• User Review: Samsung (Google) Nexus 10 Android Tablet

    Google Nexus 10 Android TabletWhen Google launched the Nexus 7 – (the budget 7″ tablet made by ASUS), the most surprising fact was the price point. Given that it was Google’s official 7″ tablet, it had to be a capable device, yet was listed at only £160 (for the 16GB version). The price point certainly excited me – not because I wanted a 7″ tablet (having spent some time using a Kindle Fire at work, I was pretty sure I did not), but because it paved the way for a similarly capable 10″ tablet at an equally competitive price.

    Then came the Google Nexus 10. A dual-core CPU, quad-core GPU, 300 PPI display… It was never going to be cheap. When announced, I considered it beyond my price-point for a tablet given my thoughts on what I would use a tablet for (see an earlier review of the Kogan Agora). The 16GB version of the tablet retails for £320 (+£10 P&P) which is £80 cheaper than the ‘equivalent’ iPad and the 32GB version retails for £390, which is £90 cheaper than the ‘equivalent’ iPad.

    At this specification, Google seems to be encouraging developers by producing an incredible device with an incredible screen at what some would consider to be an affordable price. I don’t really want this review to be a comparison between this and other tablet devices. This is more a review of how this device performs and what is different about this device to others.

    It would seem as though Google is aiming this tablet very specifically as a media device above other uses. This theory is supported by a number of features, such as the 16:9 screen ratio, the stereo speakers on either side of the screen in landscape as well as the fact that the front-facing camera is centred when the tablet is held horizontally. Add to this the incredible screen which is fantastic for watching videos on – discussed further below.

    Device Linking

    Before diving into the review, I just thought I would mention something about device linking. When the device was ordered off the Google Nexus site, there was a checkbox asking whether to link the device to my account. Some have reported that with this checkbox checked, the device ships with your google email address already registered, just requiring the password to be entered to get started on the device. This was not my experience though. I had to enter all information, including my Google email address manually. The Nexus 10 was delivered in a sealed padded envelope but the seals on the box containing the Nexus 10 had previously been cut. All protective material was still in place though (virtually covering the entire tablet).

    As a side note, a recent purchase of the Nexus 7 did not offer me the option to link to my Google account. When the box turned up containing the tablet, the outer box had already been opened but the actual box containing the Nexus 7 still had the seals intact.

    The Screen

    At 300 pixels per inch (ppi), this tablet has the highest resolution screen of any tablet device on the market. The closest contender is the current iPad which has a pixel density of 264 ppi. Comparing the two, you would be hard-pressed to see a difference though I much prefer the warmth of the Nexus screen. I have always thought the retina display of the iPads to look a little cool when compared to the iPad 2.

    What is perhaps most relevant about this screen is the fact that there are no other Android tablets on the market at present with a screen which even comes close to the quality of this one. Of the 10″ Android tablets available, the closest competitor is probably either the Samsung Galaxy Tab2 (RRP £300 but retailing for around £240) or the Samsung Galaxy Note (RRP £400 but retailing for around £320). Both of these have pixel densities of roughly half that of the Nexus 10.

       

    The Processor

    The Nexus 10 sports a dual-core CPU and a quad-core GPU (CPU: Dual-core ARM Cortex-A15, GPU: Mali-T604). These are a very similar spec to the processors used in the Apple devices. The power of the processors is not completely consumed by the incredible screen with plenty of processing power left over for apps and games. With everything I have done so far, I have not seen any kind of lagging behaviour from any apps that I have been running.

    The most taxing 3D game I have tried so far is N.O.V.A. 3 – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance which I downloaded on the Galaxy S3 some time ago. Gameplay was very smooth without any jitters. The battery on the tablet lasted very well. I much prefer playing games like this on the tablet as the larger screen makes controlling the game a lot easier.

    WiFi

    WiFi deserves a quick mention due to the inclusion of MIMO – giving what Google claim to be WiFi speeds up to 4x faster than standard WiFi. The reason I think this needs a mention is the fact that the speed at which pages load is noticeably faster than on other devices including quad-core phones such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII.

    Battery Life

    The battery life is perfectly respectable. During normal use of the device, I have not needed to recharge the battery more than once every few days. I have found iPads (specifically the iPad 2) to last longer on battery but have also never actually had accounts syncing to the cloud on a regular basis, or had email set up etc. As a result, I am unable to make a direct comparison between devices. Further, the iPad 2 does not compare in terms of processing power, and as a result I would not expect it to consume as much battery power. Compared to some of the 7″ tablets (such as the Kindle Fire & Kindle Fire HD), the battery lasts a lot longer – but that is expected as the battery should be a lot larger.

    Feel

    The Nexus 10 feels very solid – especially in comparison to cheaper options such as the Agora (but you would expect that). The back of the device is made from a slightly rubbery-feeling plastic (meaning it does not slip easily out of my hand). The rounded back from the edges feel comfortable when held. The tablet is not light and whilst not uncomfortable to hold, it can start to hurt the wrist if held for too long. The touchscreen is very smooth and resistance free. It’s not like anything I have felt before, and for the most part is lovely. I have found on occasion though, attempting a press can result in an accidental tiny swipe gesture because of the glossy screen.

    As with all touch-based devices, fingerprints are something impossible to avoid. In the case of the Nexus 10, there are visible prints all over the back of the tablet as well as the front. This is something I see less of on the aluminium backs of the iPads.

    Android Operating System

    Jelly Bean Update (4.2):

    The Nexus 10 is the first tablet to come with the Jelly Bean update (Android 4.1 is also called Jelly Bean). On switching mine on, one of the first things it did once connected to WiFi was to update itself (twice). Other tablets (such as the Samsungs linked to above) will get updates to Jelly Bean (4.1) but as the version of Android they are running has been customised, the updates will come some time after they are available on the Nexus 10.

    New Features:

    The Jelly Bean update is really an update of performance improvements on previous versions of Android. There are, however, some notable changes. The most obvious (and one of the main reasons that I chose the Nexus 10) is the ability to have multiple user profiles on the device. Whilst is may be quite likely for households to have multiple cheaper devices, when a tablet costs as much as the Nexus 10 or the iPad, households are far more likely to only have one, which will be shared among different users. The Nexus 10 allows multiple (and separate) user profiles which can easily be switched between.

    As with other Android devices, it is still possible to have multiple Google accounts linked to the same user profile though, should that be something you require.

    Stability:

    Compared to some devices I have used/reviewed, the Nexus 10 is very stable and does not generally suffer crashes. It has crashed on me a few times; twice locking up and rebooting itself and once requiring me to hard re-boot it (pressing the power button for over 7 seconds). On other occasions I have experienced app crashes causing the apps themselves to terminated by the operating system. This has also only happened a couple of times, which when compared to my experience with the Kogan Agora is fine. No crashes would be ideal (it would seem as though iOS is still a more stable OS – although my use of it has not been as involved as of Android devices).

    Apps

    As with every other registered Android device, the Nexus 10 benefits from the Google Play store and the thousands of apps available to the devices (Google requires registration of devices by manufacturers before the Play store is enabled). I have found that with the high resolution of the screen, there are some apps and games which, whilst previously available, are not currently available for download. This is most likely as a result of the high resolution screen.

    Other apps, such as BBC iPlayer are not available. It seems as though the BBC are particularly cautious about enabling iPlayer on devices (perhaps they need to test it on every device before they enable it for that device). The videos available from the browser cannot be played either as the BBC Media Player app is also not compatible with the device.

    Other apps, such as Netflix work incredibly well and play videos without any difficulty. Interestingly, when connected via the Micro HDMI cable, the videos play both on the tablet as well as the TV it is connected to.

    Skype worked straight away with video calling supported (some early users of the Nexus 10 had reported being warned of possible compatibility issues with the front-facing camera).

    Camera

    Personally, I don’t consider a tablet something which should be used to take photos on a regular basis. Seeing the numbers of people holding iPads aloft at various events makes me feel a little sick. As a result, it does not sadden me that the camera is 5MP compared to the 8MP found in the S3. Nor does it worry me that the quality of the photos on the S3 are noticeably higher than than the tablet. Having said that, the images are perfectly usable should you ever find yourself in a position to take photos on the tablet. The flash is also a nice touch.

    One thing the tablet features which my phone does not is the ability to take panoramic photos and combine them into a number of different results (including small planets). This is something which in my tests indoors did not work at all well. It is hopefully something that I will be able to test a little more and to perhaps be able to include a gallery in this section of the review.

    At the time of writing, I have not tested video recording – really for similar reasons – I have a mobile phone which does the job perfectly well and probably better than the tablet will be capable of.

    Ports

    There are very few ports on the outside of the tablet. This includes no MicroSD slot to add to the memory of the tablet – something which the vast majority of tablets and phones these days have (including the cheap Kogan Agora). What you do get are the USB port (which is also where the tablet is charged from), an audio headphones port and a Micro HDMI port. This is the third type of HDMI output that I have come across on portable devices and required the purchase of yet another cable. Thankfully I’ve got a very effective 5 port HDMI switch.

    Despite the lack of ports, it does not mean that this device is limited in capability. It is possible to use an adaptor to turn it into a USB host, as well as to use the NFC beam (if you have another compatible device) to transfer data wirelessly.

    Accessories

    As this is a new device, there are currently very few accessories designed specifically for the Nexus 10. There are a number of devices which are designed to work with portable devices, which i have been able to use alongside though.

    Covers:

    There is an official cover for the Nexus 10, which clips into the back of the tablet (firstly requiring removal of a panel). This is a little fiddley, but presumably gets around infringing patents on the very neat magnetised design available from the iPad 2 onwards. This is further emphasised by the fact that the cover cannot be used as a stand. The cover is not widely available yet though. For the time being, I am transporting mine in a Neoprene netbook case I bought from Poundland.

    Audio Docks:

    There are many audio docks made for iOS devices which allow docking of iPads as well as of iPods and iPhones. As there is no real standard (other than Micro USB, but it can be mounted in different locations and orientations). As a result, to my mind the kind of dock to go for is one which allows wireless connectivity. Having a portable device is somewhat ruined by docking it anyway.

    I only have one Bluetooth-enabled audio dock – The Samsung DA-E670 (which I have previously written a review of). The tablet connects seamlessly to the dock and has no trouble playing music streamed through Google music. (I have tried using the dock over Bluetooth while watching Netflix but found that the audio lagged behind the video constantly).

    With the tablet connected over Bluetooth, I have managed to continue using the tablet seamlessly, including using other Bluetooth devices. One thing to note, is that if while music is playing, the users are switched, music playback will stop. This makes sense though as the other user profile will be set up with a completely different Google account, and therefore a different Google Music account.

    Keyboards:

    As I wish this tablet to be something of a productivity tool, the ability to type large amounts of text is important to me. I have a Belkin Bluetooth keyboard (which I have also previously written a review of) which was under £20 when I bought it on Amazon. Connection to the keyboard was simple, following the keyboards instructions on how to connect devices. The tablet is pretty much the width of the keyboard so sits very well in the stand. I have used the keyboard to type some very long blog posts as well as emails using a variety of devices, including the Nexus 10. Until using it on the Nexus 10, I have not seen any issues of  key presses resulting in the character pressed being repeated on the tablet, but I have seen it on occasion on the Nexus 10.

    Sample Video:

    I’ve taken a few snaps here-and-there on the tablet – perhaps I’ll get round to creating a mini gallery at some point for this review. In the mean time, here is a (shaky) hand-held video of a fish tank.

    I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the quality of the video – the colours are very dull and muted compared with real life. It is perhaps something to do with the light in the tank. I didn’t actually shoot the video for the purposes of this blog, but may as well post it…

     

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