Well, after a few weeks of general apathy towards the new Nexus 10, I finally broke down and placed an order. In previous posts I had mentioned that I was neither here nor there on my desire to own this tablet, but, after my slight disappointment with the Nook HD+, I decided to give it a try. My Nexus 7/Android Jelly Bean experience had been so positive over the summer that I knew I needed to return to stock Android.
I really loved using the Nexus 7, but I found the 7-inch screen size to be too small for PDF viewing and comfortable web browsing, something that is very important to my current reading habits. Don’t get me wrong, I like the 7-inch form factor, but my personal preference has always leaned towards larger display options. This is why I bought Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD+. The HD+ has a beautiful 9-inch display with a 1920 x 1200 screen resolution. It is very well designed, has a microSD slot, and is great with PDFs, but the stiff limitations of B&N’s modified Android software (and the even more constrained Nook ecosystem) were starting to bother me. I actually missed the stock Android experience, more than I have missed any other OS before. I wanted my suite of Google apps back, the Google Play Store, and convenient widgets (not carousels!). And let’s face it, I also just had to check out the Nexus 10’s incredible iPad-besting 2560 x 1600 (300 ppi) display. The games, movies, and productivity apps available from the mammoth Google Play store simply crush the limited selection found in B&N’s Nook Store.
Unfortunately, I found myself using the Nook HD+ less and less as time went on. It wasn’t becoming a part of my daily technology routine (laptop in the morning, tablet during the day, and eReader at night). When given the choice of using my computer or my Nook HD+ to complete simple tasks like checking my eBay account or catching up on emails, I opted for my computer five times to one. eBook reading on the HD+’s high-res laminated display was a delight, but I really need a more versatile tablet for other activities. The constant glitches and bugs I noticed when using the HD+ became distracting, and I got a little impatient waiting for N2A to release a stock Android boot card.
Now, keep in mind that my expectations for a tablet might be very different from yours. I enjoy the technical flexibility (and occasional complexities) of Android’s Jelly Bean operating system, while others would prefer a more straight forward, ready-made user interface. Options are few, but the basic stuff is taken care of for you. Hey, isn’t that simplified OS concept what the developers at Apple capitalize on? If you don’t feel the need to be able to customize, alter, or play with absolutely every aspect of your tablet experience, you won’t be bothered by the limitations found on B&N, Amazon, or Kobo’s OS skins. They are there to make your life easier anyway. Also, if you aren’t obsessed by screen resolution, pixel density, or how your display looks at fourteen different viewing angles, then you will be just fine with the completely adequate and beautiful resolutions found on the Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, or Kobo Arc.
There are a lot of solid tablets on the market today, and each one offers its own unique set of pros and cons. Your own circumstances or preferences should influence what you buy, and there are plenty of reviews out there to help. The-eBook-reader.com is my favorite site for detailed reviews of all the major tablet and eReader releases.
With all these things considered, if you are looking for a more open, more customizable tablet experience, then the Nexus 10 is your tablet. Here is a review of my experience thus far.
Google and Samsung’s Nexus 10 tablet
- Incredible high-definition display
- Android Jelly Bean 4.2.1, the best OS I have ever used
- Google Play
- Access to six different Android reading apps (aside from Kindle, Nook, Kobo)
- Comfortable to hold and use in both landscape and portrait (unique for a 10″ tablet)
- Gorilla Glass II is incredibly smooth to the touch
- Powerful front-facing speakers
- Doesn’t heat up like other high-definition tablets
- HDMI port
- $399 for the 16 GB model
- Mediocre battery life (6 to 8 hours, plus long charge time)
- No microSD slot
- Few accessories available at this point (cases, docks, ect.)
- Not many tablet-specific apps; most are enlarged smartphone versions
Look and Feel
The Nexus 10 isn’t as ugly as I originally thought it would be. The rounded edges and soft-touch rubber coating on the back make it a joy to hold. I am worried that the sticky rubber will attract smudges and dust, but this shouldn’t be a major issue and hasn’t been so far. It definitely doesn’t have the metallic feel of the ASUS Transformer Infinity or the iPad, but I like how the edges don’t cut into my hands. Plastic on a tablet is usually frowned upon, but Google argues that it lowers the overall weight of the device and makes it more comfortable to hold. I am inclined to agree.
The two front-facing speakers are almost invisible on the sides, and the bordered edge that sometimes appears grey in pictures is actually black in normal lighting conditions. Most of the sound seems to emanate from the tops of the speaker grills, so even if you are covering the left and right edges of the tablet with your thumbs in landscape, any volume reduction is basically unnoticeable. The volume and power buttons are composed of plastic, but they feel nice with just the right amount of resistance.
This is the first 10-inch tablet I have used that actually feels comfortable to hold in both landscape and portrait mode. Gmail, eBay, and many websites just look better in portrait mode, but 10-inch tablets are known to feel awkward when held in this orientation. Suprisingly, I find holding the Nexus 10 in any orientation to be quite natural. Portrait mode is especially important for reading PDFs as they display much better this way.
The Nexus 10 weighs right around 1.33 pounds. The screen glass is composed of Corning Gorilla Glass II, making it extra durable, but I still wouldn’t throw it in a bag with your car keys. This tablet has a 5 megapixel rear shooter, a 1.9 megapixel front-facing shooter, and rear LED flash. It is powered by a Dual core, 1700 MHz ARM Cortex-A15 processor with 2 GB of RAM. There is a full compliment of sensors including: microphone, accelerometer, compass, ambient light, gyroscope, barometer, and GPS. Other specifics can be found here.
The Nexus 10’s astonishingly brilliant retina display is obviously the highlight of its hardware features. With a screen resolution of 2560 x 1600 (300 ppi), it is hard to imagine how it could be improved upon. Despite some initial reports that the Nexus 10’s display doesn’t look quite as good as the iPad 4’s, I can discern almost no visual difference between the two. Sometimes, the iPad looks like it renders text a little more crisply, and images on the Nexus 10 tend to look just slightly more vibrant than on the iPad. The differences between the two are really negligible, and you only might notice them when you have the tablets side-by-side.
One big complaint that circulated around the ‘new iPad’ release was how incredibly hot the back got after prolonged use or gaming. Similar complaints have been made against ASUS, Acer, and other tablets with super high-resolution displays. All of those pixels have equated to a hot battery. The Nexus 10 has absolutely no problems with this. The only time you feel a little warmth is when you are charging it. At one point, according to my ES Task Manager, I had 20 apps open and had been playing games with the display at full brightness for over four hours. Despite this, the back of the device felt like I had just turned the tablet on.
In my opinion, the Nexus 10 is the best high-definition tablet on the market right now. Text looks amazingly sharp and clear on this display, and it far surpasses the rendering I have seen on the new 1920 x 1200 tablets (Kindle Fire HD 8.9, Nook HD+).
Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean OS
Project Butter continues to surpass my expectations. If you thought that the Nexus 7 was running well, just wait until you get a chance to use the Nexus 10. I have never seen operations perform so smoothly on an Android tablet. For the past couple of years, the glitchyness and lag found on Android tablets has separated them from Apple’s iPad by a large margin. The Android team has worked long and hard to surmount this very prominent drawback, starting with Android 4.0 and then moving on to Jelly Bean and Project Butter.
With Android Jelly Bean 4.2.1, I really feel like I have a tablet that can perform just as well as the competition. Swiping between panels, opening apps, and browsing the web has never been more snappy. I have only observed the slightest amount of lag once in the sixteen hours I have been using this device, and it was quickly remedied. The amount of depth and control you have over your user experience, coupled with this latest iteration of Jelly Bean, makes Android 4.2.1 my favorite tablet operating system to date.
One negative issue that I have spotted in my time with the Nexus 10 has been its rather mediocre battery life. I have averaged about 7.5 hours per charge, using it mainly to read eBooks, surf the Web, and play the game Dead Trigger. This isn’t horrible, but many reviewers are noting that the Nexus 10 just doesn’t get the quality battery life that their ASUS Transformer or iPad tablets do.
When charging the Nexus 10, be prepared to leave it plugged in for 5 to 6 hours, especially if you intend to use it while it is plugged in. Today, I turned the tablet off completely and started charging it at 9:00 AM. It is now 1:00 PM and the battery is only 75% full. I did power on and use it for about an hour to game at one point. Regardless, you would think that if your battery took all morning and afternoon to charge, you would at least get 10 hours of life out of it. This isn’t the case, sadly. Here are some tips I found that will help you get the most out of your Android device’s battery.
Another thing I noticed was that when the battery had almost run dry was that the screen started to drop frames and lag. This is to be expected though and is mostly due to juice needed to power that high-resolution display. I will continue to test this issue under different usage conditions and follow up with you.
Currently, there are few accessories available for the Nexus 10. This is to be expected as it is still a recently released device. Until a really nice leather case comes out, I have decided to buy the 10-inch version of a neoprene sleeve which I found very effective on my Nexus 7. The rooCASE Neoprene Sleeve is only $9.50 on Amazon.com. This makes it an excellent alternative to expensive, poorly-fitting generic hard cases. They aren’t the best for protecting your tablet from a fall or from being crushed in extreme circumstances, but if you are just keeping your tablet around the house or taking it with you in a bag, it should be sufficient.
This sleeve is a perfect fit for the Nexus 10 at the sides, and there is about an inch or two of space at the top below the zipper. The build quality is good, the zippers are no-scratch, and there is an extra zipper pocket on the front for your charging cable.
Everyone always complains about the smell of new neoprene (a rubbery, chemical note), but just unzip your sleeve and leave it open overnight for a couple of days and this will dissipate.
The only thing I don’t like about the rooCASE Neoprene Sleeve is the cheap plastic SD card pocket on the inside. Its corners are very sharp and it could easily scuff up your screen or the rubbery back of your device. It is just stitched in, so it was easy to remove. I took it out with a pair of sharp scissors in about five minutes.
I will add another section or two to this review after I get some more time to use the device. As far as 10″ tablets go, I can already tell that this will be a favorite. Please post any questions or requests in the comments section.