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google nexus 7 joe

The super high-res reboot of Google’s 7-inch tablet is here. On sale in the UK since last week, this rejigged slate has a spec sheet to die for.

But put through its paces, can the Big G’s iPad mini-basher live up to those heady expectations? Read our review now and find out.

First impressions

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Lighter and brighter than its predecessor, Google’s new Nexus 7 is a truly impressive piece of kit.

Its ruggedised matte rear, super thin bezels (along the sides at least) and black finish, make it unquestionably the classiest Nexus device to date.

Android 4.3 Jelly Bean is a superbly realised, simple OS to get to grips with, while the array of apps in Google Play make it every bit the iPad mini’s equal.

The speakers crank out lush, detailed sound. And the screen, with amped up pixel density serves up beautifully crisp and bright images.

At just £199 for the basic 16GB model, the Nexus 7 is an absolute steal.

9/10

Design

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Apple’s industrial design is peerless. But the Nexus 7’s manufacturer, Asus, has done a great job in getting this 7-inch effort very close to Cupertino’s natty numbers.

Compared to 2012’s Nexus 7, it weighs a full 50g less. It’s just 8.65mm thin, rather than 10.45mm. And its side bezels are much, much thinner.

That slimming process, however, does mean that there are bulges in other areas.

The bezels at the top and bottom are positively huge and do add to the length of the device. It’s actually a touch longer than last year’s effort.

Our other concern is with the power button placement, which sits on the top right hand side above the volume rocker.

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We kept either powering off the device when we wanted to crank up the sound. Or else found ourselves reaching for the top of the slate to turn it off, because that’s where the key should really be. These, however, are minor quibbles.

The matte rear gives the tablet a solid feel and its narrow body means it can easily be used in one hand.

This makes it ideal for flicking through web pages or reading books and mags while standing on public transport or lying in bed.

8/10

Features

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One key feature stands out above all others with the new Nexus 7: Its absolutely gorgeous screen.

Snag a HD movie from Google Play or stream hi-def TV from Netflix and you’ll be treated to the best view on any 7-inch tablet.

The 323 pixels per inch (ppi) ensure a viewing experience that is far superior to that of a full-sized Retina Display iPad, let alone the low-res stylings of Apple’s iPad mini.

The fact that it’s on a device that costs less than £200 makes it all the more impressive. That screen is given a boost thanks to dual speakers, one at each end of the tablet.

The surround sound tech included in this new model ensures tracks on Spotify and Google Play sound crisp, clean and gorgeously detailed.

Watching back movies and TV shows no longer requires you to lean in in order to catch dialogue either.

A major letdown of tablets, ever since the first iPad, has been their speaker tech. This solves that, and some. The battery has also been boosted, now offering nine hours of video playback.

We found that watching a few episodes of Arrested Development, streaming over Spotify and downloading books ran down the battery after about a day. That’s about standard for portable tech these days.

The rear five-megapixel camera is of a perfectly decent standard, but seeing as taking pictures on a tablet makes you look like a buffoon, might we suggest you stick to your smartphone or compact snapper?

The results here are fine for social media though, if you insist on using the Nexus 7 as a sharp shooter.

Lastly, we tested the Wi-Fi 16GB model, but Google has said it’ll be releasing a 4G-laden model here in the UK soon via O2, with prices TBC.

9/10

Software

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Android 4.3 is what keeps the Nexus 7 ticking. And as has been seen on the Nexus 4, it’s at its best without any bloatware or custom skins.

Google’s native apps are superb, especially the recently updated Gmail and Google Maps.

Apps-wise, Google Play is now arguably on a par with Apple’s App Store, serving up the usual mainstream freebies, as well as great games.

GTA Vice City looks superb on that lush screen. Google’s recently launched Play Music All Access is also a worthy alternative to Spotify and can be signed up for via the tablet (including a free trial).

9/10

Ease of use

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Turn it on, pop in your Gmail address and you’re good to go.

Google has done a great job of making vanilla Android as intuitive as iOS and the UX is easy to get to grips with for first-timers.

The various home screens allow speedy access to recently used content, while the dock at the bottom is self-explanatory.

The Nexus 7 is one of 2013’s finest gadgets. If Apple doesn’t unleash a Retina Display-toting iPad mini, then it’ll be in serious danger of trailing behind the Big G’s latest slate.

10/10

Specifications

  • 7-inch, 1920x1200 display, 323 ppi
  • 114x200x8.65mm
  • 16GB (£199)/32GB (£239) Wi-Fi-only
  • 4G with O2 (£319.99)
  • Surround sound stereo speakers from Fraunhofer
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
  • 5MP rear camera
  • 1.2MP front-facing camera
  • 9 hours video playback
  • 10 hours web browsing
  • 300 hours standby
  • MicroUSB

Overall score: 9/10

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