on July 26, 2013
**REVIEW UPDATED ON 7/30/13 - Updated speakers, "other features", battery life, gripes**
For anyone on the fence, and especially for those frustrated by the performance slowdown issues with the original Nexus 7 tablet, don't let that scare you off from buying the second generation model.
Google made all of the right improvements to the product, and the result is a significantly improved product for a marginally higher cost. Only time will tell if this unit suffers the same performance fate as the original model (for those not familiar, over time, the first generation tablets tended to quickly slow down and struggle to perform even basic tasks like browsing the internet). However, Android 4.3 feels ultra-smooth so far, and I am hoping that Google and Asus learned from their original mistakes.
SCREEN: The new screen is absolutely stunning. Some people argue that the resolution of 323 pixels per inch is unnecessary, but you can really see the difference when you use it in person. Text is significantly sharper and a little easier on the eye to read. Using the tablet to watch videos and see pictures produces a stunning result.
PROCESSOR: This is the #1 reason I'd recommend this new, upgraded Nexus 7 over the older version. The speed upgrade is unquestionably immense, and to those who have used the older and newest model Nexus 7, you will notice and appreciate this immediately. Apps load instantly; the internet browsing experience is smooth and a very welcome upgrade over past performance. It's strange; a few days ago I was satisfied with the decent albeit declining performance of my 1st Gen Nexus 7. Now that I have this new one, I use them both side by side and the older model feels like a dinosaur. This alone is reason enough to upgrade.
SIZE/WEIGHT: The reduced thickness and weight of the tablet is very noticeable. I often times used my old Nexus 7 tablet while sitting in bed, to check email and browse the web prior to going to sleep. Holding the old Nexus in one hand, and the new one in the other, the differences in size and weight are VERY noticeable. No doubt will provide a more comfortable long term usage experience, especially for extended sessions while on flights or the subway.
BATTERY LIFE: After a couple days of using this new Nexus 7, I can confidently say that the battery life has been significantly improved over the original model. My previous session of about 2 hours straight of use (screen on, using apps that draw semi-frequent data over wi-fi) drained only 20% of the battery life. If I project this out, it would tell me that I could get 10 hours of constant use on one full charge. I haven't run through an entire charge yet from 100% down to 0% (I've been recharging after each use), but I'll try to get to that sometime this week and report back on my total real-world battery life.
CAMERAS: Google added a rear-facing Camera on this new second gen Nexus. While I typically wouldn't use my tablet as a camera, I have tried it out and it takes excellent pictures. Focuses quickly, the images are sharp and the low light performance, while not great, is better than I would have expected. The front-facing camera gets more use for me (I use my tablets to Skype with family). The new front facing camera is noticeably sharper and better in lower light situations than the original Nexus 7 camera was. In low light, the old model was almost unusable. The 2nd gen Nexus 7 low light performance is very acceptable.
SPEAKERS: I've now spent some time using this second-gen Nexus 7 side by side with my original Nexus 7. Separately, they both sound very acceptable for speakers from small tablets. Using them side by side, the improvements to the Nexus 7 are very noticeable, and the sound is more clear even at high volumes. I'd say that this new model sounds far less "tinny" than the original Nexus did. Personally, I don't use the built-in speakers often (I'm normally either listening with headphones, or using bluetooth audio to my Logitech Boombox). But for people who do use the built-in speakers to play music or watch movies, you will appreciate the improvement in the speakers.
OTHER FEATURES: Last night, I realized that this tablet is compatible with Qi Wireless Charging, a discovery which made me VERY happy. I use a Nexus 4 cell phone, and I keep it on my nightstand on the Google Nexus Charging Orb. I attempted to use the orb with this new Nexus 7 tablet, and it worked perfectly. You have to sit the tablet landscape, with the orb centered on the tablet, and it synced up and began charging instantly.
COMPARISONS: I will update this section shortly with my comparison review between this 2nd Gen Nexus 7, the iPad Mini, and the Kindle Fire HD, as soon as I've had more time to test them all side by side.
GRIPES AND COMPLAINTS: Here, I'll list any gripes that I have about the tablet. My first major gripe is that I am not a huge fan of the texture/material used on the back of the tablet. It's a slightly rubberized feeling coating, which I assume they did to create additional grip. However, I've been finding that after holding with one hand for a few minutes, I notice the tablet starting to slide a little bit in my hand. I think this is a combination of the new texture plus the fact that it's thinner than it used to be. I'm probably going to be purchasing a case for it shortly, which should alleviate this problem, but it is still worth noting. This is just a personal preference things (if you normally hold it landscape w/ two hands, you'll probably prefer this new texture over the old one).
All in all, I am VERY impressed with how much faster this tablet is than my original Nexus 7 tablet. As long as this model doesn't suffer the performance slowdown issue of the original Nexus 7, I don't anticipate moving this away from a 5 star product anytime soon, but only time will tell I guess. I will keep this review updated as I go, and add thoughts on more features once I test them out further (the speakers, longer term battery life tests, performance slowdown, etc). If you have anything else you want me to address, please let me know in the comments section and I will be glad to address it.
on July 26, 2013
*** This review is for a 32GB, WiFi only tablet.
I just picked one of these little guys at my local BB presale because I'm impatient and had to try one. Yes, I actually have one and I'm not BS'ing.
Being an IT professional, I've used a variety of Android and Apple devices, probably dozens at this point. I'm well versed in Apple, Android and Microsoft world, and have a MCSE/MCSA and half a dozen other MS/IT certs, so I know what I'm talking about.
I suspect it will take a month or two before I'm fully versed in the eccentricities of this tablet, but here is my 3 hours of use review:
Upon receiving the box, I was pleasantly surprised by how small and minimal it is. Very similar to Apple packaging, which is best in the business in my opinion. Upon turning it on and signing into my Google account, I was immediately greeted by several updates. 0-day updates to be expected from a major release and are appreciated.
As usual, my Google account wanted to sync all my previous Play Store apps onto the device which I immediately stopped. No stupid Verizon apps for you! One of my primary reason for getting this tablet was for gaming. I'm disappointed by the horridly slow memory on my old Kindle Fire, and I hate the uphill battle that comes with trying to Jailbreak and install emulators on Apple tablets. I nearly bought a Nexus 7 Gen1 until I heard it had slow storage as well. Once I heard that Nexus 7 Gen2 had greatly improved storage speeds, as well as better specs down the board, I was sold. I won't bore you with all the specs, as you can read those in the Amazon description above. However, I must point out one particularly great spec that this tablet has, and many covet: a 1080p screen on a 7" tablet. There are no current 7" tablets on the market that match that PPI, but I'm sure Apple's iPad mini 2 will match or come close to it. (when it comes out)
I have no gear to officially test the dynamic contrast and black levels of the screen, but CNET (Normally Apple biased) gave a very impressive 570/0.44 cd/m2 for it's max brightness/black level, putting it at 1,295:1 contrast ratio, beating the socks off the iPad Mini's 814:1, and the old Nexus 7 at 1,028:1. I notice this most in black and white movies like Casablanca, (my usual test) but color also pops much better too. The color levels are more accurate across the board than the greenish tint of the first N7, and give Apple a run for the money.
If gaming is your target, it's interesting to find that the Nexus 7 Gen2 meets or exceeds the iPad Gen4. GFXBench tests put the N7g2 consistently in line with the iPad, no small feat for a sub-$300 device. I confirmed this performance by playing a number of games and finding that I couldn't slow this little guy down; Galaxy on Fire's new android release, Project Y, and a host of old standbys. It runs an Adreno 320, the same as the mighty HTC One, so if an HTC One plays it well, the Nexus 7 will too. It also typically beats a Nexus 10 in all tests, so if your choice between these two tablets is speed, the N7 is the obvious winner.
When I got the tablet it was at 50% battery life. It took about 2 hours before it was at 100%. I'm guessing it will take 3-4 hours with the shipped charger to bring it from 0 to 100.
The improvements in Android 4.3 are not going to be apparent for a while, as the main improvements are OpenGL ES 3.0 and app security permissions. However, it also includes battery improvements which seem to stretch an additional hour of video watching despite it's slightly smaller battery. It's also a little thinner than the 1st gen Nexus 7, by around 1.8mm. Usually thin tablets annoy me and are awkward to hold, but the Nexus 7 has comfortable rounded sides and a soft rubber back. The front is a fingerprint magnet of course.
Value and software:
Last but not least, the Nexus 7 is only $230 for a 16GB model, or $270 for 32GB. Compare this to an iPad mini at $330 for a 16GB model, or a 32GB at $430. The original Nexus 7 seems to be going for under $200 now, so if all you need is a nice internet browser and like to dabble in everything else, the Nexus 7 Gen 1 is actually a great deal.
A last positive comes in the form of the Apple/Android philosophy. This baby comes ready to be loaded up with any ROM you chose, as do all of the Nexus series. There aren't any real releases yet, but I expect there to be some great ones over the next few months. Apple does it's best to prevent Jailbreaking. If you don't know the benefits of either, and consider yourself a tinkerer, then you may want to brush up on them.
The other part of this Android/Apple philosophical difference takes the place of Apple censorship. I HATE IT. Apple tries it's best to keep it's store locked down with American prude censorship. Google doesn't. Apple also nixes nearly any emulator apps they can. This means no DOSBox, SNES, NES, Genesis and Playstation emulators for you if you're stuck on an Apple device. That sucks a big one. One of the big reasons I will not pick up an IOS device.
Now for negatives:
1.) The obvious being that the Google Play Store gets some games later than the Apple App Store. Nearly all the "good" games are available on both within months, but the tendency is for Apple to get the initial release followed closely. by Play Store. However, the total number of Apps in either store is now shifted into Google's favor, as it now has over 1,000,00 apps compared to Apple's 900,000+, with the lead growing each month. So let the stupid, "My tablet has more apps" argument die, as it doesn't matter anymore.
2.) The widescreen format and shape can be awkward for some, but I got used to it quickly.
3.) There is no SD card slot. We already expected this as the previous didn't have one, but I really wish it had one so I could load it up with music and movies. Heck, I've got a 64GB microSD card in my phone. Why can't a much larger tablet have one too?
Other than that, I am struggling to find a negative with this tablet. Once again, I think I'll give it a few weeks before I can fully flesh out this review. Until then, I'm gonna enjoy messing with this little guy.
Edit: 48 hours later...
Now that I've had the tablet for a couple days and kicked it around a bit more, I'm still holding firm on my previous statements. I've loaded up Jet Set Radio, Dolphin, Labtech Control Center and a number of other apps to see how well it handles a variety of content. I must say, I'm not having any issues. I loaded up 3DMark so I could see for myself how well it handles a heavy load on it's GPU, and it breezed through even on Extreme, achieving a score of around 6300. The first Nexus is only able to pull off around 1900, making the new model over 3 times faster.
The battery life has been good, as it seems to still have 25-50% charge after a day of moderate to heavy use.
One detail I didn't realize before, but now find apparent is that while the speakers sound good for built in tiny tablet speakers, the volume levels are capped to achieve this. Before the speakers begin to distort bass, the top volume levels out. I kind of wish it could go little further so I could use it for a portable radio while I'm cleaning, but I suppose headphones will fix that. It fits in a pants pocket like a big mp3 player, something I can't pull off with an iPad mini. The iPad mini is 5.3 inches wide, while the Nexus 7 is about 4.7 inches. The widescreen just barely makes it into a back or side pocket without being too tight.
Another detail I've heard from at least one reviewer is that of dead pixels. I HIGHLY recommend running the free app, "Dead Pixel Test" as soon as you can. I discovered only two dead pixels on my tablet, both in the top. One is incredibly hard to see except at an angle, and only then in complete black. The other is slightly more visible, but only at an angle again. Dead pixels are to be expected on an high density display, so be extra diligent to identify whether or not your display has a serious problem with dead or stuck pixels. Mine are minor, but a few significant reports have surfaced.
After around 2 weeks of use, I'm very happy with the tablet. It has done well with battery life throughout a day or two of moderate use and occasional gaming. I'm waiting on an ultra-slim case from Moko, but would like to see that "Premium Official Case" come out so I can decide if it's worth it. Word on the street is the official travel case is not worth the $20 they are asking.
I've now had the tablet for almost 2 months and I'm 100% sold on it. It's fast, reliable and just about the perfect size for taking anywhere. I take it to customer sites to use WiFi-Analyzer, take notes, check email, Remote Desktop into PCs/Servers, change configs on network equipment and many other things. My Kindle Fire is now converted into a semi-dedicated iTunes remote because I'm so spoiled by the responsiveness of my Nexus 7.
Also, I rooted it about a week or so ago and put a lean version of 4.3 on it. It's even faster now! I also love the Moko ultra-slim case I put on it. It doesn't add bulk, the magnetic clamps seem to be holding up, and it looks nice.
I'm a very satisfied fan of this tablet.
"Probable" final update, 11/12/15
If anyone is still checking this tablet out, here's a final addition to the review. I've had the table for over two years now, and I'm still happy with it and frequently use it for web browsing as well as light gaming, such as Clash of Clans. Its battery still maintains a nice long charge even after continual use for 2 years, and it still does a good job of handling day to day tasks.
Marshmallow, Android 6.0, was pushed out to the tablet over the past month, and seems to be very stable on it.
I guess my review stands. I still really like this tablet. It's still a good value and solid platform.
on May 11, 2015
Before you decide to buy this tablet, google "nexus 7 freezes at Google logo." There are thousands of complaints on the Internet about the Nexus 7 (both editions), and sometimes the Nexus 5, being bricked by the Lollipop update. This is apparently what happened to mine. I woke up one Monday to discover it frozen at the Google logo (which appears during boot-up). It is impossible to get past that point. So far as I can tell, it had just upgraded itself to Lollipop 5.0.2, and froze when rebooting. At least, that's what many, many other people reported as the cause of the problem. I've tried every cure I could find on the Internet with no luck. And even worse, neither Google nor Asus will do anything about the problem unless it happens while you are still in warranty. Since I bought my tablet early after its release, I've had it about a year and a half now. When it works, it's very nice. My wife's still works, even upgraded to Lollipop 5.1.1. But mine seems forever stuck on the Google logo. Asus reportedly wants $200+ to fix the problem, and Google just says, "Too bad," when they say anything--even though I bought both tablets directly from the Google Play Store. At present I'm awaiting a motherboard from China to replace the motherboard in the tablet, which seems to be the recommended solution. I'm hoping it will work, but if it doesn't I'll have to buy another tablet (NOT a Nexus this time).