An extraordinary tablet that improves on the original in every way, once again showing rivals how it’s done.
The 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, but Asus has slimmed down the side bezels, making the 2013 model 6mm narrower than the previous version. As a result, the top and bottom bezels feel oddly oversized by comparison. However, you quickly become accustomed to the shape, and it’s hard to complain about getting the same amount of screen in a 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 looking for an Android tablet, this is the thinnest and lightest we’ve seen. This doesn’t mean it’s flimsy, however: there’s very little flex to the back, and scratch-resistant Corning glass covers the front.
This is even more impressive when you discover the new Nexus 7 is drawing around 40% more pixels than the 2012 model. A new 1200 x 1920 IPS display represents the highest resolution we’ve seen on a compact tablet, delivering a display density of 323ppi – much higher than even the 246ppi of Apple’s full-sized iPad.
This makes black-on-white text, and vector-based apps such as Google 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 1111:1. The colour temperature on our test model – 7120K – is slightly on the cool side, but it didn’t suck the warmth out of the picture. The only real catch is that, as with the iPad, a screen this sharp exposes the shortcomings of the countless low-resolution JPEGs you’ll find online.
Round the back of the device, you’ll find a new 5-megapixel autofocus camera to partner the fixed-focus, 1.2-megapixel front-facing one. Image quality is a little cold and noisy, but it’s fine for snapshots.
There’s also support for Bluetooth 4, SlimPort HDMI (although compatible adapters aren’t yet widely available) and Qi wireless charging. As before, GPS, NFC and dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi are included.
With all this hardware stuffed into such a slim case, you might expect power consumption to be a weak point. But while the rating of the Nexus 7’s internal battery – 3950mAh – is below average, the device lasted 11hrs 48mins in our standard battery tests. That’s 1hr 10mins short of the Asus Fonepad, but well ahead of most other compacts. The 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 slot. The speakers are clear, but weedy, especially at the low end. The power and volume buttons sit almost flush with the case, making them awkward to press. And although the price matches that of the original Nexus 7, it’s not such great value any more – especially when the Asus Memo Pad HD 7 can be found for under $200.
What you get for the money, however, is a superlative piece of hardware. The 2013 Nexus 7 is the fastest, lightest, thinnest, narrowest, highest-PPI compact Android tablet on the market. Also, since it’s a Nexus, you get a beautifully clean Android experience, with the promise of indefinite future support.
If you want simply a cheap, capable and unfussy tablet, the Memo Pad HD 7 remains a tempting bargain; if you’re in the market for something more elegant, more powerful and more future-proof, the new Nexus 7 is irresistible.