Google Nexus 7 (summer 2013) review:

The best Android tablet gets even better

However, despite its color improvements, the 2013 Nexus 7's screen doesn't represent color as accurately or vibrantly as the 8-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3's, though the Tab 3's screen isn't as sharp. The Nexus 7's screen looks comparatively greenish when looking at pictures or movies of faces and sometimes pushes purple when lots of bright colors are in the mix. Most won't notice, but it definitely stands out with the two tablets side by side.

Tested spec Google Nexus 7 Google Nexus 7 (2012) Apple iPad Mini Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Maximum brightness 570 cd/m2 288 cd/m2 399 cd/m2 395 cd/m2 458 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.44 cd/m2 0.28 cd/m2 0.49 cd/m2 0.39 cd/m2 0.47 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1,295:1 1,028:1 814:1 1,012:1 974:1

The screen responds immediately to touches and apps whiz by as fast as you can swipe them. Switching between different apps quickly and scrolling through Web pages is as smooth and zippy as I've ever seen on any tablet. However, the interface has its fair share of Android wonkiness; over the course of several hours I experienced a few hangs, an unresponsive screen, and a keyboard that simply didn't want to go away. These problems were easily fixed with a quick sleep mode and back induction, though.

Wi-Fi speeds were consistently high with no spotty connection issues when within a reasonable distance from our internal network. The Nexus 7's battery lasted throughout the day while downloading apps, surfing the Web, and receiving plenty of notifications. In our official tests it lasted an impressive 11.5 hours; longer than any small Android tablet before it and right under the current small tablet battery champ, the iPad Mini. For details on the test methodology, check here.

Tablet Video battery life (in hours)
Google Nexus 7 (2013) 11.5
Apple iPad Mini 12.1
Google Nexus 7 (2012) 10.1

A serious pusher of polygons
Next to the fourth-generation iPad, the Nexus 7 is the fastest tablet I've seen at running polygonal games. Real Racing 3 and N.O.V.A. 3 looked particularly impressive with smooth frame rates and sharp graphics with minimal aliasing on edges; however, like on many other Android tablets, Real Racing 3 loses its rearview mirror feature on the Nexus 7.

View full gallery
The best-performing small tablet for gaming. 'Nuff said. Well, I actually do say more in the paragraph below. Josh Miller/CNET

Riptide GP2 is an incredibly impressive game with lots of customizable graphical effects options and even with its effects tuned to maximum, the Nexus 7 delivered smooth gameplay at more than 30 frames per second that many times looked to approach and hit a full 60fps. This easily and consistently bested the Nexus 10 in its presentation.

N.O.V.A. 3 Level 1 load time (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

The Nexus 7 blows away all previous small tablets in both 3DMark and GFXBench scores, but only matched the best small tablets in Nova 3 first level load speed.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
Google Nexus 7 (Summer 2013) 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Adreno 320 (single-core) 2GB Android 4.3
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch) 1.5GHz quad-core Exynos 4 Dual (4212) Mali T400MP4 (quad-core) 1.5GB Android 4.2.2
Google Nexus 7 1.2GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 ULP GeFOrce (12-core) 1GB Android 4.2.2
Apple iPad Mini 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 PowerVR SGX543MP2 (dual-core) 512MB iOS 6.1.3
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Andreno 320 (single-core) 2GB Android 4.1.2
Google Nexus 10 1.7GHz Dual-core Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (5250) Mali-T604 (quad-core) 2GB Android 4.2.2
Apple iPad 4 1.4GHz dual-core Apple A6X PowerVR SGX554MP4 (quad-core) 1GB iOS 6.1.3

3DMark Unlimited


Longer Bars is the one with the

3DMark (Normal)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Graphics Test 1, 720p (GPU)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Graphics Test 2, 720p (GPU)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Physics Test, 720p (CPU)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

GFXBench tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
GFXBench (1080p, T-Rex HD, C24Z16)
GFXBench (native resolution, T-Rex HD, C24Z16)

Oh, tablet cameras. Will you ever provide any real value?
The Nexus 7 continues the tablet trend of placing mediocre shooters on their bodies. Both the 1.2-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel back camera make faces look greenish and sickly in pics, and while each picks up a bit more fine detail than most tablet cameras, shadows look dithered and blurry.

The dual speakers are above average quality for a tablet, but don't get as loud or sound as full as the 2012 Kindle Fire HD's, which are still the best tablet speakers in the market. They're not bad by any means, but they will do nothing to change your perspective on tablet speakers. I used 'The Avengers' from the Play store to test the surrounds sound. The effect is convincing, but to be honest, prefer using earbuds when watching movies and TV shows on tablets.

Yet, there are still alternatives
As good as the Nexus 7 is, it may not be for everyone as different users have varied tablet needs.

View full gallery
The original Nexus is now available for as low as $150. Josh Miller/CNET

The 2012 version of the Nexus 7 is still a great tablet supported by the latest version of Android and starts now at $150 (at Walmart). The Nook HD is $130 (though it's being phased out), and the 2012 Kindle Fire HD, which features better speakers despite Google touting the Nexus 7's surround sound setup, is the best choice for Amazon Prime users and still starts at $30 less.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 has a more comfortable design, it's screen handles colors more accurately and vibrantly, it includes storage expansion, and some of its UI interface conveniences surpass even what Google's been able to implement so far. However, the Tab 3 will cost you $70 more at starting prices. The new Nexus 7 trumps the iPad Mini's screen in every way aside from size and has faster gaming performance, but the Mini still has access to many more apps and most major game releases debut on iOS first, although simultaneous releases are becoming more common.

The Nexus 7 (2013) easily supplants the original model as the small tablet of choice. It may not be quite as comfortable to hold, but its heavily increased performance, razor-sharp screen, additional features, and all that Android 4.3 brings in tow more than make up for a harder, less grippy back.

At $230, it's more expensive than the top 7-inch tablets from 2012, but it's also much better-performing. In addition, it's cheaper than both the 8-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and the iPad Mini and yes, performs better than either, despite the former's better handling of onscreen colors.

While it doesn't obliterate the competition, the Nexus 7 has enough improvements to earn the small-tablet crown and is the next best choice to the full-size iPad.

This week on CNET News


Discuss: Google Nexus 7 (16GB, 2013)

Conversation powered by Livefyre