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Review: Google Nexus 10

Allan Swann
January 9, 2013

Put simply, the Nexus 10 is the first tablet to match up to the iPad.

The phrase ‘iPad killer’ has been around for as long as the iPad – an oxymoron since there has yet to be any true challenger to the industry’s flagship tablet PC.

With the Nexus 10, Apple’s two biggest enemies, Samsung and Google, have come closer than ever before. They may not deal Apple’s dominance of the tablet market a fatal blow, but with a price tag £10 less than the cheapest iPad, but they will tear chunks out of it ‘ as long as the Google Play store can produce enough high quality software to challenge the Apple App Store’s dominance.

 

RUBBERY DESIGN

One of the first things that strikes you about the Nexus 10 is the build quality. At first feel, the rubberised back might not exude the same class as the iPad’s slick back plate, but it still feels solid and a lot less slippery than most other tablets. It generally feels well put together, with no bending, warping or fragility. It is a tad heavy (603g), but this is still lighter than a comparable iPad (652g). It’s a lot more reassuring than the featherweight fragility of Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S3.

In all honesty, the Nexus 10 just doesn’t feel like a Samsung device ‘ which is a good thing. Though many of the South Korean manufacturer’s handsets have been great pieces of kit in terms of performance, features and design, their bodies are generally a weak point ‘ so its reassuring that Samsung has made build quality a priority with the Nexus 10.

The Nexus 10’s rubbery body may not be to everyone’s liking

 

 

FINALLY A RIVAL TO APPLE’S RETINA DISPLAY

That quality really comes through on the Nexus’ screen. Running at a resolution of 2560×1600 and with a pixel density of 300, the screen on the Nexus 10 is actually better specced than the much vaunted ‘Retina Display’ on the latest iPads.

It’s crisp, sharp, and high contrast, and has a good enough viewing angle to watch a movie with the tablet sat flat on a table in front of you. Films are vibrant and clear and backed up by meaty speakers, even reading magazines or news websites is easy on the eye.

If I was looking for something to criticise, it would be that darkest black isn’t quite as deep as on some Nokia Windows Phone handsets, or arguably some iPads, but it’s barely noticeable and makes little difference to how much of a pleasure the viewing experience is.

The screen is also highly responsive, good enough that, in combination with a well laid-out virtual keyboard, I have been able to type out pretty much this whole review on the Nexus 10 without an with an error rate barely different from a full sized desktop keyboard.

 

PROCESSING POWERHOUSE

Behind the screen the Nexus 10 is packing a lot of power. Its dual core processor is top end, though not significantly out ahead of other tablets. In my benchmarking tests it still tends to score slightly lower than the latest iPad 4s. However, the 2GB of RAM – double what’s available on the iPad – makes a difference. There’s no stuttering, apps load up quickly and the Nexus 10 has no trouble switching between apps or running them concurrently.

The 5 mega-pixel camera isn’t amazing, but it gets the job done and Google has added some nice additional features. Touching the screen in the camera mode brings up a tool wheel allowing you to add filters and make other adjustments. There is also a panoramic mode, which may not be able to join up pictures perfectly, but does produce interesting 360-degree pictures. The 1.9 mega-pixel camera front facing camera is more than adequate for video calls.

One piece of hardware the Nexus 10 is lacking is a 3G or 4G mobile connection. It’s a Wi-Fi-only device, but demand for 3G tablets has proved limited and tethering the Nexus 10 to another mobile is hassle free and fast.   There are also good odds a mobile-enabled version will turn up at some point given the recent launch of a 3G version of the smaller Nexus 7.

The lack of mobile connectivity is also likely to have a positive impact on the battery. Google claims you can get around 9 hours usage out of the Nexus 10. From personal experience that sounds about right, and I was rarely taken surprise by a depleted battery. The Nexus 10 does however take a while to charge, it needs over an hour to get to full power. The latest iPads are far, far worse, so this isn’t a terribly bad proposition ‘ however, iPad batteries do last pass the 10 hour mark.

However, like the iPad the memory is non expandable via SD cards ‘ you are stuck with the hard drive storage you’re given. Disappointing, as this has been a key selling point for a lot of higher end Android devices.

 

ANDROID JELLYBEAN 4.2

The Nexus 10 uses the latest Jelly Bean version of Android – with no skin overlain. Many people are fans of skins such as HTC Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz, but I can’t see any disadvantages to the more vanilla flavoured version. It’s clean and functional, and a huge improvement visually on previous versions.

It also has one major advantage in that owners of Google devices can expect to get new software updates as soon as they are available, rather than having to wait for a manufacturer to make sure their tweaks are compatible.

Overall, the OS experience on the Nexus 10 is great. The combination of a beefy processor, lots of RAM and the impact of Google’s Project Butter software tweaks mean it’s one of the smoothest experiences you’ll find.

 

Multiple user accounts is a long awaited addition

INTEROPERATING ANDROID DEVICES A KEY ADVANTAGE

Setting up the Nexus 10 is easy. If you have an existing Android device linked to your Google account, then the 10 happily takes settings such as Wi-Fi passwords and will download (most of) your apps for you. Google’s services, such as Drive, news reader Currents and Google Earth, all work especially smoothly.

These features are important. Interoperability between devices is becoming a must. Sure, if you have an iPhone, then the device which will work best with it is an iPad. But there are a hell of a lot more people out there with Android handsets and for them, the Nexus 10 offers a similarly compatible experience with their phone.

 

STILL MISSING KEY TABLET APPS AND MAGAZINES

However, the range of apps on offer is one area where Apple still has the edge – in particular when it comes to tablet-optimised apps. There are plenty of apps on Google Play and most I’ve used worked beautifully on the Nexus 10. However, there were a couple of apps I use regularly, such as Flipboard, that simply aren’t available for the device yet.

Google has also recently launched a magazine store for the UK, but while on the iPad publications like Wired are full of interactive graphics and audio, everything on the Google store is currently a simple replica of the print versions.

The apps debate is a classic chicken or egg issue. Tablet app developers won’t pay attention to Android until there are more Android tablets in users’ hands, but fewer users will buy Android tablets until there are apps to justify purchasing an Android tablet. Microsoft is having the same problem with its Surface tablet (reviewed last issue).

While it is a mild annoyance, I don’t expect it to last long. The Nexus 10 and its little brother the Nexus 7 are likely to sell well over Christmas, and that should encourage developers to pay more attention to Android.

The Google Play store still lacks a lost of magazines; those that are there aren’t interactive like Apple’s are.

 

 

ANOTHER FAILED iPAD KILLER?

The iPad has been the tablet of choice, practically the only tablet that people really want, for so long, it was starting to seem like there would never be a decent challenger. There have been so many failed ‘iPad killers’, such Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Microsoft’s Surface, it became difficult so see where a decent non-Apple tablet was going to come from.

To me, the Nexus 10 has finally solved that problem. Its build quality, design, operating system and power make it a useful, enjoyable device to use.   I’m not saying the iPad will be on life support any time soon   – but for the first time the decision about whether to buy the Apple device or the Nexus 10 comes down to just a handful of close run things; namely, your taste, the quality of the software ecosystem and finally, price.

Personally, I like the look and feel of the Nexus 10 over the iPad, but Apple’s devices have a proven allure, and many buyers will still prefer the iPad’s design.

Which ecosystem you are currently tied to may have a bigger impact on your choice. There are significant advantages to making sure you use the same OS for multiple devices ‘ for Apple users, your apps, saved games, calendars and alerts will all sync across your smartphone, laptop and tablet devices seamlessly ‘ a key advantage. For those with an Android device, those same synergies across devices will hopefully start to apply with the Nexus 10.

The final issue, price, is where the Nexus 10 really has the edge. At £319 for the 16GB version, it’s £10 cheaper than the cheapest 10-inch tablet from Apple, the 20-month old iPad 2. It’s also £80 cheaper than the comparable version of the most recent iPad. If you’re an Android owner who isn’t obsessed with the Apple aesthetic, this tablet may be for you.

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