The new Nexus 7 is showing its age but it's still one of the best 7in tablets available today
The Google Nexus 7 was, for a long time, the ultimate compact tablet. With an attractive price, great build and speedy software updates direct from Google, it was the pure Android experience many craved so dearly. However, as Google has shifted away from compact tablet territory with its latest Nexus 9, the Nexus 7 feels somewhat lost amidst a sea of competitive rivals, including the giant-killing Tesco Hudl 2.
With that said, since our original review was published, the Nexus 7 has received the Android 6 Marshmallow update. Based on the progress made in the tablet sector, we felt it timely to update our Nexus 7 (2013) review.
It should also be mentioned that availability is scarce, where you’ll be able to find the tablet for around £110 on eBay, cheaper than our original review that was based on a £170 price tag.
Although you could never call the original Nexus 7 ugly, the silver plastic edging around the screen bezel and dimpled rubberised chassis certainly made it feel a little toy-like. The same certainly can’t be said of the slick new version, which has slimmed down to a mere 8.7mm thick. It’s also lost weight, dropping from 340g to 290g. Combined with a thinner screen bezel (around 6mm from either side) you really notice the difference when holding the tablet one-handed – smaller hands will be able to hold it comfortably and it won’t give you wrist ache after a train journey spent leafing through eBooks. The importance of this shouldn’t be underestimated; no tablet at this size can match it in terms of how pleasant it is to hold for long periods.
The top and bottom bezels are still as thick as they were before, but arguably you need this much room to stop your thumbs from obscuring the screen. The tablet even looks a little asymmetric with the black Android interface bar at the bottom, but this is just an optical illusion and one that disappears when watching videos in landscape mode.
Google Nexus 7 (2013) review: Display
The screen is, without a doubt, the new Nexus 7’s crowning feature. The 7in, 16:10 IPS panel has fantastic viewing angles and colour accuracy is superb, even beating the iPad Mini in our tests by covering 100% of the sRGB colour gamut. It’s incredibly bright, reaching a peak 526.22cd/m2 at its maximum setting, meaning you’ll be able to take it outside on a bright day and still be able to see everything onscreen. Reflections from bright lights were minimal too.
Photos and videos look vibrant without becoming oversaturated and black response is excellent for an LED-backlit display. At 1,920×1,200, text looks gorgeous at virtually any size, high resolution images have incredible definition and 1080p video loses nothing in translation to the small screen. It pales in comparison to modern displays with more dots per inch, but it’s still incredibly pretty to look at.
Google Nexus 7 (2013) review: Speakers
There’s even a competent set of speakers to match the stunning visuals. It’s a tough call whether to place speakers on the front for clearer, more direct audio, or on the rear for a cleaner looking device, we narrowly prefer the front but Google has opted for the rear. The stereo speakers are placed at the far left and right ends of the tablet, when held in landscape mode to watch video. They’re loud enough that you won’t need to reach for a pair of headphones every time you load up Netflix and the stereo sound is a big step up over the mono speakers found on the old model, or even the iPad Mini‘s closely-spaced pair.
Google Nexus 7 (2013) review: Build quality and design
Although the soft-touch rubber makes a reappearance on the rear of the tablet, there’s less of it than there was on the original Nexus 7 and the dimples are gone. While this arguably makes the new model a little slipperier to hold, it still has more grip than the glossy plastic backs found on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab or Asus MemoPad HD 7. The power and volume buttons are ever so slightly hidden beneath the lip of the screen bezel so it took us a while to find them without looking every time, but they are sensibly placed for both left-and right handed users. Apart from the 3.5mm audio jack at the top and micro USB port on the bottom, there are no other physical connections (no HDMI most notably), although there are plenty of wireless connections.
Google Nexus 7 (2013) review: Connectivity and battery life
Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, wireless display and dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi are all on-board, as is Qi wireless charging. That last feature could come in handy, as although a battery score of just over eight hours in our light use test is above average, it’s not quite the ten hours we saw from the original Nexus 7. It is, however, slightly better than the 6h 52m we saw from the Tesco Hudl 2, which is worth bearing in mind. The battery is slightly smaller in the new model, but has the advantage that it doesn’t drain quite so quickly in standby mode. During real everyday use, you should still get more use out of this new model between charges, even if it doesn’t look like it on paper.
This is partly because Google has switched from Nvidia to Qualcomm internals, opting for a previous generation Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset rather than a newer Snapdragon 800.
Google Nexus 7 (2013) review: Performance
Since we first reviewed the Nexus 7 in 2013, we’ve shifted to a new suite of tablet benchmarks, so now is the perfect time to revisit the tablet’s performance. As you’d expect from a device that’s now two years old, things don’t look particularly good, with graphics performance in particular looking exactly as you’d expect from a two-year-old chip. The Scores of 308 and 304 in the GFX Bench 3 Manhattan Onscreen and Offscreen benchmarks put it the realms of the budget EE Harrier Tab and the Acer Iconia One 8. It’s also a long way behind its successor, the Nexus 9, which scored 1385 and 1942 respectively. It’s also fallen behind the £99 Tesco Hudl2, which scores 821 and 1807.
Poor graphics performance isn’t a complete show-stopper, however, because while processing performance (580 in GeekBench Single and 1851 in the Multi test) puts it down with today’s budget devices, in general use it feels fine. Yes, apps take a few seconds to load and you won’t want to start scrolling around web pages until they’ve finished loading, but it’s more than acceptable for a tablet that’s come down in price.
|Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
|Processor clock speed
|Memory slots free
|Qualcomm 8×60 SoC Audio
|Qualcomm Adreno 320
|Total storage capacity
|Optical drive type
Ports and Expansion
|Wired network ports
|Wireless networking support
|PC Card slots
|Supported memory cards
|3.5mm audio output
|Operating system restore option
|one year RTB