The original Nexus 7 was merely a bargain, a good-enough tablet at a great price. The new Nexus 7 is a downright steal. It's the best 7-inch tablet, period. Google has redefined budget tablet so that it no longer refers to cheap-feeling, sub-$200 devices. You can now grab a svelte, premium 7-inch tablet with a high-resolution screen, wireless charging, quad-core processor, and 2GB of RAM for a measly $229.
The revamped Nexus 7 is more than just the next stock Android gadget offering from Google. It's the company's re-do of what it should have done right the first time. The search (and maps, and mail, and...) giant, with its ginormous, seemingly all-inclusive Android ecosystem, has finally entered the premium tablet market.
Easier to hold, faster than ever
The first thing I noticed about the new Nexus 7 is that, despite sharing the same name as its predecessor, it's an entirely different product. The previous-generation Nexus 7 looks antiquated lying next to this shiny new toy.
The new Nexus 7 is easier to hold—the bezel is 3mm thinner on each side, so you can comfortably cradle it in one hand while using the other to grip the handrail on your train ride to work. One-handed use is much easier this time around, though I would have loved to see some sort of option to shift virtual buttons to the side of the screen where my thumb naturally falls. (LG's Optimus UI implements this functionality in the dialer application on the company's Optimus line of Android phones.)
Google ditched Nvidia's Tegra 3 processor this time around, in favor of Qualcomm's 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro. If the name sounds familiar, that's because this is the same processor that the LG-manufactured Nexus 4 handset contains, essentially making the new Nexus 7 a slightly bigger Nexus 4. The Nexus 7 certainly feels much faster than its predecessor. Games and apps launch quickly and multitasking between the Home screen and Google Now is a cinch. I noticed some stuttering on relatively simple tasks like posting a photo to Facebook from the image gallery—but that could be the fault of the apps themselves.
Google posits that its newly revamped Nexus 7 can support up to 9 hours of continuous use away from a charger. In our own battery tests, the Nexus 7 lasted 8 hours, 47 minutes on a single charge while repeatedly playing back a locally stored, high-definition video. That's a bit less than what Google advertises, and much less than the 10 hours, 12 minutes that last year's Nexus 7 managed. Perhaps the difference is due to the bigger battery pack and lower-resolution screen on last year's model. Though the Nexus 7's battery life results are average for a tablet of its size, direct comparisons are difficult, as the iPad mini and the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD don't have high-resolution screens.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.