By July 27, 2013

Google Nexus 7 2 2013 Android Tablet Initial Impressions Review

I bought the first Google Nexus 7 the day it was announced. I was in the first wave of consumers to get the 8GB model — and among the first wave of people to return the tablet for various reasons. It took Google four tries to get me an Asus-made tablet that I liked, and to this day there are some build quality issues that I chose to accept.

I could type out my thoughts on why Apple continues to dominate tablet sales even though iOS has an increasing number of weaknesses over Android, but that’s for another day.

You came here looking for first impressions of the second generation Nexus 7 tablet. Some call it the Nexus 7 2, or the Nexus 7 2013. Regardless, it’s an evolutionary step over its predecessor.

Here are my first impressions.

Technical specifications

The most important difference between the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 7 2013 is the screen. The Nexus 7 2 has a higher resolution screen. You may have read about a term called “pixels per inch,” (ppi) which is a calculation of the physical display size (in this case, 7″) and the number of pixels that display can show (width x height). The Nexus 7 2 has 323 ppi, which means it theoretically has a sharper, more detailed display than any tablet on the market as of this writing. The previous crown holder, the Nexus 10, only has 300 ppi. The Retina display iPad is 264 ppi.

The new Nexus 7 has a better processor and faster RAM. I got boned as an early adopter because the memory in my N7 is slower than later revisions. A faster processor and better RAM should yield a more responsive experience.

This won’t be important to most people, but it would have made a HUGE impact at my last contract: the new Nexus 7 has HDMI out capability via the micro USB port. You will need to buy a Slimport adapter. I have one and will write a review soon.

Another thing to possibly file under “cool idea but who cares” is the Nexus 7’s ability to recharge wirelessly via any charging device that supports the Qi standard. Like NFC and pogo pins, Qi charging may not gain public momentum unless Apple supports it.

Dimensions and size

The dimensions of the Nexus 7 2 are slightly different from the original. It’s a little bit taller and a little bit thinner. The original Nexus 7 was 7.81 x 4.72 x 0.41 inches. The new one is 7.87 x 4.49 x 0.34 inches. This is fine, since I often keep my first-gen N7 in my back pocket at work. The iPad Mini won’t fit even in my jeans, let alone my khaki or dress pants.

The original Nexus 7 weighed 12 ounces. The newer Nexus 7 2 weighs about 9.6 ounces.

The new Nexus 7 is 0.35″ thick; the older is about 0.43″.

Here’s the Nexus 7 2 compared to the original Nexus 7:

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Nexus 7 2 on right

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Nexus 7 2 on top

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Nexus 7 2 on top

Nexus 7 2 compared to iPad Mini:

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Nexus 7 2 on right

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Nexus 7 2 on top

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Nexus 7 2 on top

Nexus 7 2 compared to original Kindle Fire:

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Nexus 7 2 on right

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Nexus 7 2 on top

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Nexus 7 2 on top

Android 4.3

Depending on your familiarity with Android, 4.3 will either be a nice bump or a huge leap forward. If you’re coming from an older phone running 2.x or an older tablet running 3.x, 4.3 is going to be an entirely new experience. If you’re already running the latest version of 4.2, the biggest changes are more UI processing improvements (a big deal) and being able to enable restricted sub-profiles on your device (kind of a big deal if you are sharing your tablet with other people). The latter is an incremental improvement over multi-user accounts in earlier versions of Android 4.

Build quality

Enough with the paper specifications crap. The Nexus 7 was plagued with build quality issues at launch.

The three biggest problems were:

  1. Improperly mounted and glued screens, which led to screen separation that effected touch screen sensitivity and accuracy.
  2. Faulty digitizers made touch screen inaccurate. This meant I had a hard time typing or swiping / making gestures. Even basic things like long presses were sometimes impossible to perform.
  3. Yellow smudges appear when the display heats up. My latest (fourth) Nexus 7 suffers from this. The blotches appear and disappear based on how hot the device gets, how long I’ve been using it, and the incantations of voodoo death bunnies.

So far, the new Nexus 7 seems to be better built. However, this is only my first half day with the device and who knows what’s going to happen. It took awhile for the screen separation to manifest in my first unit, and it was probably six months before the yellow spots started appearing on the screen.

Going from the original Kindle Fire to the original Nexus 7 was a massive improvement. I could feel the difference in weight and thickness. The Nexus 7 2013 is noticeably thinner and more narrow. It feels like the love child between the iPad Mini (super thin and light) and the Nexus 7 (great narrow form factor).

The UI is more responsive than the original. The screen is a huge improvement as well. It is very crisp and even at 50% brightness is very bright.

My WiFi connection dropped once during the bulk restore from Google Play. This may or may not be something systemic; I’ll have to play with the tablet more and report back. The disconnection was ill-timed, as now I have to go in and manually download and install all of my apps instead of in one bulk action.

So, is it worth it?

I believe the 7″ tablet form factor is the best. iPad and Nexus 10-sized tablets are too big for true portability. They’re fine (usually) if you’re in a fixed position and basically want a laptop without a hardware keyboard. I think the future is in larger-format phones (phablets) and smaller, 7 – 8″ tablets like the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini.

If you’re used to iOS, there isn’t much reason to get an Android tablet. If you have an Amazon Kindle Fire of any generation or other 7-inch tablets besides the original N7, the Nexus 7 2 should be your next upgrade.

However, is it worth $229 (or more) to upgrade from the original Nexus 7 to the Nexus 7 2013?

After just half a day, I’d say it depends. If you have an original-original Nexus 7 like mine (8GB) then yes, it’s worth it. If you have a later model, perhaps. Do you use your tablet daily like mine? If so, you may find it worth the upgrade. If you use your later-model original Nexus 7 occasionally then it may not be worth it to you.

The original Nexus 7 is being discounted as we speak, but I advise you to save up a little longer to get the newest version. Android 4.3 is already out for the original Nexus 7, but I don’t recommend buying a new (or refurbished) first edition N7.

I’ll write a full review of the Nexus 7 2 once I’ve played with it for a longer period of time. In the meantime, things are looking good.

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