11n network, even though that tablet supports
two 802.11n streams for a maximum theoretical throughput of 300Mbps.
Unfortunately, the extant iPerf apps for iOS are mostly unusable
garbage, so the iPad mini has to sit this one out. We'd expect speeds
similar to the new Nexus 7, given that they share similar specs. All
tablets had a clear line of sight to the 802.11ac AirPort Extreme base
station, which they were about ten feet away from.

*Camera and speakers* The rear-facing camera. Also note the top of the
tablet, where one of the speaker grilles rests.

The short version: They say that the best camera is the camera you have
with you, but if the camera you have with you is the Nexus 7, your
pictures are going to be OK at best. The speakers, on the other hand,
are drastically improved. They're perfectly capable of filling a room
with not-half-bad sound.

The long version: The new Nexus 7's 5MP rear-facing camera (which joins
its 1.2MP front-facing camera) checks a box that the original Nexus 7
couldn't check, but like most tablet cameras it's a step or three below
the shooters you'll get in even a mid-range smartphone these days.
There's no LED flash, and colors indoors and outdoors tend to be a bit
washed out. The Nexus 10 and iPad mini both do a slightly better job.
Enlarge / In a well-lit room, the iPad mini can take somewhat grainy
photos that still have good white balance and color.

The Nexus 10 adds a decidedly greenish cast to the same scene in the
same lighting, but the result is still fairly clear. The 2013 Nexus 7's
camera adds considerable noise and color shift (note the purple robot
that is now blue) to the same shot. Moving outdoors, the iPad mini's
camera loses detail in the leaves but does a good job with color and
isn't too confused by the different light levels (the shaded patio
versus the well-lit bushes and neighboring apartment building). The
Nexus 10 likewise does a pretty good job here. Still a bit soft, but
colors and exposure are fine. The Nexus 7 takes the same scene and
really washes the colors out—both the green bushes and the blue sky
suffer here.

The camera is there in a pinch. If the Nexus 7 is the difference
between having a camera and having no camera, it will take passable
Facebook pictures. But your smartphone (and even other tablets) will
probably do a better job.

It's much easier to find nice things to say about the tablet's
speakers, which are surprisingly good given the tablet's size and
price. The old Nexus 7 had stereo speakers, but they were placed right
next to each other under a single grille on the back of the tablet.
They didn't get very loud, and they didn't sound very good. The other
speaker is located at the bottom of the tablet near the micro-USB port.

The new Nexus 7 still keeps its speakers on the back of the tablet (a
move sure to disappoint fans of the front-facing speakers in the Nexus
10 or HTC One), but they've moved apart—one speaker now sits at each
end of the tablet. The sound quality is actually quite passable, and
while there's some distortion at higher volume levels, the speakers are
loud enough to fill a room or small apartment with sound even at 50
percent. The speakers will do a fine job by themselves if you're
watching a video without headphones or listening to some music in the
kitchen. The iPad mini's speakers boast a similar volume level, but the
sound is a bit tinnier and the Nexus boasts a bit more bass.

The one downside is that the way the speakers are positioned makes them
easy to cover with your hands while the tablet is in landscape mode. If
you're holding the device while you watch something, you'll need to be
careful not to obstruct them. Battery life

Google says that the new Nexus 7 should get about nine hours of "active
use," a full hour longer than last year's. We managed to stream videos
to the new Nexus 7 for about six hours on a full charge, compared to
five hours and 24 minutes for the old version streaming the same video
at the same settings (both tablets were running Android 4.3).

Streaming video is a little on the heavy side as far as general-usage
tasks go since it generates a lot of network traffic, but even so, it's
clear that you can expect slightly better battery life out of this
year's Nexus 7 despite the nicer screen and faster internals. Our
experience browsing the Web and using lighter apps like Google Drive
and Twitter leads us to believe that Google's nine-hour estimate is on
the high end of realistic. The Android tablet app situation Google
continues to push developers to make Android tablet apps by featuring
them prominently in Google Play.

The short version: Due in part to the original Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10
(as well as steady improvement by Google), there are more
tablet-friendly Android apps out now than there were last year.
However, in many cases you'll still have to make do with blown-up phone
apps, and iOS continues to have a wider selection of games and niche
apps (and these apps are generally more functionally and aesthetically
consistent with other apps and the rest of the OS).

The long version: We dedicated a sizable portion of our original Nexus
7 review to an evaluation of the platform's tablet apps, mostly because
even a year ago the Android tablet app situation was pretty dire. Most
Android tablets up to that point—Samsung's Galaxy Tabs and Asus
Transformer tablets among them—hardly flew off the shelves. Most
developers simply couldn't be bothered to write tablet-specific Android
apps, because the audience wasn't there.

Now Android tablets are finding their footing, and both Nexus 7s and
the Nexus 10 give developers some targets to rally around. Let's take
the Kindle app, for example, since we spent a lot of time with it in
the original Nexus 7 review. Then, the version you could get on an
Android tablet was essentially an upscaled version of the phone app. It
showed. Margins and font size adjustments were only adjustable within a
limited range, and the Kindle app for Amazon's own Kindle Fires was
more flexible and feature-rich. Since then, the Kindle app has gotten
much more flexible, and a few other high-profile apps I use (eBay,
Netflix, Hulu Plus) have similarly gotten more tablet-friendly since
the release of the original Nexus 7. Google's own apps, like Gmail and
Google Drive, are also pretty good. Apps like Google Drive make good
use of sliding panels and menus to fill a 7-inch tablet's screen
without making things too crowded.

That said, plenty of problems remain. We singled out Dropbox, Spotify,
and Twitter for Android shortly after the release of the Nexus 10 last
year, and they haven't evolved much in the last eight months.
Lower-profile apps, like the one I use to access my bank account, are
still most likely targeted toward phone-sized screens (and often
Android 2.3 phone screens, at that). You're going to run into plenty of
stuff designed for a four-inch phone screen that has simply been
stretched to take up a seven-inch tablet screen. While that doesn't
look quite as bad as a phone app on a ten-inch tablet screen, it
doesn't make for the most consistent, aesthetically pleasing user
experience. The Android tablet app ecosystem is better now than it has
ever been, but it was always working from a deficit. The iPad's app
selection remains superior. What small tablets should aspire to be

You can easily describe the new Nexus 7 as "great" without having to
add "for the price."

Great hardware isn't everything. If you're used to iOS, have a lot of
money and data wrapped up in Apple's ecosystem, or prefer the wider
selection of higher-quality third-party apps, an iPad mini is by no
means a bad choice. If you're on the fence between an Android tablet
and an iOS tablet, though, the new Nexus 7 is the only reason you need
to jump off that fence and take a trip to Android-land.

The new Nexus 7 takes what was good about the original model (a low
price, stock Android, and decent build quality and specs for the price)
and addresses almost all of its shortcomings. The tablet is now much
faster, feels more sturdy in the hand, shouldn't suffer from
particularly bad performance degradation over time, and has a gorgeous
screen that can go toe-to-toe with any tablet from any manufacturer at
any price point.

It's too bad that Google and Asus couldn't keep the price down at the
previous $199 level. Some of that $30 increase can be seen and felt in
the tablet itself, while some of it is probably there to ensure that
the device is profitable (as Google's Sundar Pichai said last
week—remember that the old Nexus 7 was basically sold at a break-even
price at launch). Those looking for the cheapest usable Android tablet
may have more luck at the emerging $149 price point, where 2012 Nexus
7-esque devices like the Hisense Sero 7 Pro and Asus' own Memo Pad HD 7
are setting up shop.

Even with the slight price hike, the Nexus 7 has once again set the bar
for not just small Android tablets, but all small tablets from all
ecosystems. If Apple responds with a Retina-equipped iPad mini in the
fall, the balance of power may shift back in the other direction. But
if it sticks with its current display, it will become more difficult to

The good
    Gorgeous screen
    Fast internals
    Light, easy to hold, attractive
    A laundry list of internal and external upgrades, including
wireless charging, better Wi-Fi, and superior speakers Stock Android
4.3, which should prevent the slowdown that came to plague the previous
model Especially good for the (slightly higher) price

The bad
    Speaker placement may be awkward in landscape mode
    Android tablet apps are still hit-and-miss

The ugly
    New 5MP camera is middling at best

Kardan <kardan at riseup.net>
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