New Nexus 7 £200
1st May 2014 | 12:04
Supercharged with Android 4.4, the Nexus 7 is now an even better tablet
Introduction and design
The original Nexus 7 enchanted and enthralled - and did so despite some slight compromises. The fact that it was so cheap (£159 for a 16GB version) meant it remained outstanding value for a long time. Problem is, a year is a long time in the tablet world, and competition is fierce, so the new Nexus 7 is just what the doctor ordered.
And then in late July 2013, came the announcement. A new Nexus 7 - so good, they named it twice. (Some have differentiated it by adding the year to the name. For clarity, I'll refer to the old one as "the original Nexus 7-inch from now on.)
Of course, Nexus devices are synonymous with pure Google experiences. This is the chance for Mountain View to show off Android in its purest form, away from the meddling fingers of Samsung or HTC who just love to Sensify and TouchWiz up their devices.
The Nexus 7 launched with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, which was a minor update from 4.2. It has since been updated to Android 4.4 KitKat, which adds a few bits and pieces to the bag of tricks, but I'll get into that later. I expect it will also be one of the first devices to get the next version update, whatever it may be….lemon meringue pie perhaps?
The Nexus 7 is still aiming for that sweet spot. The price has been bumped up - it's now £199 for the 16GB model that would have cost £159 before - but the specs are much better, so it's still very reasonably priced.
And it looks a lot better too. Whereas the original Nexus 7 looked like a medium level device, the new Nexus 7 now looks like a premium slab. I'll go into more detail in the next section, but suffice to say, it's pretty damn gorgeous.
It's only available in 16GB or 32GB versions - the latter will cost you a penny short of £240. And they are strictly Wi-Fi only. As with the previous incarnation, there's also a cellular version, and the difference this time is that the Nexus 7 is 4G LTE (vs HDSPA) compatible
If ever there was a tablet that you could just pick up and carry around with you, chuck easily in a bag and know it's there when you need it, then the Nexus 7 is the one.
Obviously, you'll need a case or some kind of protection as it'd be nothing short of criminal to scratch that beautiful glass screen, but I assume that most people will be practicing Safe Nexus 7 from the get-go.
It would be foolish to just go into the specs without comparing the Nexus 7 to its predecessor - that's what most people will be expecting. Suffice to say, this is one beautiful piece of equipment. The front is one sheet of high gloss Gorilla glass, interrupted only by the minute presence of a front-facing camera for selfies and Skypes.
It's thinner and lighter than before (200 x 114 x 8.7mm and 290g, compared to 198.5 x 120 x 10.5mm and 340g). Eagle-eyed mathematicians will notice there is a slight height increase, but it's negligible in practice. The LTE version adds another 9g.
Whereas before there was a plastic trim around the bezel, painted to look like metal, here it's gone. This is an all-black device. The screen just blends into the sides, which curve round to create an uninterrupted back panel. And if I had to find fault, it would be with this bit.
Firstly, the bezels have been shrunk right down to make the screen almost extend to the edges. But it makes it difficult to hold the Nexus 7, because the natural act of curling your hand around the tablet and resting your thumb on the bezel is now impossible without touching the screen and causing all kinds of annoyances. Instead, you have to rethink how you hold the tablet.
True, it can be held fully within the palm, but that's quite tiring after a while and not particularly comfortable. Others have taken to holding the Nexus 7 like a giant phone, resting the pinky at the bottom and the thumb at the side.
Yet while this is possible, it's again not the most comfortable experience. The power/sync port at the bottom ends up digging into the skin and the angular left hand corner digs into the palm.
Added to that, the back is no longer textured but a matte plastic, and therefore grip is reduced. It's not going to cause you sleepless nights, but it is going to bug some people (like me) at first. Thankfully, most people will keep their Nexus 7 in a case of some, and that makes this much less of an issue.
Another thing to mention is fingerprints. You have never seen a fingerprint magnet like this. Prepare for lots of rubbing the Nexus 7 against legs (preferably your own) to combat smudges.
Aside from that Micro USB port at the bottom, there is little to remark on. Asus and Google have deliberately gone for minimalism here.
Look hard on the front and you may see a notification light beneath the screen - but that only appears when your attention is needed. There's a power/sleep button on the right-hand side, accompanied by volume rocker.
On the back has an etched Nexus logo, along with another addition: the rear camera, which was one thing many original Nexus 7 owners craved. It's fine for showing someone something on Skype - but if you have intentions of using your tablet as a camera, as some antisocial types do, then frankly you need taking outside and giving a firm telling off to.
One thing you will notice is two lots of speakers - stereo, if you will. All mod cons here, it appears. They're on the top and bottom at the rear but the idea is that when you watch stuff in landscape, they'll be at the sides.
Oddly, they're at the back, facing away from you, which seems silly when you consider that HTC has moved the bar with the HTC One. But we'll find out how they fare a little later.
Altogether, this is a solid device. Where the original Nexus sometimes felt like a compromise due to the price (issues of light bleed and creakiness on the left hand side were common complaints), this feels like a premium, well-put-together piece of kit that should command more than the measly amount Google is asking.
This is definitely most apparent when you see the screen. The only word that fits here is "wow." The PPI of the original Nexus 7 represented one of its missed opportunities: at 216 (800 x 1280) it was by no means bad, but it always felt like it could have been just that little bit better.
And now it is. Google and Asus have pushed the density on the Nexus 7 up to the competition's level and beyond. It's now a staggering 323ppi (1200 x 1920). Consider the iPad's Retina display is 264ppi and you can imagine just how razor sharp this is. Text pops out and images look almost inexpressibly crisp.
Add to that the fact that there is virtually no gap between glass and screen, and this is a display to die for. Viewing angles could not be better - which is great, because tablets are more likely to be shared around than phones - and crispness is unmatched.
Naturally, the glass makes it less than ideal for outdoor use, but if you set brightness to maximum it should be able to cope.
Yes, it's a game of one upmanship to a certain degree. In all likelihood, you don't need a display that sharp. But by God, do I want it. And I love it. Sure, the Retina iPad Mini gives the Nexus 7 a run for its money, but you can't do much better on a tablet in terms of display.
Colour reproduction is also far better. A common complaint with the original Nexus 7 was that images tended to look faded and washed out. Again, I couldn't grumble too much because of the price, but it was one of those things that we geeks tended to notice and grind our teeth at. Thankfully, everything now just appears much warmer on the Nexus 7 than before.
It's still a world away from the brightness and vividity of Samsung's displays employed on the likes of the Note 8 or the Galaxy S4, but they are loved and loathed in equal measure. Some think they look great, while for others the effect is unnatural.
Either way, the fact is, unless you're odd, you won't pick up a Nexus 7, look at the display and feel disappointed in the slightest.
What you might feel disappointed with, however, is the storage issue. You won't find a Nexus 7 with anything more than 32GB of space - and remember, Google doesn't do external memory these days. In its efforts to push us all onto the cloud, you're stuck with what Google deems to be adequate.
And as we've become used to, that 32GB on the box doesn't mean you get 32GB to play with, as the OS takes up a huge chunk. You're left with just 26GB. With the size of some HD games, plus a couple of movies, you'll eat that up fairly easily. Obviously, the 16GB is even more dire in this regard.
There are two things Google could have done here: either given the option of a larger device (64GB or 128GB), or relented and left an SD slot for those who want to expand. Samsung still does that with the Note 8.0, as does Sony with the Xperia Tablet Z, and neither experience too many problems.
But larger memories would mean higher prices and that ruins the Nexus 7's USP. Increasing storage would mean Google losing face. It's a vicious circle, and it's the punters who lose out. If you are a media fiend, the paltry allowance might mean the Nexus 7 isn't the tablet for you, despite how great your content would look on that screen.
As with most modern devices, you'll find a sensor which adjusts the display to make sure you are getting optimum backlighting for battery power conservation. I found it to be pretty unremarkable - it just does what it should do.
However, if you decide to turn it off and put the display onto full manual brightness, make sure you've some sunglasses handy. This is one bright son of a gun, and you will be dazzled.
The battery has taken a hit, at least on paper. It's no longer 4325mAh and now reports for duty at 3950mAh. But Google appears to have some method in this madness. Aside from the fact that it makes the Nexus 7 lighter than the original, it doesn't seem to have much of an impact.
In fact, I'd say that the battery here is better than the original Nexus 7. Android 4.4 is great at battery management. When this unit goes to sleep, it goes to sleep. Not a slumber, not a doze, but a complete conk-out. And yet, it'll stand to attention at a second's notice when you need it again.
The display comparison between the iPad Mini 2 (you know, the one with Retina display), the Google Nexus (2013) and the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire HDX has taken a massive step forward, simply because things have become so much more powerful.
For instance, each display has a near identical sharpness, with the iPad Mini 3ppi crisper over its 7-inch rivals. The iPad Mini 2's 7.9 inch screen is rocking a resolution of 2048 x 1536 compared to the standard 1920 x 1200 in the rivals.
Think what you will about the move in smartphones to see the difference in sharpness, but there's no doubt that each of the three tablets on test here all display superb crispness in screen quality. Compare that to the iPad Mini of 2012, and I'm glad that Apple has finally moved its smaller tablet into the future.
There's an obvious difference between the iPad Mini 2 and the others - namely the screen ratio. Apple's decided that movie watching can be happily done with black bars above and below the screen, as its 4:3 ratio is better for apps and browsing the web. Weirdly the problem with the iPhone 5S and 5C isn't the same, as they've slipped to the 16:9 form that's the same as its rivals.
However, while the other two are more suited to watching movies, there's no doubt that it's a more pleasant experience to use the iPad Mini 2 for browsing the web and flicking through games. The packaging shapes the iPad in a way that makes it actually easy enough to hold in one hand with a full grip - although there's a chance that using the original Mini for a year has stretched the palm.
That's not to say Google and Amazon's offerings aren't great for web browsing too, but going from the Mini 2 to one of these wasn't a pleasurable experience.
The only problem, if I was to identify one, is that Apple hasn't made the best screen on the market, according to DisplayMate. Ray Soneira of the same laboratory testing facility has run the three displays through a variety of tests, and while the Mini 2 performs fairly well in most scenarios, it's often bested by the competition.
For instance, that while all three have a really good level of sharpness at distance and differing viewing angles, and critically performed well when being calibrated, in many cases the iPad Mini 2 came up short. For instance, the colour reproduction wasn't as good compared to the other two, and the contrast wasn't as accurate.
The iPad Mini 2 definitely errs on the more 'natural' when it comes to colour reproduction, according to DisplayMate's findings, and in my own side by side tests I noted the same thing. The iPad Mini 2 takes things too far at times, where the others show a clear and rich picture, especially when viewing photos.
This leads to lower colour accuracy too, where the others managed it quite happily; again, natural options are too the fore here. I noticed that the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX has the best screen for movies and photos, which is down to two things: dynamic contrast and using quantum dot technology.
The former you'll be able to see easily - lower the brightness on the screen when looking at a photo, and the decrease won't be uniform. This might sound bad but what it does is keep the darker scenes well lit so you can still make out all portions of the screen without losing the overall visibility. For a tablet that some might say is only there to allow users to buy more things, the technology is very effective.
But what of Quantum Dots? Here's what DisplayMate had to say on the subject: "Quantum Dots are almost magical because they use Quantum Physics to produce highly saturated primary colors for LCDs that are similar to those produced by OLED displays.
"They not only significantly increase the size of the Color Gamut by 40-50 percent but also improve the power efficiency by an additional 15-20 percent. Instead of using White LEDs (which have yellow phosphors) that produce a broad light spectrum that makes it hard to efficiently produce saturated colors, Quantum Dots directly convert the light from Blue LEDs into highly saturated primary colors for LCDs."
You can head over to the DisplayMate report to see the full findings of the tablet test, but the results were that while the Amazon and Google tablets were matched in terms of performance, the iPad Mini 2 had less accurate colour reproduction, and lower peak brightness while still drawing the most power - it was also the most reflective.
That said I do like the natural reproduction of the iPad Mini 2 - the other two did err one the 'impressive' side when it comes to display type, which can grate slightly at times but wow most others.
I'm really splitting hairs here - all three tablets have an incredible screen, which is a big step forward over last year. Apple might struggle with things like colour reproduction, and colour accuracy is a worry, but it's not a bad effort, despite sitting well in third place.
The other two tablets just have great screens and offer brilliant value for money as a result - there's nothing to choose between them in my eyes, but I do prefer the dynamic range of the Kindle Fire HDX in day to day tests, although I can't really get on board with the UI. Overall the Google Nexus 7 is my pick - but I urge you to try all three and see which suits your tastes most.
Interface and performance
If you're looking for pre-done customisation out of the box, you're looking in the wrong place. Nexus devices are intended to let you see Android in its rawest form. It's a way of witnessing Google's vision. And that's exactly what you're getting with the Nexus 7: pure, unmodified, untinkered-with Android 4.4.
That means homescreens - five of them. But of course, you can instantly replace them with your own launchers and tweaks. Lots of people go for custom launchers, which provide a safer, less technical way of modifying the look of a device without having to go down the rooting and custom ROM line.
Ultimately, what you're getting on the surface of the Nexus 7 is something that looks pretty much identical to previous Jelly Bean versions, give or take the odd tweak.
Widgets are prevalent, as they have been since day one of the Android OS, making them a key selling point that iOS users can only hanker after. And nowadays, they're not just on your homescreen, but your lock screen too.
It's ideal for the ultra-lazy - you don't even have to swipe to unlock your screen when you want to perform a task. It equates to dozens fewer finger swipes a day for heavy users. No wonder we're turning into a nation of fatties.
(As a side note, remember, Nexus devices get updated first. So when that OTA notification comes, it's just a matter of hitting 'Install' to stay on top of the pack.)
Breaking with the look of Jelly Bean (and Ice Cream Sandwich before it), the colour scheme is much lighter in KitKat.
All those Tron-looking blues have been swept away, and replaced by a clean and crisp white and the odd touch of grey. It gives everything a lighter, more elegant feel.
Looks aside, it's easy to navigate and intuitive enough. First-time users may find the menus a little overwhelming, but seasoned tinkerers will be at home.
This is a world away from the extreme handholding of Apple's models, as any Android fan will attest.
In fact, most of the changes to the OS are under the hood. There are some slight differences, like the fact you can now have user profiles, but it's other things that make a difference. Things like support for Bluetooth 4.0 and OpenGL ES 3.0, plus better DRM coding.
Google's invested some serious time and effort into providing a usable keyboard in its interface, something which first broke cover in the Nexus 4 in late 2012.
It's a great effort, albeit hardly an original idea. It apes the functionality I first grew to love with the Swype keyboard, which was later adopted by Swiftkey.
Indeed, it's almost on a par with the latter in terms of functionality and reliability, though I still prefer Swiftkey for two reasons.
Firstly, the fact you can alter the keyboard's theme (I'm fickle), and secondly, because flicking between letters and numbers is easier on Swiftkey than Google Keyboard. But there's really not that much in it.
As for the performance, boy does this baby fly. Last time, I got excited by Project Butter - a bit of Android code that would revolutionise our lives by making everything run smoother and quicker.
But it wasn't as great as it sounded. Anyone with a creaking original Nexus 7 will tell you that Project Butter can't work miracles.
The optimisations of Android 4.4, and Project Svelte, are a different matter altogether. Mixed in with that 1.5GHz quad-core Krait CPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset and 2GB of RAM, they mean there is little you can do to make the new Nexus 7 stall.
Games and apps load in a flash and you can swipe between screens, littered with widgets, and not encounter the slightest stutter.
Multi-tasking is handled with ease - it's all done via one of the three on-screen soft buttons you'll find throughout the OS. I had more than 20 apps open at the same time and encountered no problems whatsoever. The Nexus 7 is hard to beat in this respect.
It's clear that the Nexus 7 is primarily a media consumption device. This isn't an Asus Transformer Prime or a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, which are clearly aimed at a specific type of customer.
The Nexus 7 is designed for picking up easily, having a read, having a play and having a surf.
And when you do surf, boy, are you in for a treat. Of course, until the LTE version launches, you need to be within range of either a Wi-Fi router or tethered mobile hotspot, but that's a minor inconvenience.
Loading webpages is super fast. Lightning speeds, here. I'd say that this is probably the fastest loading experience I can remember ever seeing on a tablet.
TechRadar has a lot to say - and therefore, you'll notice the homepage is quite content heavy and the full desktop site can take a while to load on some devices.
Yet on the Nexus 7 over Wi-Fi, the page was up and ready to scroll around within 2.5 seconds. That's fast. Very fast.
It was 7 seconds in total before all of the various add-ons were completely up and running, but in less than three, I was jabbing away at links to (frankly brilliant) articles.
I thought it would be hard to top that, but I then went from my Virgin Media connection to a tethered S4 running on EE's 4G network and cut that loading time down by a second, which is a phenomenal achievement.
In fact, my testing led me to the belief that the processor and the OS don't even work up a sweat. You are at the mercy of your web connection for speed.
I'm getting to the stage now where I can't see how this could be improved upon.
Looking at web pages zoomed out is a pleasure too. Text is so sharp that it feels like a criminal act having to zoom in, even if it does make reading easier.
With the Nexus 7 being an Android device, that means two things are guaranteed: you'll have no Flash support (I'm getting used to this now), and only the Chrome browser is installed on unboxing.
Not that that's a problem. Firstly, if you're desperate for Flash, you can sideload it easily enough and use it in a third-party browser, obtainable through the Play Store. And secondly, I see little motivation for using anything other than Chrome on the Nexus 7.
I don't say that lightly. Chrome has had its issues on tablets. It's been slow, it's been buggy, it's been a pain at times. The web is littered with complaints on forums, which, ironically, you'd have struggled to read via Chrome because it was a nightmare to use on some devices.
My irritation was felt most recently when trying to use Google's in-house browser on the fantastic Sony Xperia Tablet Z. A lion of the tablet world, but it just couldn't bring Chrome to order.
The fact that I was able to sync my bookmarks across devices - complete with a widget for the homescreen for added laziness - just makes the experience all the sweeter.
In fact, the only gripe I had is that text reflow isn't there, although tap to zoom works a treat. And yet, all appears fixed.
Whether it's down to Android 4.4, the processor or tweaks to the actual application (probably a perfect combination of all three), Chrome is excellent on the Nexus 7. Those amazing results above were achieved using the stock browser.
To sum up, the Nexus 7 is probably the best portable internet device there is. Its only real let down is that there is no cellular version on sale yet, though that is going to change.
Screen size could also be an issue - for some, seven inches is just that bit too small. But when you pick up this device and star having a play around, you'll find it's spot on.
Movies, music and books
The Nexus 7 is primarily a media consumption device. Aside from my gripe about the difficulty holding and gripping it at times, the tablet is perfectly sized and weighted for you to cuddle up on the sofa and hold for reading or watching.
And this is what Google is banking on. The Nexus 7 should really be far more expensive than it is.
But Google's strategy here is to pile them high and sell them cheap whilst encouraging you to then buy into the ecosystem. Not just apps and games via the Play Store, but movies, TV, books and magazines.
There's been a huge push in recent years by Google to do this and it is obviously working well for the brand.
Different forms of entertainment are separated from each other. You'll go to one store to buy a magazine which you'll read within the app, while navigating to a different one for your music which will be streamed from the cloud into another app. Obviously, the common denominator here is that they're all interwoven with your Google ID.
It's a well stocked shop too - I had no complaints with the selection of movies and TV shows, which ranged from Wreck It Ralph to The Thick of It. £9.99 to buy a movie or £3.49 to rent it is on a par with what you'd pay on iTunes and there are always promotional bargains to be had - although let's be honest: it's still far too expensive when the DVD or Blu-ray is often cheaper.
Google's stock may not be as exhaustive as iTunes, but it's certainly not that far off.
And as for magazines and books, you'll find all of the top sellers in there, though you may struggle a bit for niche reads.
You'll also struggle if you go on a download spree - remember, that memory gets eaten up very quickly indeed.
There's one key difference here to the likes of other devices and that is - naturally - that Google only provides you with its stores. It's much easier this way.
If you buy a Samsung device, for example, you have Google's options for buying TV shows, movies, magazines, books and apps but then Samsung bundles its own stores too.
For the uninitiated, it's an overpopulated minefield and a mess. At least here, there is one place to go for your songs, one place to go to read and so forth.
That's not to say you can't add your own options. The first thing I did was download Amazon MP3 and Amazon Kindle so that I could load up my purchases made elsewhere.
But you need to know to do this. Google, as expected, won't actively encourage you to spend your hard-earned elsewhere. After all, it's sold you this Nexus 7 for a knock down price. It wants to get its profit somewhere.
Most people will watch their content with headphones (the sound quality is pretty good, and there's even a surround sound mode that gives you a little echo effect), but for those who like to annoy fellow tube passengers, you can now do so in stereo sound with the Nexus 7's dual speakers.
It's not going to rival a night out at the Odeon, but it's OK.
Google has a demo video called Debbie which shows a little girl on a swing and the sound is amazing. But on YouTube or music, it's not going to blow you away.
The sound is not too tinny, but it could be louder. I've been spoiled by BoomSound on the HTC One and this is one place that I just felt a little let down with the Nexus 7, since Asus seems to have gone to town in so many other ways. But, for the price, the sound could be a lot worse.
I would have loved to have mirrored my media with my smart TV but I couldn't find an easy way to do so without buying dongles or downloading myriad interconnected apps. There are ways to do it, but nothing the average tablet buyer would feel comfortable doing.
Having said that, Google's Chromecast dongle is proving very popular and full support for it has been added to Android 4.4. Stay tuned for TechRadar's review of how the two work together when Chromecast finally lands in the UK.
In the meantime, I found just using the third party iMedia HD app worked a treat for YouTube and gallery content and is even compatible with Apple TV and PS3. Good times.
Tablet photographers are obviously a bane on society, but if you really needed to take a photo with your tablet, at least the Nexus 7 is less conspicuous.
That's because at seven inches, in some ways, it looks like a ridiculously oversized phone. But use it sparingly, eh?
Not only because you look like a gimp if you do, but also because the quality of the camera is pretty poor. It's not shocking, it's just mediocre.
The camera is obviously an aside rather than a key selling point. In fact, there are two of them: 1.2MP on the front (for video calls and selfies), and 5MP around the back.
Considering the lack of a rear camera was one of the criticisms of the original Nexus 7, the fact that Google and Asus have chosen to furnish me with one here is commendable.
It's certainly more convenient than spinning the whole tablet round and guessing where to point it if you're trying to show somebody something other than yourself on a video call.
The camera software is the same as that you'll find on the Nexus 5, except that HDR+ is missing. That means a few filters, white balance options and geotagging. Nothing I haven't seen before.
Same for the video, though you are also able to snap photos during a movie filming session by simply tapping the screen, which is a feature the HTC One X gave me and one I've grown to expect ever since.
Colour balance isn't great - pictures either tended to look overly cold or overly warm, with not much in between. And as for low light, forget it. There's no flash, no light, nor any other help here for dark conditions and so, if you have poor visibility, you're going to have no real chance of a good snap.
Moving the camera during photos leads to blur, so forget action shots.
The same could be said for video. Obviously, the frame refresh rate is higher and so moving subjects can be handled more efficiently and effectively.
But again, the light just looks either too stark or too cosy. At least sound is captured well and with those stereo speakers, playback sounds decent too.
Apps and games
There's really very little in it now between the Android Play Store and the iOS App Store. Both are incredibly well stocked, although some of the findings in the Google tent are a little quirkier, due to the relaxed restrictions. Of course, that means there's a lot of tat in there too.
Before you go mad though, remember, apps will be saved to the internal memory since there is no memory card. Keep an eye on HD games and so on or you'll be full up rather quickly - especially if you opt for the 16GB model.
You can also sideload apps from other app stores if you choose to download them. Bear in mind that Google warns you about installing files from others because it can't police where they've come from.
Traditionally, this is where you're likely to find some nasties lurking but if they're from reputable vendors (like Amazon, for example), you should be OK.
I installed the Amazon app store as it's nice to diversify sometimes.
And as a gaming device, you can really go to town with the Nexus 7's HD screen. Games and apps look so sharp, it's breathtaking at times. Add to that the fact it's light, it's portable and has OK speakers and you're onto a winner.
One of the other criticisms that has often been levelled at Android is that it is too fragmented. There are so many devices to write for that instead of optimised programmes as you would get on an iPad, you get large scale phone apps on a tablet.
Google is trying hard to rectify this - it even has a dedicated tablet space on the Play Store - but that will take time to bear fruit.
Obviously, being a pure Google device, the apps you get initially are Google's own. Gmail, Google Calendar and so forth all work as well as ever.
You also have the fantastic Google Maps and Navigation apps meaning you can hold in the palm of your hand a sat nav system that equals the best TomToms and Garmins and is always up to date, yet does so much more and costs a fraction of the price.
I had problems with the GPS when I first reviewed the Nexus 7. It would get a fix quickly enough, but the signal would typically drop after anything from 10-30 minutes and I'd have to restart the tablet to get it back.
This issue was supposed to be fixed in version JSS15Q of Android 4.3, which also dealt with a common touchscreen issue. Some users are still reporting problems, even after the update to KitKat, but when I tested it with Android 4.4.2 it got a fix quickly and had no problem retaining it for a couple of hours of driving until I turned the tablet off.
Battery life and benchmarking
I have to hand it to Asus and Google here. It may be sorcery – I won't pry too much – but they have managed to pull off the impossible here.
They've shrunk the battery size, and yet seem to have improved battery life compared to the previous iteration.
From 4325mAh to 3950mAh, on paper at least, I thought they'd taken leave of their senses. But it just goes to show how much the software influences the energy spend that the Nexus 7 seems to just go. And go. And go. And go.
This is hardly a scientific comparison - it's hard to compare an old Nexus 7 that's been used for a year with a different processor and screen to the new one and hope to give a fair verdict.
But what I'll say is this: where I expected the new Nexus 7 to fall down, it actually just keeps on giving.
In real world usage, results will vary – it depends what you're using your tablet for, but I found that when testing, I was using the Nexus 7 nearly all day.
With all Google services enabled, I managed about two hours worth of surfing the web, read a Kindle book for about 45 mins, sent 20-30 emails from a separate Exchange account set to push, connected to the car stereo via Bluetooth and streamed some music on a 20 minute drive, as well as checking out Google Maps Navigation for the duration of that journey.
I went from a full charge overnight, taking the Nexus 7 off the juice at 8am. By 9pm, I was still going strong with 41% of battery remaining.
The new Nexus 7 was put through TechRadar's video battery test which sees a 90 minute video played at full brightness (or 300 Lux, whichever arrives first), with multiple accounts syncing in the background.
This is a tablet that you can use without worrying it will die on you. Of course, you have to remember that the more apps you load on, the more background processes you have running and the more juice you're likely to get through.
And when the LTE version comes out, it'll be running an extra radio which is likely to impact. But for now, it's pretty damn good.
On top of that, I'm pleased to see that Google has continued with previous models and kept the charging port as Micro USB.
There is nothing worse than an OEM using a proprietary port. It's so stressful worrying in case you lose it and have to pay a king's ransom to replace it officially.
The alternative is being able to charge wirelessly - something that is available on the Nexus 7, but I was unable to test just yet as the correct accessories haven't made their way over.
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7
- See how the Kindle Fire HDX 7 and Nexus 7 compare in our in depth versus piece
The Google Nexus 7 (2013) and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 - when you think of budget Android tablets these are the two most likely to spring to mind.
While the HDX 7 has its roots in Android, the onscreen experience is rather different as Amazon has completely rebuilt the interface to push its own services.
It's a far more walled-garden approach than traditional Android, but that in turn provides an easier to learn interface and if you're already invested in Amazon's ecosystem it's a smart choice.
In terms of specs the two tablets are very similarly matched, but the HDX 7 benefits from a slightly newer processor and GPU - although there's not a huge performance difference.
- Read our in depth Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 review
Perhaps a bigger rival to the Nexus 7 is the Tesco Hudl, priced at an incredibly reasonable £119.
Unlike the Kindle Fire HDX 7 the Hudl runs an almost stock version of Android KitKat, with just a few additional Tesco focussed features.
The screen doesn't have a full HD resolution and there's less RAM and an inferior GPU under the hood, but considering it's almost half the price of the Nexus 7 those are things you can live with.
You'll get better performance and a superior viewing experience with the Nexus 7, but if you don't want to spend £200 the 7-inch Hudl is a great option.
- Read our in depth Tesco Hudl review
iPad Mini 2
If you're in the market for a small size tablet and have cash burning a hole in your pocket you'll want to check out the iPad Mini 2 with Retina display.
It has a larger, 7.9-inch display and a supremely premium metal chassis which elevates it above the Nexus 7 in terms of design.
Apple's iOS 7 interface is now well known and the App Store provides far more tablet centric applications than Google Play.
Of course the big sticking point here is the price, and with the iPad Mini 2 starting at £319 it's considerably more expensive than the Nexus 7.
- Read our in depth iPad Mini 2 review
Hands on gallery
I really like the Nexus 7. I really, really like the Nexus 7. Google has taken what made the original such a belter, corrected almost every niggle with it, bumped the price up ever so slightly (but kept it within the region where you can excuse niggles with a "well, it is cheap") yet also made the Nexus 7 feel so much more premium.
The mini-tablet market is fiercely competitive now and Google has got this to market quickly and effectively, sealing its position in the public's mind before competitors can get a foot in the door.
The screen is to die for and the form factor, while taking some getting used to, is ideal for media consumption. It's light, it's bright, it's fun and it's thin.
The battery life is really impressive, and the sheer diversity on offer, be it through the uprated CPU, screen, or GPU, mean that I struggled to put it down at times.
Using it, it whizzes along quickly and makes you feel like you're using something that should have cost so much more. What's not to like?
Well, a few things actually. Perfection is still a way away. Out of the box, users have noticed issues with the GPS and also some have occasional issues with multi touch.
It seems to be down to the individual, but there are enough complaints to stop this from being an unalloyed success for Google, with some presses not registering properly.
A software upgrade has already rolled out to fix these issues, but that's not something you should be writing about a top-end tablet.
If you're looking for a 7-inch tablet, I'll put it like this: there is no better alternative on the market, right now.
And be aware of that qualification, because markets change very quickly. The Nexus 7 wipes the floor with the competition but Google could have worked at 100% rather than 97% to make the Nexus 7 the one to beat.
For original Nexus 7 owners, it may not be worth an upgrade, but for new tablet buyers, you can't knock that value for money, and this is going to be a massive seller in the run-up to the holiday season.
If you're a Google fan, snap one up right away. But if you're on the fence, I definitely recommend checking out the iPad mini 2 with Retina display or the new Kindle Fire HD - though they don't represent anywhere near as much value for money.
First reviewed: 22 August 2013