Nexus 7 (2013) reviewThe name hasn’t changed, but the new Nexus 7 looks taller and thinner than last year’s model. Actually, the two devices are the same height, and use identically sized screens; however, Asus has slimmed down the side bezels, making the new model 114mm wide – 6mm less than last year’s model.
This has the slightly unfortunate effect of making the top and bottom bezels feel even bigger than they did before – an effect that’s only exacerbated by Android’s black notification and button bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Still, you quickly become accustomed to the shape, and it’s hard to complain about getting the same amount of screen in a slightly smaller package.
The new Nexus 7 is also lighter, down from 340g to 290g – a palpable 15% reduction in mass over the previous generation – and thinner, measuring only 8.5mm thick.
That isn’t quite as slim as Apple’s 7.2mm iPad mini, but if you’re specifically looking for an Android tablet, this is the thinnest and lightest we’ve seen. Don’t think it’s flimsy, however: there’s very little flex to the back of it, and with scratch-resistant Corning glass covering the front, we’d have no qualms about tossing this tablet into a bag.
There’s good stuff on the inside, too. The 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro is a beast of a processor, delivering much stronger performance than last year’s 1.3GHz Tegra – and it’s here supported by an unusually generous 2GB of RAM, plus a 400MHz Adreno GPU.
This makes flicking around the Android 4.3 interface a stupendously snappy experience, and the full power of the hardware shone through in our benchmarks.
This 3D score is even more impressive when you realise that the 2013 Nexus 7 is drawing around 40% more pixels than the 2012 model. A new 1,920 x 1,200 IPS display represents the highest resolution we’ve seen on a compact tablet, delivering a display density of 323ppi – way higher than the 264ppi of Apple’s Retina iPads.
Page 2 of 2As you’d expect, this makes black-on-white text, and vector-based apps such as Maps, look absolutely pristine. Video content and games look bold and bright, too: we measured a searing maximum brightness of 489cd/m2, and a stark contrast ratio of 1,111:1.
The colour temperature of 7120K on our test model verged slightly on the cool side, but not enough to suck the warmth out of the picture. In fact, our only real problem was that, as with Apple’s iPad, a screen this sharp tends to expose the weaknesses of the countless low-resolution, artefacted JPEGs you’ll find online.
On top of this, the new Nexus 7 brings a new 5-megapixel rear-facing autofocus camera, to partner the fixed-focus 1.2-megapixel front-facing one. Images from the rear camera are a little cold and noisy, but quality is fine for snapshots. You also get support for Bluetooth 4, "SlimPort" HDMI (although compatible adaptors aren’t yet widely available) and Qi wireless charging – plus, as before, GPS, NFC and dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi.
With all this hardware stuffed into such a slim case, you might expect power consumption to be a weak point. The 3,950mAh rating of the internal battery is indeed below average, yet impressively the device lasted 11hrs 48mins in our standard battery tests.
That’s 1hr 10mins short of the Asus Fonepad, and 47 minutes short of theBarnes & Noble Nook HD, but well ahead of most other compacts. For comparison, the original 2012 Nexus 7 managed only 8hrs 48mins.
If you want to find niggles with the Nexus 7, you can. For a start, there’s no microSD card slot. The speakers aren’t very loud, and their low-end response is distinctly lacking. The power and volume buttons at the right-hand side are set almost flush with the case, making them awkward to press. And although the original Nexus 7 seemed like incredible value at the time, the new model looks distinctly premium-priced next to its rivals – especially Barnes & Noble’s £99 8GB Nook HD.
What you get for that premium, however, is a superlative piece of hardware. It’s the fastest, lightest, thinnest, narrowest, highest-DPI compact Android tablet – and because it’s a Nexus, you know the OS will be supported for the foreseeable future, while not getting bogged down by third-party “enhancements”. If you want a cheap and capable tablet, the Nook HD is still a tremendously tempting bargain. If you’re in the market for something more elegant, more capable and more future-proof, however, the new Nexus 7 is more or less irresistible.