10-inch Android tablets haven’t been particularly convincing. Sure, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 wasn’t bad, and the ASUS Transformer line added a certain utility to tablets that no one has been able to fully replicate – but for the most part if you were looking to buy a 10-inch tablet, you were thinking iPad.
Nexus 10 aims to change that. It’s the first 10-inch Android tablet to carry the Nexus name, meaning that it comes with every blessing from Google. Is it good? Could it even be great?
Design and build quality
Along the top edge of Nexus 10 (in landscape orientation), on the left, sits the power/wake button and volume rocker. These are placed a little too close together for our liking, and we found ourselves fruitlessly pressing the volume rocker to wake the device on a number of occasions.
On the left side, along the top, are the microUSB port and 3.5mm jack. The microUSB is for data transfer, and yes, charging, meaning there’ll much less of a hunt for the right cable.
On the top of the right edge is a microHDMI port, and in the middle of the bottom edge is pogo-pin dock connector.
The front is mostly screen. However, in a nod to one of the few good decisions of the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, the external speakers of Nexus 10 sit on either side of the screen. In the top middle is the 1.9 megapixel camera.
Around back, in the top middle, sits the 5 megapixel camera with LED flash to the right. The top part of the back case is removable for screen covers and the like, and has a texture more akin to Nexus 7 than the rest of Nexus 10. In the middle of the middle is a Nexus logo, while the Samsung logo is placed at the bottom.
The Nexus 10 is a single piece of plastic (except for the previously mentioned removable bit). In an interview with The Verge, Matias Duarte (Director of Android UX) practically boasted about the fact that Nexus 10 had a single piece of plastic for its case. When pressed further about his willingness to do so (as opposed to trying to hide or downplay the use of plastic – what OEMs generally try to do), he responded with “But this is a beautiful piece of plastic that is essential to making this device so light.”
We have to agree with him, it is beautiful, and at a mere 603-grams it’s also exceptionally light. The case is also extremely grip-able, allowing you to confidently hold the device one handed. The edges are curved, giving you an even more comfortable grip. However, the case did display a penchant for picking up fingerprints and dust.
It’s thin, light, beautiful, and practical. While Nexus 10 doesn’t have as distinctive a design as Nexus 7 (with its Steve McQueen-inspired backing), it is still something that Google and Samsung can boast about.
Internals and performance
You might be slightly confused about Nexus 10’s Exynos 5250 SoC with 1.7GHz dual-core CPU (as opposed to something quad-core), and Mali-T604 GPU. The reasoning behind this choice is that it is apparently the only chip that Google could find (at the time) to drive the screen on Nexus 10.
There’s also 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, along with WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 3.0, and dual-side NFC.
If you’re worrying about performance, you can stop. In our AnTuTu benchmarks, Nexus 10 topped the chart with a score of 13483, beating the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (at 12221.6) and Nexus 7 (at 10924.6). It was also one of the (if not the) smoothest Android tablet experiences we’ve had, performing well with pretty much everything we threw at it.
Screen and responsiveness
The screen on Nexus 10 is, without a doubt, the best we’ve found on an Android tablet. Pitting it against some more serious competition, like the iPad, makes for a tough choice indeed. With its 2560 x 1600 resolution, Nexus 10 does appear to have a slight advantage on paper, but whether that’s enough to translate into a real-world difference is another thing entirely.
What’s important is that the screen is beautiful. Text was rendered smoothly, and images were sharp and clear.
Viewing angles were also great. We found that you could easily hold Nexus 10 at a sharp angle (one handed thanks to that grippy back panel) to show others the screen, and still be able to see what was happening yourself.
Responsiveness was also found to be excellent on Nexus 10, with the lightest swipes, touches, and gestures picking up easily.
Sound quality through the two forward-facing speakers was decent, though we did find it to be soft even at its maximum volume setting.
Sadly, Nexus 10 doesn’t include a set of earphones. We broke out our own and, as with the speakers, found the output to be awfully lacking in volume.
Cameras and battery life
For quick happy-snaps in moments where you have absolutely nothing else, the 5MP rear-faing camera on Nexus 10 will attempt to do the job. The truth is that you’ll most likely stand there fumbling with a 10-inch tablet, trying to hold it still enough for it to focus correctly, and odds are you’ll end up with a set of blurry pictures that wouldn’t make your Facebook friends proud.
Video chatting on the 1.9MP front-facing camera was fine enough, though.
The battery on Nexus 10 was one of those that just kept on going and going. We managed to run it down after almost a week of regular daily use, which is more than respectable.
There are a few changes in Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), which is the version that ships on Nexus 10.
The most immediately noticeable is the navigational UI which has been changed to be more in line with that of Nexus 7 and the phone UI. Back, Home, and Recents soft buttons are now in the middle of the bottom bar (shifting from the left bottom corner).
As with the phone and Nexus 7 UI, there’s now a quick app tray at the bottom of your homescreen with the button to access all your apps in the middle.
Notifications are now in a pulldown shade from the top left instead of being in the bottom right corner. Swiping down from the top right brings up a quick settings shade.
While it is a more unified interface with respect to Android phones and Nexus 7, I can’t help but feel that there are aspects of the old corner-based UI that I miss. With the new UI I often found myself holding the tablet in one hand (usually my left) while the other was reaching around the screen to navigate, where with the old UI I’d simply move the one hand up or down and the required navigational element would be right underneath my thumb.
There are a few other nice changes in 4.2. The keyboard now has gesture typing, which is basically a generic way of saying that it includes Swype-like typing. It’s a welcome addition, but ultimately not too useful on a 10-inch tablet.
Another addition that may be more useful is the extension of the widget framework to the lockscreen. What this means is that you can now place compatible widgets directly on your lockscreen, letting you get more information at a glance without even having to unlock your device. It’s worth noting that it’s up to app developers to update their widgets to be available on the lockscreen.
One last new feature in Android 4.2 worth mentioning is multiple user account support for tablets. Setting up a new user is as simple as navigating to Settings -> Users and tapping on “Add user”. The new user will be taken through the usual setup procedure and will be able to start using their account within minutes. Switching is done on the lockscreen, where each user is given a circular icon. Tap on the user account you want to use and unlock the device. Hopefully this feature makes its way across to phones to, at the very least, allow a guest mode.
There are also some minor changes to notifications, further extending Android’s lead in this particular area, along with a couple of changes under the hood.
There aren’t particularly massive features, but rather a handful of welcome changes and additions in Android 4.2. It’s a refinement of great work, allowing Android 4.2 to outshine its competitors.
Nexus 10 takes 10-inch Android tablets to the next level. It’s beautifully designed with solid performance and an absolutely gorgeous screen, undoubtedly making it the best 10-inch Android tablet available.
Whether you’re a fan of the 10-inch form factor, or prefer something slightly smaller like a 7-incher, is completely up to you. In my time with Nexus 10, I found that I actually prefer something smaller, more portable, and easier to hold in one hand.
Worth pointing out at this stage, though, is that the Android tablet app ecosystem is far more limited than on iOS. Nexus 7 has helped quite a bit, and we can hope that Nexus 10 will help it along further.
Still, the biggest problem for South Africans with Nexus 10 is the lack of local availability. If, however, you’re in the market for the best 10-inch Android tablet and you have some way of obtaining one from the North, definitely consider Nexus 10.