Tablets make great additions to your ever increasing digital life. But till today, it’s still more of a want than an absolute need. Because of this, the 10-inch tablet space has pretty much stagnated with just the iPad ruling the roost. Coming down the scale, we find the 7-inch tablet space in a constant state of flux as no device holds on to first place for long. Google’ Nexus 7 has enjoyed pole position for a long time, until Apple launched the iPad mini. We’re talking mostly of tablets priced around the Rs 20,000 mark as this seems to be the sweet spot for many prospective buyers. Currently, there are just two tablets worth looking at here – the XOLO Play Tegra Note and the 2013 Nexus 7. You also have the old iPad mini but we’d recommend if you’re going to buy in to Apple’s ecosystem then fork out a bit more and just get the newer Retina mini.
So, with a price difference of just Rs 3,000 between the Nexus and the XOLO, do you buy the faster, cheaper tablet or the one that has a better display for a little more? We try to find a conclusive answer to this.
Build and aesthetic appeal
Both tablets have good looks and fit well with today’s active lifestyle. They both have rubberised backs for better grip and are quite easy to maintain with a quick wipe on your sleeve. The XOLO Play is slightly heavier but not by much and you won’t really notice this. Both tablets have an equal amount of extra bezel on the top and bottom but XOLO makes good use of this by fitting the stereo speakers upfront.
The XOLO Play tends to get scuffed pretty easily
Coming to build quality, the Nexus 7 easily wins this one as it’s built by Asus and there’s really no competition here. The Nexus 7 is very well put together and doesn’t flex or creak when you try to twist it. The XOLO Play on the other hand flexes quite a bit when stressed and the plastic bits that aren’t rubberised get scuffed very easily. Overall, we’d give this round to the Nexus 7 for being a lighter, slimmer and better built product.
Like any touchscreen device, the display is the most crucial part of the experience. Both tablets feature an IPS display, capable of supporting up to 16 million colours. The big difference lies in the resolution. The XOLO Play has half the resolution as compared to the Full HD resolution on the Nexus 7. It’s only when you place them side-by-side, can you spot the difference. The Nexus 7 has visibly sharper icons and the colours are punchier. You can also read fine text in websites without having to zoom in. Doing this same task on the XOLO Play is a fast track to prescription glasses. The latter also has a yellowish ting throughout, unlike the Nexus 7 which exhibits crisp whites.
Clearly, the Nexus 7 has the superior display
Another important thing to note is that the XOLO Play doesn’t have any scratch protection for the display while the Nexus 7 has Corning Gorilla Glass and an oleophobic coating. The results speak for themselves in the picture below.
Coming to connectivity, both sides have features that are missing from the other. Starting with some of the common ones, there’s Wi-Fi ‘n’, GPS, Miracast, USB 2.0 and Bluetooth 4.0 onboard. The XOLO Play has the advantage of a microHDMI port, which lets you easily connect it to a HDTV, in case your TV doesn’t support Miracast. The Nexus 7 on the other hand has NFC. It also has dual-band Wi-Fi, which the XOLO doesn’t. Also missing is a notification LED in the Xolo tablet.
No multimedia experience is complete without good audio. The Nexus 7 and the XOLO Play Tegra Note pride themselves with superior audio through the speakers. The Nexus 7 packs in speakers from Fraunhofer while the XOLO Play features Nvidia’s patented PureAudio technology. We conducted a simple test to check which one offered a louder sound by using a free decibel meter app from the Play Store. We played back a FLAC file using the stock media player with all the equalizers turned off. Here, the XOLO Play maxed out at around 75db while the Nexus 7 only managed to hit 70db.
The difference is not much in the real world but is noticeable side by side. Both tablets produce good audio quality however. The highs are crisp and mid-range has good definition as well. XOLO’s offering doe sound a bit more wholesome and that’s probably because of the front-firing speakers and the thicker chassis, which gives the drivers more breathing room.
Gaming is one thing most people tend to do with tablets due to the larger screen real-estate and of course, better battery life. Nvidia’s Tegra Note platform is specifically designed for gaming, which gives it an edge, at least on paper. In synthetic tests like 3DMark, the Nexus 7 lags behind the XOLO Play. But how does it fare in real world games? For this test, we went straight to Grand Theft Auto III: 10 year anniversary edition, as it’s easily one of the most demanding games on the Play Store. Both tablets were freshly booted after the install so there weren’t any unnecessary background tasks. Here’s what happened.
Despite having only 1GB of RAM, the XOLO Play manages to load the game about a second faster. Gameplay is also noticeably smoother with no trace of framing. The Nexus 7 struggles quite a bit here as there are glaring frame rate issues. Even when we drop the resolution in the game to half, the frame rate is still choppy and the game looks worse as it’s no longer rendering at the native resolution.
Which do you pick?
I think the choice is pretty clear as both tablets cater to two different use cases but just happen to be priced similarly. Let’s start with the XOLO Play Tegra Note. It’s much better for hardcore games, has slightly better (and louder) sound, microHDMI-out, expandable memory and of course the S Pen-like stylus – all this for pretty neat price of Rs 17,999. In order to achieve this aggressive price though, XOLO has compromised on the build and display.
The new Nexus 7 is the more sophisticated tablet of the two. Be it looks, styling or display quality – it feels like a much better product. It might not be very good at gaming or have expandable storage but it does have one of the best displays in this segment currently. If you’re looking for a lightweight, well-built tablet for media consumption, web browsing or reading eBooks, then the Nexus 7 is worth the premium.