Google Nexus 10 review: Regular Google updates in a durable body

The widget will listen to a song (either playing on the device or from another device and within seconds identify said song and conveniently provide you with a link to the Google Play store to purchase it. I can see this being useful at times, but it's definitely a weird choice for the lock screen.

Photo Sphere
Android's camera app has been updated with more editing options; however, I really wish the new interface held your hand a bit more, as it took some time to find my way around. That said, once you've spent some time learning its idiosyncrasies, I think you'll find it's much more elegant and intuitive than the previous incarnation.

Josh Miller/CNET

However, the most exciting new camera feature (and possibly the most exciting new feature in Android 4.2) is by far Photo Sphere. Photo Sphere allows you to take 360-degree panoramas, capturing floors, the ceiling, nearly everything -- unfortunately I couldn't capture the space directly over or under me.

It takes about five minutes or so to get the lay of the land, but I suspect that time will decrease once you get the hang of it. This is an incredibly cool feature that does a great job communicating what it feels like to be in a space you've never been in before. I can imagine this being a great tool for Realtors who want to paint an accurate picture of what it might look and feel like to live in a specific house.

Josh Miller/CNET

That screen
The Nexus 10's Super PLS (plane-to-line switching) screen is by far the best screen on any Android tablet and is beautiful to look at. But how does it compare with the iPad's 2,048x1,536-pixel Retina Display? Honestly, strictly speaking from a perspective of clarity, it's difficult to see a difference. Both tablets rendered sharp text, and it was difficult to distinguish which was clearer, despite the Nexus 10 screen's higher 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution. If I had to choose a clarity winner, though, I'd go with the Nexus 10, as there were a few times where its text was slightly clearer.

Tested spec Google Nexus 10 Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 Apple iPad (third generation)
Maximum brightness IPS mode (Super IPS) 368 cd/m2 422 cd/m2 (644 cd/m2) 455 cd/m2
Maximum black level, IPS mode (Super IPS) 0.44 cd/m2 0.34 cd/m2 (0.53 cd/m2) 0.49 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio, IPS mode (Super IPS) 836:1 1,241:1 (1,215:1) 939:1

Games optimized for the display, however, are obviously sharper on the Nexus 10. N.O.V.A. 3 looks stunning, with much sharper assets than its iPad counterpart.

Josh Miller/CNET

Four months after, release however, and still very few apps in the Play store take specific advantage of the Nexus 10's high-res screen; however, many apps do scale well enough to exude a clarity and sharpness right up there with the best iPad apps.

Where the iPad beats the Nexus 10 is in black level, contrast, and color accuracy. The Nexus 10's blacks just aren't as deep nor its whites as bright as they should be, and its colors aren't as full.

Performance
The Nexus 10 is the fastest Android tablet I've ever used. It's not as consistently zippy as the fourth-generation iPad, but when navigating menus, and opening and switching apps, it's faster than any other Android tablet, and the fact that it keeps that speed up while rendering so many pixels is a testament to the Exynos 5250's power.

Still, some Android wonkiness that I thought had gone away with the Nexus 7 shows up again here. Apps tend to hang more often than I'd like, and I've also experienced a few random restarts.

Josh Miller/CNET

Screen responsiveness has been fine-tuned to razor-sharp accuracy. Pages scroll by as your finger swipes them, and taps are rarely misread. Also, with the tablet lying flat, typing is more accurate than on any tablet screen I've experienced, including the iPad. The iPad's keyboard is plenty accurate, to be sure, but the wider aspect ratio of the Nexus 10 means more space for my hands.

As an anecdotal test just to give an idea of its battery performance, I turned both it and the third-generation iPad to full brightness and had them play Riptide GP for about 20 minutes. The iPad went from 20 to 11 percent and the Nexus 7 went from 98 to 88 percent. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Google Nexus 10 8.4

Josh Miller/CNET

The tablet uses the included Micro-USB cable and wall adapter for charging. While it charges fine (albeit very slowly), if the screen is asleep, the battery actually discharges if plugged in while playing certain games, like Riptide GP. If the tablet is playing an HD movie at full brightness while plugged in, the battery will neither charge nor discharge.

I also turned the brightness to its lowest and highest settings on two different occasions and each time let it sit idle to 20 minutes while charging, with sleep turned off. At maximum brightness, the battery was charged by only a single percentage point. At minimum brightness, 3 percent was charged. This is fine if you're habitually charging overnight, but it could prove troublesome if you're at the airport and would like to charge your tablet's battery while using it.

Josh Miller/CNET

Last November, Google said it had plans to release a Pogo charger for the Nexus 10 that would charge much faster, but four months later there's still no word on price or availability for the device. By not including a wall charger, Amazon put buyers in a similar position with the Kindle Fire HD. In that case, the charger was only $20, and since the Fire HD is compatible with any Micro-USB charger, you had some choice. Not so much here. I mean, you can still simply opt to deal with the stock charger, but if you're going to buy the Nexus 10 and plan on doing some performance-heavy tasks, I'd recommend waiting at least until Google releases details on the Pogo charger -- but I wouldn't hold my breath on that.

The 5-megapixel back camera's quality was better than the camera on most tablets, but it can't match the Transformer Infinity's stellar 8-megapixel back camera at capturing color and clarity. The 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera is completely serviceable for Skype calls, but not much else.

Josh Miller/CNET

Web loading speeds were whip-fast, sometimes rendering pages seemingly instantaneously. Sometimes. Most times, however, it was about as fast as the fourth-generation iPad, loading pages like CNET.com in about 5 seconds on average. A 272MB app downloaded about a minute faster than on the Transformer Infinity, but was within 20 seconds of the iPad's speed.

The speakers belted out pretty loud sound, but the quality is nothing to write home about. It's definitely good, but I'm probably spoiled by the Kindle Fire HD's awesome Dolby speakers.

Josh Miller/CNET

See, the thing about gaming performance...
The Nexus 10 is the first Android tablet to house the Samsung Exynos 5250, a Cortex A-15 CPU with a Mali T-604 GPU. Performance in the games I tried was improved over that of the previous Android performance champion, the Asus Transformer Infinity. However, the same games on the fourth-generation iPad ran faster and in many cases included higher quality and more complex textures, geometry, and effects.

That's no fault of the Nexus 10's, however. Most tablet games are optimized for the iPad first, so their code speaks directly to its components, taking into account its resolution and the A6X processor. Both EA and Gameloft pledged Nexus 10 optimization updates to their games last year. However, in the games I tested, you'll find nothing that even approaches the level of detail in the iPad versions of the same games.

Real Racing 3 looks amazing on the iPad, with a consistently smooth frame rate, high dynamic range effects, and the in-car camera mode features real-time rear and side view mirrors that allows you to see approaching racers. The game on the Nexus 10 includes none of these effects.

Why? Well, from a business perspective, it may not be worth the effort, time, and money. The Nexus 10 might be able to handle it if the developer put in time tailoring the engine specifically for it, but it's a lot easier and cheaper to simply port the iPad version over to Android, then simply subtract graphical features until it runs at an acceptable framerate on most Android devices. That's just speculation of course, but it makes sense to me. Not that I'm happy about it.

Screenshot by Eric Franklin

For what it's worth, GLBenchmark 2.5.1 does show consistently higher Nexus 10 theoretical performance compared with the third-generation iPad, and in some cases, the Nexus 10 also bests the A6-powered iPhone 5. So the potential is there for some truly impressive Nexus 10 games. Which makes it all the more disappointing that we're not getting them.

Conclusion
The Nexus 10 isn't an iPad-killer. As impressive as it is, it can't match the iPad's app support (in terms of quality, quantity, and timeliness) nor its performance. The charging is annoyingly slow and four months after the tablet's release, Google has sadly yet to release any information on the Pogo charger's pricing and availability.

Also, the app situation hasn't improved much over the last few months. There are more tablet specific apps being released, but not nearly enough, and not enough that take advantage of the Nexus 10's incredibly high resolution.

You'll still want to make the iPad your first choice, thanks to its years of refined performance, apps selection, and content ecosystem. If you're going for Android, right now it'll depend on what you're looking for. The Transformer Infinity has a brighter screen, better camera, and a built-in storage expansion option. However, the Nexus 10 has superior design and performance, and the features available in Android 4.2.2 may be worth price of admission alone.

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Google Nexus 10

Part Number: CNET-Google-Nexus-10
Low Price: $384.94 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity IEEE 802.11b
  • Type Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
  • Weight 21.3 oz
  • Operating System Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
  • Storage 16 GB
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