The Nexus 7 Review: Google's First Tablet Gets Benchmarked

Nexus 7: The First Tablet To Win A Tom's Hardware Award

It's pretty easy to define what a killer graphics card or processor must be able to do. But what makes for an absolutely ideal tablet? Most of the folks in our office seem to have a completely different opinion, and not many of them are willing to concede their criteria. We can come close on a number of points, though.

First, a great tablet has to be affordable. No more of this $500 business. There's simply no way I'm going to spend as much on a tablet as I would on an entry-level Core i5-equipped notebook. And if I'm going to lug around another device in addition to my notebook for simpler content consumption tasks, I'm certainly not willing to spend just as much to make it happen. The Kindle Fire and the HP TouchPad fire sale both demonstrated that low prices are instrumental to moving tablets in significant volume.

Second, it needs to have an unquestionably mature ecosystem. We're not talking about the distinction between mobile and desktop operating systems. We're talking about those cheap Android-based tablets still shipping with ancient builds of the software and haven't been updated with Ice Cream Sandwich. We're talking about HP's App Catalog, which simply couldn't stand up to competition from Apple or Google. We're even talking about excessively locked-down content environments. Unfortunately, Amazon's Kindle Fire is a good example. Unlike the relatively open experience offered by vendors like Kobo, Amazon locks down the Kindle Fire’s environment to the point where it virtually restricts users to Amazon's digital distribution network. The result is very frustrating to use.

Finally, a killer tablet’s physical profile must be truly portable. Compared to the laptops we're used to, every tablet looks thin and light. In reality, though, there is considerable variation when it comes to size and weight. Recently, we've even seen certain models get bigger and heavier. For instance, the current-generation iPad weighs more and is slightly thicker than its predecessor to accommodate more powerful hardware. Our message to tablet manufacturers: do not sacrifice portability in an effort to make the tablet a faster platform.

Google’s Nexus 7 hits all three notes, and then some. It’s affordable, lean, includes the latest version of Android, and feels like a true traveler’s device. Don't underestimate that last point. I have come to appreciate the advantages of a 7" screen, and wouldn't walk out the front door with anything larger. A 10.1” tablet is nice to use at home in the kitchen or hanging out on the couch, but my love stops there. Whether walking to work, waiting in line for a cup of coffee, or burning time at an airport, a thinner and lighter 7” tablet delivers portability that larger tablets cannot match.

I admit that a notebook is still my primary computing device on the road. Most of editorial staff here simply requires the power and capabilities of a more functional notebook to get work done. The tablet is more of an afterthought. It's what I drop into my luggage if there's room. Although it's enjoyable to use, even the vaunted iPads aren't particularly convenient. In fact, every tablet I have used seemed to be more trouble than it was worth—until the Nexus 7.

So, what’s not to love? Sure, the Nexus 7 could be improved, mostly by dropping the price even further and adding SD card storage expansion. But we are not going to quibble with what we see today. I am happy to give the Nexus 7 our Recommended Buy award, something we try to bestow sparingly and only to hardware that stands out for its value proposition. Tom’s Hardware has dissected, tested, and reviewed a wide array of tablets over the past two years. In that time, no tablet we have reviewed has impressed us enough to confer this distinction—until now.

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  • joytech22
    I've had mine for about a week now, picked it up in JB Hi-Fi for $317 (AUSD 16GB version).

    Extremely impressed, blows my Iconia A500 out of the water.
    I just wish they had cases for the Nexus 7 in stock. :(
  • killerclick
    No thanks, I'll wait for Surface Pro. It will only be 5 times more expensive, three times heavier, and I simply must run Photoshop and AutoCAD on a tablet, because... just because.

    Microsoft FTW
  • EzioAs
    Wow, it seems that the nexus 7 is a really great product. Every reviewers seems to be very pleased with it's performance, portability and low price. This really is what every tablet should be :). The only issue I heard was that the speakers are quite terrible although I didn't see that mentioned in this review
  • mayankleoboy1
    if it had a fruity logo, it would be $400more
  • matter37
    Well, I have the Nexus 7 and I love it, I really dont like the 10" screen size on other tablets, I think 7" is great, but speaking of the Surface Pro, depending on how that thing performs it could easily replace my current notebook since it could have the capabilities of a ultrabook
  • bin1127
    I was reading the specs and was really impressed with the screen pixel density but missed reading the price first time around. Then when I saw the price that just blew me away.

    This isn't some left field tablet with no supporting software and apps. This is android and all that is attached to the OS. Google is going to blow apple out of the water. I'm looking forward to the lowered earnings guidance from apple any day now.
  • aznshinobi
    Love what they've done with the the Nexus lineup. All pretty affordable now and now with Jelly Bean, I'm sure even Apple lovers will like Android honestly. Project Butter and the new Voice Command is much better. Voice is better than Siri now too, pretty awesome.
  • darkchazz
    Hope they don't take long to release a nexus 10 tablet. Me want a bigger screen :)
    + Getting all updates first straight from google + best dev support FTW.
  • Great review, love how Toms always goes a little further while most other gadget sites only present an opinion.

    Any numbers on internal storage and wifi throughput performance?
    Have one on order and it would be interesting to know how long it would take to copy for example a movie onto the device.
  • hardcore_gamer
    On the other news, Apple is releasing a smaller version of iPad to compete with nexus 7 at a "compelling price" of $400.
  • cscott_it
    I just recently received my 16GB. It's surprisingly solid and is a great little consumption device. Plus, they make the deal pretty sweet by throwing in $25 Google Play credit and free $10 to your Google Wallet (Can be used for NFC transactions). I couldn't ask for better hardware for the price.

    Johanj- I've had 0 issues with the wifi, in facts, it's performed rather well in my little apartment hitting some of the upper limits of my connection.

    The internal storage does poorly on random 4k writes, average on 4k reads, and average on larger read/writes (compared to current top Android tablets).

    All-in-all it will serve it's purpose as something to do while the girlfriend is asleep next to me.
  • If I install Android 4.1 on my Samsung ATT Galaxy 8.9 will I see a significant improvement in performance? It seems that Google waited long enough for the launch to finally come out with the right oversion of the operating system to give them a head start over other tablet vendors.
  • nebun
    google play has so much junk in it....i am still waiting for my there anyone listening out there?...GOOGLE=fail when it comes to updates, this is one thing Apple does better
  • dfusco
    matter37Well, I have the Nexus 7 and I love it, I really dont like the 10" screen size on other tablets, I think 7" is great, but speaking of the Surface Pro, depending on how that thing performs it could easily replace my current notebook since it could have the capabilities of a ultrabook

    If your notebook can be replaced by a device the size of a netbook with a crappy keyboard. I hope you have sharp eyes and small hands :)
  • DSpider
    nebungoogle play has so much junk in it....i am still waiting for my there anyone listening out there?...GOOGLE=fail when it comes to updates, this is one thing Apple does better

    Better my a*s. I bought an iPod touch 2G 16GB a few months after it was released and a year and a half later (2010) they dropped support with iOS 4.2.1. It pissed me off so much I swore that I will never buy another Apple product again.

    Also, on a hardware level, people who "upgraded" from the iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S. And don't forget that the iPod touch 4G remained absolutely the same.

    "Updates are the one thing Apple does better"... Yeah, right. Give me a break.
  • acerace
    194803 said:
    google play has so much junk in it....i am still waiting for my there anyone listening out there?...GOOGLE=fail when it comes to updates, this is one thing Apple does better

    DA. :heink:

    It's not Google who release updates to your phones, it's the manufacturer. Blame them for the slow updates.
  • It's not google that is bad at updates it's your tablet's manufacturer. As the article stated. Each one modifies the Android operating system to fit their hardware design better. So, if you do not get updates complain to the maker of your tablet they are the ones not giving you the update.
  • acku
    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Andrew Ku
    Tom's Hardware
  • InvalidError
    I got my 16GB N7 about a week ago. I noticed the middle-left side of the glass starting to lift off its plastic frame 3-4 hours after unboxing, under "heavy exploration" (every feature enabled, continuously downloading/installing/trying apps) workload.

    Other than that, I do not see any obvious other problems with the N7, though I would like it to run a little cooler. The bottom-right corner in landscape mode gets rather warm while running Tegra games.

    I have one major pet peeve about the soft-keys and games: very easy to accidentally swipe system keys and get kicked out of games in titles like Fruit Ninja, Glow Hockey, Cut The Rope, etc. A method for locking/unlocking soft-keys is needed, something like a "lock" icon to lock/hide it and tapping opposite corners or center+corner to unlock.
  • Nakecat
    I had mine returned last week due to screen separation and light sensor defects.
    IMO, it's a great table, both software and hardware spec wise.
    The only big issue right now is the QC by ASUS, I guess they tried to cut corner / rush and got burned.

    I will give it another try in a few months when ASUS get the QC under control.
  • sundragon
    Great review, Nice to see another tablet in the market that's a great alternative to an iPad. Competition makes things better!

    I will say it's ridiculous that Google mentions "smooth interface" as a feature - A smooth interface should be expected on a dual core tablet, much less a quad core tablet...
  • pacioli
    It looks like it is finally time to buy a tablet!
  • amdwilliam1985
    Got my Nexus 7 last week, I got the $200 8GB version, love it(passing iPad 2 to gf).
    Yes, it does fit all my apps and movies(3 movies) and still have >3GB left.
    Very easy to carry around, I am looking for a kick ass case to suit up.
  • Onus
    Is the battery user-replaceable? I gather there's no memory card slot, but what, if any, I/O ports are provided? Bluetooth?

    If any of this was covered in the videos, feel free to comment but hold the thumbdowns please; those are blocked at work. Thanks.