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

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The Good The Nexus 10 has a beautifully sharp screen. It's light, durable, and receives regular OS updates. Photo Sphere is an incredibly cool concept. Google's content ecosystem is only getting better.

The Bad The included charger isn't fast enough to power the battery while playing a game; even while idle, it charges painfully slowly. There's no storage expansion option, and apps that take full advantage of the screen are currently few and far between. Navigating isn't quite as seamless as on the Nexus 7.

The Bottom Line The Nexus 10's durable design, consistent updates, and good performance make it one of the best Android tablets to date.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Editors' note (December 6, 2013): We've lowered the performance score of the Nexus 10 due to recent releases of more powerful tablets in the marketplace.

It's the first question anyone asks when they're interested in a tablet: "Is it as good as the current iPad? For the Google Nexus 10, the overall answer is "no." The iPad is still the best tablet experience one can have, thanks to its still unmatched performance and robust app and media ecosystem.

That said, if you have no interest in owning an Apple product anyway, but are still in the market for a premium tablet, the Nexus 10 should be at or near the top of your list. The choice isn't as cut and dry as it should be, unfortunately. Your other go-to Android option -- the Transformer Infinity -- still has a better back camera, a brighter screen, expandable storage, and comes with a power adapter that's actually proficient at charging the tablet.

The Nexus 10's stock charger uses its Micro-USB port to charge and -- as it turns out -- that's not the most efficient way to charge a high-end tablet. Overnight charging will be fine, but if you ever need to charge in a hurry, there are currently no other options. Google mentioned a Pogo charger option at release, but has been mum on the subject ever since.

So why is the Nexus 10 potentially the best Android tablet? Its screen is gorgeous and the sharpest around compared with any tablet, and it is the most comfortable 10-inch tablet to hold in your hand with a durability that ensures you won't immediate blow a gasket if your kids drop it. Furthermore, it's the first tablet to run Android 4.2, which brings with it great new features -- Photo Sphere, which lets you capture a three-dimensional model of a real-world space, is one of the coolest I've ever experienced on a tablet.

For most, the iPad is still the tablet of choice, but for those looking for an alternative to Apple's much more constrained OS, Google has delivered one of the best yet. Like the Nexus 7 before it, the Nexus 10 marks a significant step toward a much more competitive tablet market, and its design heralds a new paradigm from which all other tablets should consider cribbing ASAP.

Just for the record, in the 7-inch tablet space, it's the Nexus 7, not the iPad Mini, that currently reigns as the best small tablet.

The Google Nexus 10 is one of the best designed tablets yet. At 1.33 pounds, it's fairly light and has a slightly concave shape, with a subtly beveled back design. Thanks to its light weight and smoothly rounded corners the tablet never digs into your palms when held with two hands. The back is a soft, grippy, almost rubbery plastic that not only feels great to hold, but doubles as protection for the tablet. The aforementioned rounded corners have that same rubbery plastic around them. The whole outer shell feels almost like an exoskeleton accessory, specifically designed to protect the delicate tablet organs inside.

Google Nexus 10 Asus Transformer Tab Infinity TF700 Apple iPad (fourth generation)
Weight in pounds 1.33 1.32 1.44
Width in inches (landscape) 10.4 10.4 7.3
Height in inches 6.9 7.1 9.5
Depth in inches 0.35 0.33 0.37
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.9 0.8 0.8

This feels like a tablet you can get a little rough with and one that won't immediately induce apoplexy when your kid grabs it. Also, there are no scratchy edges and no fine corners. While preparing this review, I mistakenly dropped the tablet a couple of times onto a concrete floor and saw not one scratch or dent. Now, I'm not recommending you go whipping these things around, but I really appreciate how it flies in the face of the iPad's and Transformer Infinity's luxury tablet design. It's actually more appropriate for families willing to share the device, but we'll get to how Google plans to make that easier a bit later.

Josh Miller/CNET

Manufactured by Samsung, the all-black tablet bears a passing resemblance to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, and like that tablet, its bezels are wide. The side bezels, thanks to the inclusion of dual, front-facing speaker grilles, are especially so. Though some may prefer thinner bezels, the wider ones here make the tablet easier to hold in two hands. Your hands do cover the speakers if held in landscape mode, but since the speaker grille is also really long -- spanning about 5.5 inches of the tablet's 6.9-inch height -- there's plenty of room for sound to get through. Also, if you're holding it while listening to something, you'll likely have headphones on.

Google keeps things simple for physical features. On the left edge is a headphone jack and Micro-USB charging/data port. In the left corner of the top edge sit the power/sleep button and volume rocker. Alone, on the right edge is a Micro-HDMI port, with a magnetic Pogo Pin charger on the bottom edge.

Josh Miller/CNET

Along the top of the tablet's back is a textured strip that feels like a refinement of the Nexus 7's back texture material. Within that strip (which is also removable) is a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera next to an LED flash and microphone. On the front, in the middle of the top bezel, is the tablet's front-facing 1.9-megapixel camera and ambient light sensor. On the back, right in middle, is a large, embossed Nexus logo above a smaller Samsung one.

The Nexus 10 isn't a sexy tablet, but it's the one above all current 10-inch tablets I'd rather hold in my hands.

Hardware features
The Nexus 10 is the first tablet to house Samsung's 1.7GHz dual-core Exynos 5250 CPU. It uses a Mali T-604 as its graphics processor and has 2GB of RAM. The Exynos 5250 was built using the Cortex-A15 process and is one of the first tablet CPUs to truly rival Apple's A5 and A6 family, purely from a specs perspective. It also supports 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and NFC (near-field communication). There's also a gyroscope, a barometer, an accelerometer, and a digital compass.

Android 4.0, the second
If you've seen Android 4.1 on the Nexus 7, visually you'll have a good idea of what to expect from 4.2. It has the same controlled and focused feel that so far only the Nexus 7 has played host to on the tablet front. It's less intimidating to the uninitiated than the typical Android tablet interface and feels less constrained than its original implementation on the Nexus 7.

Josh Miller/CNET

The now-familiar tray on the bottom of the home screen is, by default, filled with Google services apps such as Play, Music, Books, YouTube, and Magazines. There's also a folder housing Chrome as well as Google Maps, Google Plus, Gmail, and other services. Directly in the middle of the tray is the apps button. Swiping up from the home button and across the apps button takes you to Google Now, Google's predictive personalized helper.

Google Now uses voice recognition to field queries and displays information such as the current weather, local bus schedules, and nearby restaurants you may be interested in. The thought is that Google Now will give you information when you need it. If it's 5 p.m. and you're about to leave work, it will conceivably update you with traffic information without you having to fetch it. The information would just appear in Google Now at the right time. In my experience, Google Now rarely feels like a useful feature and only recently does it seem to track my history across devices. I'm still willing to give it a chance, but would love to see its benefits be more clearly outlined in future versions. Right now it feels kind of separate from everything else and would benefit from better integration with the OS.

Josh Miller/CNET

The new new
There are quite a few new features in 4.2; some interesting and useful, others just kind of cool. First, the gesture type feature is Google's native OS answer to Swype. I'm not a Swype user, but I was impressed by gesture type's ability to accurately interpret my finger sliding and determine, for the most part, what I wanted to type. It did, however, have trouble with the word "badass," which is kind of unacceptable to me.

Tablet settings can now be accessed much quicker. Simply swipe down from the top-right corner to reveal a tray of shortcuts including brightness, Wi-Fi settings, general settings, battery life, airplane mode, and so on.

Josh Miller/CNET

Magnification attempts to take advantage of the screen's high resolution. By enabling it in settings and tapping the screen three times in quick succession, assets on the screen will magnify in the section where you tapped. This is different from zooming, which scales images and text and applies anti-aliasing to smooth things out. Magnify simply makes things bigger. It's a nice feature for those with poor eyesight, but I was disappointed by the lack of anti-aliasing.

Daydreams is essentially an interactive screensaver that plays when the tablet is asleep and charging. You can choose to display a clock, colors, jelly beans, or, my favorite implementation, Google Currents. Stories from your feed will slowly scroll across the screen, and tapping any of them opens the story in the Currents app.

Josh Miller/CNET

Gmail gets a new design and a new, awesome feature. Awesome to me, at least. When viewing your in-box, you can now swipe messages away to archive them. As a person who gets a lot of spam in his inbox, this well-implemented addition is one of those details that seems small on paper, but makes a huge difference in your experience.

When it was first announced, Miracast was listed as one of the Nexus 10's key features. Since then, Google's pulled back from that support and currently supports Miracast only in its Nexus 4 smartphone. Unfortunately, there has been no word from Google on when or if Miracast support for the Nexus 10 will ever be announced.

Josh Miller/CNET

Multi screen
Multi Screen implements users accounts in Android 4.2. Simply add a new user from the Settings>Users menu and follow the steps to setup an additional user account. New user accounts and all content on those accounts can be deleted by the tablet owner (the primary account) at any time. Also, any other user accounts on the tablet can accept updated app permissions on behalf of the additional account.

To switch to a new user you're required to enter the lock screen, select the user icon, and then unlock the tablet. This is a less elegant solution than the Nook HD's implementation of profiles which allows you to simply tap the user account at the top of the screen, select your new user, and watch your content change to the new user's content before your eyes.

Also, the Nook HD lets you to set up multiple child and adult profiles, allowing parents to have more than one administrative account. As far as I can tell, only one administrative account per tablet is allowed in Android 4.2.

Lock screen
"More information on lock screens!" is what Android fans have demanded for years. Actually, I don't know if anyone's ever said that, but it's what Google is delivering anyway. Now you can add multiple e-mail in-boxes, calendars, and clocks to the lock screen. You can also add a widget called "What's this song?," which is a song identifier added to Android in 4.0, now quickly available on your lock screen.

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.

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