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Google Nexus 7 (Gen 2) Review$229.99
A big deal in a little package, the new Nexus 7 isn't just a bargain buy.
About a year has passed since the first Nexus 7 hit market; Google’s bargain option is getting a little long in the tooth. Despite taking our top marks in 2012, that tablet’s processor performance has been routinely outpaced by competing products in the last eight or nine months. At this point, a refresh is long overdue.
Enter the next generation of Nexus 7 ($229 MSRP).
Hold onto your seat, because this one is set to kick those of other tablets quite forcefully. Not only is this new unit a powerhouse, but it's also still one of the most affordable slates out there.
Same as it ever was
It may not look at that different from the first generation model, but a close inspection reveals that the new Nexus 7 has some interesting design attributes. Namely: It’s meant to be held at a landscape orientation, which is a big departure from the first gen model. Everything from the speaker placement to the etching of the logo just screams it. This makes for a much more natural feeling when you’re holding it (and soothes my irrational hatred of the original’s portrait permanence).
If I had to pick a major gripe with the radical re-design, it'd be the speaker. While it does lend itself well to faux-amplification via a cupped hand, it’s an enormous pain in the rear. A cramped wrist or a muffled speaker is a real rock-and-a-hard-place choice. My suggestion to get around this is a pair of low-impedance headphones—they're going to sound better for the most part anyway.
While it's not included in the packaging, the new tablet can be charged wirelessly with an inductive Qi charging pad. Sure, this is kinda gimmicky, but look at the upside: No more fumbling around in the dark to find the bloody microUSB cable to charge your tablet when you're ready to sleep. Instead, you just plop it on the charging pad and forget about it. Like the old version of the slate, NFC, bluetooth, and GPS are included to allow power users and novices alike to experiment with their tablets.
I'm half-convinced the case is actually a TARDIS
At the end of the year, this may not be the best tablet on the market, and it may not even be good compared to what will be available. However, because this is among the first releases in the 2013 cycle that reflect the newest generation of tablets, it's important to get a really good picture of what this thing is capable of. For the next year, most tablets are going to be compared to the latest Nexus device in order to gauge their performance, and it's for good reason—this thing is absolutely loaded with great specs for now, and it even out-muscles the Nexus 10 in many ways.
But tablets age quickly—when the last Nexus 7 was launched, it was roughly competitive, but used its price to undercut competition. The Nexus 7 may still be under $250, but this time, it has the hardware under the hood to make it last more than just a year. It will be interesting to see what technologic arms race this triggers, or how others respond in the coming months.
Works great indoors and out
Okay, that's a lot of words to say "this is an awesome tablet." But what it is like to use? Well, all those words of effusive praise should have given you a word tapestry to wrap your brain with—the Nexus 7 has one of the most efficacious tablet screens, outside and in. Its hardware is insanely effective: Specs-wise, it can handle just about anything you throw at it (not literally, of course). Finally, the whole package is extremely portable.
Google loves to tell Apple "anything you can do I can do better" with their Nexus tablet releases, and this time, they've really gone out of their way to blow raspberries at the Cupertino computer company. Not only does the Nexus 7's refresh do just about everything the iPad mini can, it can do more things at once. If you like to use your tablet for gaming, the Nexus 7 is the clear winner here, as it handles high framerate games and 3D renders like you wouldn’t believe. At the same time, the iPad mini is showing its age, and isn't equipped to keep up—not to mention that it falls far short in terms of performance as well.
Despite the fact that the battery is smaller, Google's svelte new tablet makes the most of 3,950mAh. Able to read an eBook at full brightness for over 8 hours makes it ideal for a trans-continental flight, though the slate can only handle just under 7 hours of video playback. If you do manage to sap the battery dry, take heart—it doesn't take more than a couple hours to fully charge, less for a "good enough" charge.
Sorry every other 7-inch tablet: you're obsolete.
It's safe to assume that in the coming months other tablets will leapfrog this unit as is common in the tablet arena, but for now the Nexus 7 has a lot of superlatives. Best screen resolution, best processor (by far), most RAM, best array of wireless options, and newest Android operating system. It may not have the lowest price, but the nearest competitor only offers ~$70 in savings for one hell of a lot less.
Twisting the knife a little bit on Apple's failure to deliver a small high-res tablet, the new Nexus 7 has an enormously bright screen that is close to the most pixel-dense ever on a mobile device. Cramming in 320 pixels per inch, you will never ever notice pixel lines on the new Nexus unless you press your eyes up against the screen (and have perfect vision). Unlike other high-res tablets in the Android universe, our intrepid protagonist also has a near-perfect color gamut, so you can expect something special when it comes to displaying photos and video content. Among small tablets, the screen used by the new Nexus 7 is the undisputed king.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
As it is whenever there's a Nexus release, the refresh of the 7 is something spectacular. While it's very true that the tablet market moves quickly, leading to high turnover for market leaders, this particular model should hold its own for at least a year.
Google didn't try anything crazy with this tiny slate outside of stuffing it with a hilariously overpowered... everything. It may not be the sexiest thing in the world, but Google built on their successes, and if you've ever used an Android device, you'll love this tablet. With features geared to experts and novice alike, it's hard to find an argument against buying the Nexus 7, especially given its starting price of $229: You can buy two of these and have money left over for apps for the cost of one iPad.
However, a 7-inch size isn't for everyone, so as much as it's a drag to wait on buying the latest and currently greatest, see if you can try one out at the store if you've never owned a tablet before. If you're cool with a 7-inch tablet, there is none better.