The Nexus 7 has been the go-to 7-inch tablet in the Android realm and it’s easy to see why. You get updates straight from the mothership on time and there’s plenty of activity around this in the modding community as well. In India, the old Nexus 7 has suddenly become a scathing hot commodity as you get a lot of tablet for under Rs 10,000. The slash in prices comes right on the heels of the 2013 Nexus 7, that’s available right now on the Play Store starting at Rs 20,999. Today, we’ll be taking a look at Asus’s flagship 32GB, LTE variant of the Nexus 7. So, is the new Nexus 7 worth the Rs 10,000 premium over the old one? Let’s find out.
Design and Build
The build quality and styling is quintessential Asus. The tablet feels extremely sturdy and sophisticated which leads to a very satisfying feeling when you unbox it. The packaging is simple and you get some reading material, the charger, data cable and the pin to release the SIM tray. The bezel on the sides is a lot narrower than before, just like the iPad mini, which makes it easier to hold in one hand. The Google Nexus 7 has also shed a lot of its excess flab, weighing in at just 290g from its former 347g and is now lighter than the iPad mini too! Couple that with a much thinner profile of 8.7mm and we have a beautiful combination of glass and plastic that you just won’t feel like putting down. And yes, the tablet easily sits in your back pocket without you pulling a Full Monty.
Stunning looks and excellent build
The buttons are placed along the tapering edge so it’s not the easiest to get to when placed flat on a table. It’s well put together however and the buttons have a reassuring click. There’s a 1.3MP camera upfront along with a notification LED at the bottom. The 7-inch IPS display gets a much needed bump in resolution to 1920 x 1080, so text, images and videos are crisp, vivid and clear. Colours are also very punchy and vibrant and the tablet has some of the best whites we’ve come across. The black levels are also very good, in fact nearly as good as AMOLED panels. You also get Corning Gorilla Glass and an oleophobic coating on the display. The latter feature works overtime as we hardly felt the need to wipe the screen during the week. Our test unit had a peculiar problem as the screen would 'blink' for less than a second every now and then. This would happened intermitently no matter the task being performed. We're hoping this is an isolated issue.
The stereo speakers from Fraunhofer do a great job at audio
The back has a plain, rubberised texture unlike the dimpled design in the old one. It’s actually better, as fingerprints are almost a non-issue. The new version adds a rear 5MP, auto-focus camera as well for those cribbing about its absence in its predecessor. There are rear-firing stereo speakers from Frauhofer which actually turned out to be very good. We’ve tested it here and compared it with PureAudio on the XOLO Play Tegra Note.
The Nexus 7 enjoys the privilege of getting the latest Google updates and our test unit was rocking the 4.4.2 update. As expected, the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC and 2GB of RAM make for a very pleasant Android experience. The quad-core, 1.5GHz CPU onboard has plenty of horsepower for most tasks. Browsing through the user interface and switching between apps is smooth although we did notice intermittent lag when switching between portrait and landscape orientations. The updated SoC is better at multimedia but still lags behind in gaming when compared to more powerful chipsets like Nvidia's Tegra 4.
The UI is slick as always
You also don’t get the left-swipe shortcut for Google Now like the Nexus 5. You do however; have the option to set up multiple user accounts. The new tablet also gets wireless charging. The latest Android build also brings some extra pre-bundled apps like Quickoffice, Play Newsstand, Currents, Chrome and Hangouts as the default messaging app.
An improvement over last year's model
The stock music and video player have evolved a lot since the days of Gingerbread and today, you don’t really need a third party player for basic video and audio playback. There’s support for FLAC in addition to MP3 for audio and MKV support in addition to MP4 for video. Full HD videos play smoothly without a hitch and thanks to the brilliantly bright screen and good speakers, catching up on a TV show or movie is very enjoyable. The 32GB version gives you 25.1GB of usable space for apps and media files.
Very good media playback
The 3G version supports quad-band 3G and 2G networks as well as LTE, if you’re in a city with a suitable network. You also get dual-band Wi-Fi ‘n’, NFC, Bluetooth v4.0, GPS, Qi wireless charging and USB 2.0. There’s no calling functionality as the SIM is only used for packet data. While there’s no microHDMI port for video-out, the tablet does support Miracast, which essentially lets you clone your device on a compatible TV using Wi-Fi.
The IPS display is a boon for web browsing or reading eBooks
Web pages load very quickly on Chrome and the display is so sharp that you can easily read a text on a website without having to strain your eyes or zoom in. The whites are crisp and don’t have any colouration that we’ve noticed on other 720p 7-inch tablets. This makes the new Nexus 7 a great tool for reading eBooks.
A good bump in speed over the outgoing model
The camera isn’t a strong point in most tablets so we weren’t expecting much from the 5MP snapper. It’s strictly average as far as tablet cameras go, although the upcoming Nokia 2520 should prove me otherwise. You get the basic options like scene modes, white balance, etc. HDR+ is missing however as that’s exclusively available only on the Nexus 5. Video recording maxes out at 1080p and the quality is once again pretty average.
Average at best
Due to the slimmer chassis, Asus has had to make do with a smaller 3,950mAh battery as compared to the 4,325mAh one on the old model. However, the new Nexus 7 manages about the same battery life thanks to the power efficient Qualcomm SoC which uses the 28nm fabrication compared to 40nm on the Tegra 3. For video playback, we managed to get roughly 7.5-hours of battery life, which is pretty good considering the high-res display. For regular use and with a 3G SIM, you can get around a day or two of usage before needing a charge.
Verdict and Price in India
The 32GB LTE model is priced at Rs 27,999, which feels a bit expensive for a 7-inch Android tablet. However, when you compare it to Apple’s iPad mini with Retina at the same price, the LTE Nexus 7 offers better value as you get double the storage and LTE data too. Given these tablets were only just introduced into the market, the prices should drop in a couple of months. If you don’t need 3G, then the Wi-Fi only version is also a good pick as prices start at Rs 20,999. Compared to the 2012 Nexus 7, the new version has notable changes but honestly, the price difference does seem a lot. If it’s just gaming and casual web browsing you’re after, then then the old Nexus 7 is still a bargain for the price it’s retailing at. However, if reading eBooks and watching videos is something you do a lot, the new Nexus 7 is worth the premium.
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