Review: Nexus 10 tablet is a solid choice for the price [Video]

<i>This post has been corrected. See the note below.</i>

With a low price and hefty specs, the Nexus 10 seems like a special tablet, on paper. But when you put it to the test, you’re likely to find that the high-end Google tablet is worth the price though not something you would brag about to friends.

The Nexus 10 is the flagship high-end Android tablet of the season. It has a starting price of $399 for a 16-gigabyte model and features a 10-inch screen with a 2,560 by 1,600 pixel resolution and 300 pixels per inch density.

It sounds like a better deal than what you get from Apple for its $499 16 GB, 9.7-inch iPad, which has a 2,048 by 1,536 resolution and 264 ppi. But once in use, the Nexus 10 does feel like its worth about $100 less than its Apple rival.

I tested out the Nexus 10’s display and compared it with the third-generation iPad and each time the Apple tablet won.


Rocks exploding from a cliff in the “Iron Man 3" trailer looked clearer and more detailed while the colors in a music video looked fuller and more vibrant on the iPad than the Nexus 10. Even this photo from Google’s Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering, that’s posted on Google+ and listed as being taken by a Nexus 10 looked sharper on the iPad than its counterpart.

But that’s not to say that the Nexus 10’s tablet isn’t better at some things.

The larger screen, for example, makes the Nexus 10 great for watching movies. It’s so wide that when you watch a video you get a much larger image than on the iPad and hardly any black bars above and below the content.

All that real estate is also great for games. In fact, the Nexus 10 has the potential to be a better gaming tablet than the iPad. That’s because at 0.35-inch thick and 1.33 pounds, it is slimmer and lighter than its competition. The Nexus 10’s back cover also has a grip that’s good for holding the device when you move it around while you play.

Running on the Nexus 10’s dual-core A15 processor and Mali T604 chip, the games “Dead Trigger” and “N.O.V.A. 3" both looked great. “N.O.V.A. 3,” in particular, looked and ran just as good if not better than it did on the iPad while “Dead Trigger” ran just as well but was missing effects like water, rain drops and steam that were present on the iPad version of the video game. I’m not sure if this is because the Nexus 10 can’t keep up with the iPad or because the game hasn’t been optimized for the new Google tablet, but either way, the Nexus 10 has some catching up to do.

As for the rest of the device, the Nexus 10 has all the standard components you expect from a tablet.

The Nexus 10 has an HDMI out port, a micro USB port for charging and is enabled with Near-Field Communication technology on two different locations -- the center of its back and to the right on its front. It can also get nine hours of battery life on continuous use.

Additionally, it has two interesting features that Google hasn’t talked about much and many consumers aren’t aware of.

The first is a plastic panel around its back camera that can be taken off. It comes off with a bit of force but it feels like it could break if you pull it off too strongly or accidentally bend it too far. Once off, it reveals two magnet plates. Google said this feature is for a cover accessory it is making for the Nexus 10 that is similar to the magnetic covers used by the iPad and Microsoft Surface.

On the bottom edge of the device you’ll find what looks like six gold pogo pins similar to those on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. Google didn’t confirm what that feature is for, but it could end up being for accessories, such as docks.

The Nexus 10 also has front and rear cameras. These are 1.9-megapixels and 5-megapixels, respectively. The front camera is more than suitable for a fun Google+ Hangout video chat while the back will take respectable pictures. However, Google doesn’t claim the cameras record in HD and the quality of the videos that I recorded were fine but nothing special.

One thing that is unique to the Nexus 10’s cameras is the new Photo Sphere feature, which arrives on Android devices with the 4.2 Jelly Bean update. Photo Sphere allows you to shoot 360 degree panoramic images. This feature seems perfect for trips to exotic locations such as the Grand Canyon or the top of the Eiffel Tower.

But besides that, Photo Sphere is not much more than a bragging point for Android users. It takes a long time to shoot a full 360-degree image and I could never get it to look perfect. But if you do take the time to shoot an entire location that surrounds you, the results are visually stunning; you can upload them to Google+, where your friends can toggle through the images. The files save as JPEGs, so you can also upload them to Facebook or Twitter -- but there they’ll simply look like very wide panoramas.

Finally, on the hardware side, the Nexus 10 has front-facing dual speakers similar to the ones found on the Galaxy Note 10.1. That’s not surprising since both tablets are made by Samsung. The sound produced is great for a tablet as far as volume goes. Quality of sound, though, is a bit on the tinny side, but if you just want to play a YouTube video or TV show for you and a friend, the speakers should do well.

The only problem I truly have with the Nexus 10 is the lack of apps that have been optimized for its screen.

Many essential apps are the same ones built for 4-inch Android devices. This includes Facebook and Pandora, which simply get stretched out. The apps themselves look great on the Nexus 10’s screen, but it’s annoying wasting such a large display on smartphone apps. Fortunately, though, when you access the Apps section of the Google Play store, Google has a handful of subsections that highlight apps built for the Nexus 10’s screen.

Another thing that isn’t an issue but should be highlighted is that Google says the Nexus 10’s MIMO WiFi technology combined with its processor make it capable of getting Internet speeds up to four times faster than normal Wi-Fi. Based off my experience and speed tests, the Nexus 10 was typically just as fast as my other devices. When it was faster, it was not by much and certainly not four times faster.

All in all, the Nexus 10, which you can order online Nov. 13, is a solid tablet and very good deal at 16 GB for $399 or 32 GB for $499. Anyone who gets one this season will have received a great present, but if you can afford spending an additional $100, the iPad may be the way to go.

[For the record, 12:00 p.m. Nov. 2: An earlier version of this article incorrectly misstated the Nexus 10’s rear camera megapixels. The Nexus 10 has a 5-megapixel rear camera, not an 8-megapixel one.]


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