Nexus 7 2013 Australian Review: Unstoppably Good

Over a year after its release, the 2012 Nexus 7 was still the best small tablet on the market. Finally, another tablet has come to usurp the throne, and amazingly, it's the second coming of our favourite tablet. Meet the incredible 2013 Nexus 7 tablet from Google and Asus.

More: Nexus 7 2013 Australian Pricing (And Where To Get It)

What Is It?

The 2013 Nexus 7 is the follow-up to the wildly successful small Nexus tablet from last year.

This new Nexus 7, still built by Asus, is packing a quad-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage all compactly living underneath a 7-inch 1920x1200 screen at 323 ppi protected by Corning Gorilla Glass.

For the first time too, the Nexus 7 is packing a rear-facing camera which clocks in at 5-megapixels. That compliments the existing 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera meant for video calls and Google+ Hangouts.

The new Nexus 7 is available not from the Google Play Store just yet, but through retailers like JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith and Harvey Norman, plus a handful of smaller retailers. The 16GB Wi-Fi version costs $299, while the 32GB Wi-Fi model is $339. No sign yet of a SIM-equipped version; for now, you'll have to stick to a 2012 model if you want that.

Update: It's worth noting that the Nexus 7 has been accused of having some pretty serious Wi-Fi and GPS issues, but to be honest, we didn't notice these problems in our week-long review period. That's not to say they don't exist for some users, it's to say we didn't see them. Just for people asking.

What's Good?

This thing is as good as a Nexus has ever been. It's fast, it's smooth, it's undistilled Google-goodness in seven beautiful inches that you can slip into your pocket when you're done and be off with. It's the closest thing we've ever seen to a perfect gadget.

The design has been modernised to make it look like next-gen hardware with Google and Asus ditching the rippled back design in favour of an embossed NEXUS logo, which is way better. Also, it's thinner and more narrow than ever, making it look like exactly what it is: a really portable mini-tablet.

That thinness doesn't cost anything, however: we still have great internal hardware, as much storage as we ever had and a screen that makes the competition look weak.

Speaking of the screen: thank God they fixed that. It was the worst part of the old device and it's now the best part of the new one. That beautiful 7-inch 1920x1200 panel at 323 pixels per inch is easier on the eyes than Scarlett Johansson.

Most interestingly, the 2013 Nexus 7 while unassuming to look at, actually benchmarks as the fastest tablet we've ever had in our labs. It blitzed the Geekbench 2 tests to come out the other side with a score of 2530. To put that in perspective, the closest device to that score is the hardcore, weaponised Samsung-built Google Nexus 10 tablet we tested last year which clocks in at 2433. (To be fair, our benchmark of the Nexus 10 saw it score 2533, but the 2430 number comes from the official Geekbench 2 charts). The next fastest device is the Nexus 4 at 2032, followed by the Galaxy Note II at 1928. The moral of the story is that if you want a fast device for cheap, buy Nexus.

The battery is great and will last you for days with medium-use, and the speakers are loud enough to keep you and a friend entertained with whatever you're listening to. Don't go listening to it in a very crowded environment, however: that's where you'll need your headphones.

Android 4.2 is also a delight on the Nexus 7. It still kind of feels like a stretched out version of the smartphone operating system when you use your apps (probably because it is), but it's faster and more responsive than ever, packing in the best of Google without any of the bloatware other manufacturers cram in.

What's Bad?

To be fair, our biggest problem with this tablet isn't really a problem at all. It's a concern.

The reason the Nexus 7 was so great last time was the longevity of the materials. For example, the NVIDIA Tegra 3 had one of its first outings on the 2012 Nexus 7, and paired with other fantastic specs in a great design at an unbeatable price.

The concerning thing about the Nexus 7 is that it's beating heart has already been run around more than a few tracks in the last year. We first saw the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor outed in the LG Optimus G, and while we're not dissing its power — clearly from the benchmarks it can hold its own — it might get a bit long in the tooth a few months from now rather than a year from now when the new one (hopefully) supersedes it.

We can be assured that Google and Asus were aware of the slightly older processor — probably to bring the bill of materials down to make the tablet cheaper — by pairing it with the fantastic Adreno 320 GPU chip powering graphics at 400MHz. Turbines to speed, indeed.

The display is fantastic on the Nexus 7, but we can't help feel that the new bezel design gets in the way somewhat. I wouldn't call it overtly intrusive, but it merely feels bigger than it should be on a device this size.

While the battery life on the new Nexus 7 is as good as ever, we did notice some strange power draws every now and then. Setting up the tablet in particular is a time where the battery quickly plummeted from 85 per cent down to 70 per cent in a matter of about half an hour. The power drain levelled off after that, but it's interesting to see how the processor bursts out to draw juice from the all important battery when doing stuff like updating apps with a maxed out screen and music playing.

Finally, we all need to be honest with ourselves: that rear-facing camera is just there so people can tick a box that says "I have a camera on my tablet". It's useful for flipping the image during a Hangout to show someone what you're looking at, but it's not exactly a top-quality shooter.

Should You Buy It?

If you're in the market for a smaller Android tablet, you absolutely can't go past the 2013 Nexus 7. It's the perfect example of how the best gets better.

The most important question, as asked in the comments below, is "should I upgrade from the 2012 model?". The answer is yes, but only if you want a better screen and more power. If you’ve found either of them lacking on the 2012 model you’ll be thrilled with the new one, and it’s cheap enough that it’s not a huge dent in your bank balance.


Comments

    Biggest question: Any point upgrading to this from the 2012 model?

      The screen and the power. If you've found either of them lacking on the 2012 model you'll be thrilled with the new one, and it's cheap enough that it's not a huge dent in your bank balance.

        How much is it? I don't think I saw a price?

          The first model was $249 from Dick Smith, so I would expect this to be priced around the same.

          from the article "The 16GB Wi-Fi version costs $299, while the 32GB Wi-Fi model is $339."

        If you've found either of them lacking??? The 2012 nexus drags after the first update to JellyBean

      IMO if you have a 2012 model there's no real reason to upgrade to this. Mine is still zipping along quite nicely. If you ask me you should probably save your money and go for the 2014 model instead. $300 isn't really worth it for a better screen and a rear facing camera.

        However, I should add that if you DON'T already have a 2012 model, get this. Now.

        I agree 4.3 or whatever got rid of the ram leaking.

    Hate the thick bezel in both models. Why can't they minimize it? It annoys me every time I look at it.

      It's probably to keep your palms on the bezel and to stop your palm prints off the screen. At least, that's how it works for me.

      Yeah the bezel is there so you don't cover the screen too much when holding it, but I do agree so somewhat that it's a bit too big and could probably be reduced a bit to make the screen itself a bit larger.

      Its function over form.. unlike another particular tablet manufacturer

    My only other question is, what do I do with my old Nexus 7 once I upgrade? I'd feel bad just leaving it in a drawer because it was such a trooper of a device.

      I use XBMC on my HTPC and use the nexus as the remote control. Works well, that's one use.

        This guy, he knows.

        xbmc remote, unified remote, nzb utility. All I need is a cold drink and I could stay on the couch all day.

          Yatse is the best remote app I've found on Android for XBMC, its so much better functionality wise than the official app.

            That's twice I've heard that, so I'm investigating.

            Not sure what functionality is needed, but regardless.....

            Thanks

      Well Fathers Day just passed so you could have given it to your dad and bought yourself the new model. Otherwise eBay?

        Just figured out how to mount it in the 2-din slot in my car. Problem solved. :)

          Nice work. Care to share a pic of your handy work?

      use it to call in air strikes and as a map for BF4 using smart glass?

    Is there any possibility that they'll be selling the LTE version in australia, or are they only sticking to the wifi models for now?

      When I asked at JB when they were getting them in the told me the price as well and mentioned the LTE version. So I think we are getting it.

      I bought a LTE version locally from a company called MLN on Friday afternoon.
      And looking at their page they still have stock.

    If you’re in the market for a smaller Android tablet, you absolutely can’t go past the 2013 Nexus 7

    @lukehopewell, how does this compare to the other small tablet, the ipad mini? I know the mini's not up to scratch spec wise, but which do you prefer?

      You just answered your own question didn't you? The iPad Mini is not up to scratch specs wise. Not even close. Even the 2012 Nexus 7 trounces it. The *only* reason you'd want an iPad mini is if you're already invested in the Apple ecosystem.

        I can read a specs list, so yes I understand the differences specs wise. We wouldn't have reviews if we could evaluate completely on spec sheets though. I asked because it wasn't mentioned in the review, and the mini is the closest competitor it has right now.

          Yes. More Apple references in non-Apple reviews please.

            No, more competition comparison, because as consumers we need to know how it scratches up and the best user experience. Less sarcastic comments and more focusing on what the technology provides.

    Not sure if I've missed it but when is it coming on to Google Play Aus?

      Retailers were having them shipped last week so they should be getting them this week.
      Which likely means it will appear on the Google Play Aus store sometime this week.

    Question: I've got my 2010 model setup the way i love it. I don't find any issue with the screen. But i don't mind upgrading. How can i import all my settings, layouts, apps, etc easily without installing everything manually and configuring my homescreens?

      Try one of the backup apps available on the google play store, maybe Titanium Backup if your tablet is rooted. If it isn't, then just search up backup on the play store and you should find a bunch of apps that are mostly pretty good. Just use one to backup everything, then transfer the backup file onto your new tablet and use the app to restore the backup.

    "That beautiful 7-inch 1920×1200 panel at 323 pixels per inch is easier on the eyes than Scarlett Johansson. "

    That's probably one of the nerdiest sentences we can come up with.

      The only thing easier on the eyes than Scarlett Johansson is Scarlett Johansson.

        Hello. Not sure how much sense that last comment made.

    But, does this one do video output?

      Looks like it can via the micro USB port but may require an additional adapter (MHL I think).

    Just a quick note for everyone that you can get the 16GB version from Kogan.com.au for $279 which is $20 less than Harvey/JB Hi-Fi.

    Sorry about previous comment; the $279 doesn't include shipping (which is somehow $22.99) so will be more expensive!

    Don't buy it, it's not Apple... Fanboy:)

      Now back to the barn you go little iSheep. Off to the slaughterhouse in the next few weeks. baaa.

    I bought the 2012 model for about $152 last month off ebay in near new condition, with case and it does everything I want. It's my first tablet and I'm enjoying gaming on it. I haven't run its battery flat yet.

    Oh my god, what is it with these huge ugly bezels. If I bought this, if be tempted to put it on a band saw and cut an inch of every side. Why bring out a small screen and then shove on huge bezels. That's just stupidity at its worst.

      The bezels look bigger than they really are in the pics *because* it's a small screen. The side bezels are about a centimetre and the bottom is around 2-2.5cm. This is actually a good size to grip it without triggering the touch screen by accident.

      I have a smart phone and tablet with much narrower bezels than the Nexus 7 has and accidental triggering of the touch screen is a real pain in the neck.

      From an engineering point of view, the bezels probably help give them room for unimportant things like the battery and CPU - remembering the new model is much thinner than the old one.

      If you are trying to read a book or magazine, you need a decent size bezel to be able to hold the device without touching the screen. That said, the larger bezels should have been on the left and right sides, rather than the top and bottom, because it is easier to read a book in portrait mode.

    You surely mean that it's distilled or undiluted - undistilled is not a word and spellcheck should have told you that. If it were a word, it would mean impure or non-concentrated, neither of which seem relevant your glowing review.

      Agree with you about the usage, but undistilled is, in fact, a word.

    There is a 4G one that Harvey Norman sells. Just isnt in the press yet - Harvey norman Insider

    If you run previous model flat, then you are in trouble. I hope they fix this in new model.

      Why?

        It is hard to recharge, need to read several articles to do it.
        By default it goes to not enough battery<=>reboot cycle.

    Could we get an article on best uses for the Nexus? I am a recent iOS convert and loving it but feel like I am not getting the most out of Android as far as customisation or apps. The only thing that stands out as far as difference is the available number of apps iOS has.

    My brother in the UK just got one and loves it, I'd consider going that route if my ipad were to die

    My IT son has made the switch from apple, not just for the price.

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