Google Nexus 10 Review
The Google Nexus 10 was only announced around a week ago but in many circles it had been anticipated since the announcement of the Google Nexus 7. After all, if Google was entering the tablet field directly then how could it resist the potentially very lucrative 10-inch market?
And here we are, just a few short months after the Nexus 7’s launch and Google is taking the fight to Apple, going head to head for tablet supremacy.
It’s not going to be an easy fight for Google; the iPad has always been in a league of its own and has a serious head start, but Google isn’t entering the fray unprepared.
At £319 for the 16GB model the Google Nexus 10 is £80 cheaper than the equivalent iPad 4. In fact even the 32GB model, with its price tag of £389 comes in at slightly under a 16GB iPad 4 and a whole £90 cheaper than a 32GB one.
Don’t think that just because it’s relatively cheap it’s not a premium, powerhouse device either. With a retina-searing 10.05-inch 2560 x 1600 Super PLS display, it’s even higher resolution than the latest iPad, with 300 pixels per inch against the iPad 4’s 264ppi.
That makes it the highest resolution tablet in existence. With a display that beautiful it’s reassuring to know that it uses Corning Gorilla Glass 2 to keep it in pristine condition.
It’s no slouch under the hood either. With a dual-core 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos processor and 2GB of RAM it should have no problem keeping pace with the fastest Android devices. It comes with Android 4.2 out of the box and being a pure Google tablet it will be one of the first devices to get the next version of Android too, keeping it up to date and future proofed for as long as possible.
It’s the same tactic used for the Google Nexus 7 – produce top end hardware at the lowest price possible to get people buying. It’s even learnt a few lessons from the Nexus 7, as this time is isn’t bothering with a cripplingly small 8GB model and making a 32GB version available from day one.
Early sales of the Google Nexus 10 have been extremely promising. Despite the slightly higher price tag compared to other tablets on the market, the Nexus 10 has sold out on Google’s Play Store on multiple occasions, with buyers clearly entranced by the super high resolution screen and larger dimensions. It’s remained a top seller over the Christmas period, and stock is starting to slowly creep back online, although it’s currently only for the 16GB version.
Right now the Google Nexus 10 is Wi-Fi only, but if you want 3G or 4G you might not have to wait too long, as the Nexus 7 has just been made available with 3G, so we expect the Google Nexus 10 will follow suit.
The Google Nexus 10 feels quite weighty, particularly if your last tablet experience was the Nexus 7, but at 603g it’s pretty average for a tablet of this size, and comes in lighter than the iPad 4.
With dimensions of 203.9 x 177.6 x 8.9mm it’s slightly longer and thinner than a new iPad, giving it more of a wide screen experience for watching movies.
The slightly curved edges make it comfortable to hold in two hands for long periods (one handed holding is pretty much a non-starter), though if you’re planning to watch movies on it you might find that your hands start to ache before the credits roll, so it would be worth getting a stand of some kind for it or just finding something to rest it on.
There are rumours of a pogo stand coming soon which would allow magnetic charging on the dock, but we’re still awaiting official confirmation of that.
It’s also not quite as comfortable to hold as the Nexus 7, not just because of their relative weights, but also because the back of the Nexus 7 is slightly soft and warm, while the Nexus 10 is cold, hard plastic through and through. Though on the plus side it’s rubbery, which provides grip.
The Google Nexus 10’s 2GB of RAM is double that of the iPad 4, Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 or the Nexus 7. While it’s only a dual core device, each core is clocked at 1.7GHz, which is just about the fastest we’ve come across on a tablet, trampling all over the poor Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 with its mere 1GHz dual core processor.
It also comes with Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC support, although the former spec isn’t the low-power sensor technology we expect to come on most devices these days.
The Nexus 10 comes with an enormous 9,000 mAh Lithium polymer battery, promising 9 hours of video, 7 hours of web browsing or 90 hours of music.
In theory that gives it slightly more juice than a Nexus 7 but possibly slightly less than the iPad 4 with its monstrous 11,666 mAh battery.
Unfortunately, much like the iPad 4, the battery in the Google Nexus 10 can’t be removed. So you don’t have the option to swap in a spare when it runs down, while if it ever wears out you’re out of luck.
Following suit from the Nexus 7, the front of the device is a single sheet of glass, with no buttons to spoil the lines. We’ve already mentioned how jaw dropping the display resolution is, but it’s worth noting that it has superb viewing angles too. We tried looking at it in every conceivable position and from different distances and the display was always clear and sharp.
It even fares well in bright sunlight; well, the brightest we can find in gllomy winter anyway. It became harder to see but never became totally washed out. Plus you can turn the brightness up pretty high, which helps burn through the glare.
It’s not a total victory though, as while the resolution is un-paralleled the contrast between colours is a bit muted – they’re never as bright or deep as they could be – especially if you’ve seen the amazing Super AMOLED HD screen on the Samsung Galaxy S3.
There’s a black border around the display that you can rest your thumbs on and a narrow speaker running the length of each of the shorter sides.
The 1.9 megapixel front camera lens can be found in the middle of one of the longer sides, which suggests that unlike its little brother, the Google Nexus 10 is intended to be used primarily as a landscape device. Next to it you’ll notice an ambient light sensor, which will automatically dim the screen in low light.
At the opposite side there’s a little indicator light that flashes whenever you get a notification, be it an email, a reminder or whatever else. When it’s not flashing it’s all but invisible.
The top edge of the Google Nexus 10 houses the power button, which is also used to sleep and wake the device. Just to the right of that there’s a volume rocker. It’s a great position as they’re easy to reach whether you hold the tablet in portrait or landscape. Our only minor complaint is that the volume rocker is only slightly bigger than the power button, making it easy to mistake one for the other.
On the left edge there’s a micro USB port, used for charging the tablet or to connect it to a PC or other USB device. Next to that there’s a 3.5mm headphone port.
On the right edge there’s a micro HDMI port, which was sorely lacking from the Google Nexus 7.
On the bottom edge there’s a magnetic pogo pin charging port, which is used to connect it to a dock.
Turn the Google Nexus 10 over and you’ll find a big speaker at the top, along with the main 5 megapixel camera lens, which is also capable of shooting 1080p video at 30fps. Below that the casing is a hard, rubbery plastic shell with the words ‘Nexus’ and ‘Samsung’ stencilled into it.
The Google Nexus 10 feels sturdy and well made and it doesn’t look cheap, but it also doesn’t look particularly premium. That’s a bit of a problem, particularly when it’s been positioned as an iPad 4 competitor.
It’s not just the plastic shell that lets it down, as the rounded shape makes it look a bit childish – like a ‘my first tablet’. And while we’re on the subject of the plastic shell, the Nexus 7 was plasticky as well, but the mottled, slightly soft back on that was far more aesthetically pleasing and felt nicer to hold as well.
That’s not the Google Nexus 10’s only problem either, as with no micro SD card slot there’s no option for expandable storage. Sure the iPad 4 doesn’t have that either, but micro SD support has always been one of the key differentiators between Android and iOS – although Google has always been against it on the Nexus brand, so we weren’t hopeful it would pop up here.
It’s arguably a bigger problem here than on a phone too, because tablets are all about media consumption, so it’s expected that you’ll be loading it up with films, music and games.
32GB will still probably be enough for most people, but the 16GB version may quickly start to feel limiting. In any case, it’s a not unexpected omission, but with such a wallet-pleasing price tag it’s far from a deal breaker.
Interface and performance
When you turn the Google Nexus 10 on you’re greeted with the standard Jelly Bean lock screen. It displays wallpaper, which can be changed to anything of your choosing.
At the top the time is written in big white writing. Below that there’s the day and date in smaller writing and lower still a padlock icon, which you can slide left to launch the camera, right to unlock the tablet or up to launch Google Now.
We’ve seen Google Now before on the first version of Android Jelly Bean 4.1; it shows ‘cards’ with useful information determined based on the time, day and your location, along with any custom parameters you’ve put in place. So for example it might display a card with the local weather every morning, along with one showing traffic details for the route you take to work.
Throughout the day it will update with upcoming calendar events and interesting nearby places. It’s a great idea, a sort of visual virtual assistant, but it felt a bit too limited as it only had a handful of cards on offer.
Android 4.2 has seen it get a bit of an overhaul with loads more cards added. These include things like flight information, event, hotel and restaurant booking confirmations, movie times at local cinemas, interesting photo spots in the local area and more besides. All in all it makes Google Now a lot more full featured and a lot closer to fulfilling its potential.
As before, Google Now can be launched from any screen by dragging the home button upwards, and for anything that isn’t covered by your cards you can initiate a voice search, which will either give a spoken answer like Siri or perform a web search and display relevant results.
It can also be used to perform simple actions such as launching apps and it does a pretty good job of understanding what you’re asking.
Google Now is a great feature and it’s now even more useful; however, it’s better suited to phones than tablets, as you’re more likely to have your phone on and with you throughout the day. Not to mention the fact that it requires a data connection and right now the Nexus 10 is Wi-Fi only, so you won’t be able to use Google Now all that much when out and about.
Once on the homescreen it’s standard, familiar Android through and through. There’s a search bar at the top which can be used to search both Google and the tablet’s contents through text or voice.
The voice search is the same as the one used in Google Now, so you can get spoken answers and launch apps with it.
At the bottom of the screen you’ll find the standard Android dock, which initially has icons for the app drawer, the Chrome browser, Gmail, Play Books, Play Movies, Play Music, YouTube, and Google Play in it, along with a folder full of other Google apps such as Google Plus, Maps, People and Currents. Of course other than the app drawer these can all be removed from the dock or swapped for other apps and shortcuts.
There are five home screens available for you to fill with whatever apps, folders and widgets you want and you just swipe across the screen to flip between them. The screen is incredibly smooth and responsive as you’d expect from a high end tablet.
There’s no sign of judder or slow down, just silky smooth transitions, which is impressive as even the quad core Google Nexus 7 has the occasional hiccup but in our time with the Nexus 10 it performed almost flawlessly.
A black bar at the bottom of the screen contains the back button, which cycles back to the previous screen you were on. To the right of it there’s the menu button which takes you back to your homescreens; alternatively if you swipe upwards from it Google Now will open.
Finally, to the right of that there’s the multi-task button. Tapping that brings up thumbnails of all your open apps and windows; tapping on one will switch to it while swiping across it will close it. It’s worth re-iterating that none of these are physical buttons, they’re software ones.
At the very top of each screen there’s another thin black bar showing the time, the battery level and any active connections, such as Wi-Fi. Swiping down across the black bar brings down the notifications bar and this is a bit different to what we’re used to. Previously there was just one notifications bar, but with Android 4.2 you get two.
Slide down across the left side of the screen and you get the familiar one with the time and date at the top and any un-cleared notifications listed. These include things like emails, calendar events and social network updates. It shows you the sender (where applicable) along with the first couple of lines of text to give you a preview of the contents, while tapping on it will open the full message or details. An icon at the top right of the notifications screen will let you clear it.
So far, so familiar, but if you slide down from the top right of the tablet screen you’ll get a different notifications bar altogether, or rather, a settings bar. It’s a thin black strip that takes up roughly half the width of the screen and is overlaid on top of whatever screen you were on, much like the standard notifications screen.
However rather than notifications it has options to adjust the brightness, turn aeroplane mode on or off, turn Wi-Fi on or off and more. You can also get to the main settings screen from here.
Despite the fact that they would both fit on the screen (in landscape orientation at any rate), you can’t bring both of these bars down at once, as trying to bring a second one down will close the first.
Tapping on the app drawer at the bottom of your home screen brings up a list of all your apps. You can swipe between pages, much like you swipe between homescreens. Tapping on an app will open it while long pressing it will let you add it to one of your homescreens, delete it or view information on it (such as the size).
There’s also a widgets tab in the app drawer, which lets you see a preview of how any widgets would look, while long pressing one lets you place it on the homescreen. When placing a widget or app, anything else on the homescreen will move around to accommodate it. You can also create folders to keep things organised.
Messaging and settings
The keyboard on the Google Nexus 10 is very accurate and responsive, there’s never any delay when typing and unlike the Nexus 7 it features haptic feedback to provide more of a tactile sensation. Another new feature of the keyboard is ‘gesture typing’.
This works a lot like ‘Swype’ – an app which has been available on certain handsets for a while now. Specifically it lets you slide your finger across letters to create words rather than typing them. It’s surprisingly fast and intuitive and for our money it works at least as well as Swype. There’s also a fairly accurate voice option, which lets you speak what you want to type – although it’s not accurate enough for us to have full confidence in it.
However you choose to enter text, the keyboard also does a good job of predicting what word you’re trying to enter and auto-correcting any mistakes.
It’s a big keyboard too, meaning that it’s easy to hit the right key and as a result mistakes are rare to begin with. Despite the size there’s still plenty of screen visible with it open, both in portrait and landscape. As always with Android if you don’t get on with the keyboard there are plenty of alternative options available from Google Play.
The settings screen can be accessed either from a button on the notifications screen or from its own dedicated icon and as the name suggests this lets you tweak all the various options on the Google Nexus 10. For the most part it’s identical to the settings screen on any other Android device, with options for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, display, storage, privacy and more.
However there is a new addition in the form of ‘Daydreams’. This lets you set up a custom screen saver whenever the tablet is docked or charging.
There are options for a clock, photos from your gallery, moving colours or, perhaps most interestingly, stories from sources you’re subscribed to on Google Currents. It’s a minor feature and you may prefer for the screen to just turn off when plugged in (which is still an option), but it’s a nice addition if you want it.
All in all the Google Nexus 10 is slick, fast and powerful. The current version of Android combined with top flight specs make it as smooth to operate as an iOS device.
It’s almost as intuitive as well, but with an added layer of customisation available if you want it, making it suitable for both those new to tablets and the more tech savvy. It boots up in around 17 seconds and shuts down in around 14, times which are fast enough to make it a convenient device to use even just for a few minutes at a time.
Right now the only way to connect to the web on the Google Nexus 10 is via Wi-Fi. We expect a 3G version will turn up before long, but for the time being it’s MIA. On the Wi-Fi front what you get specifically is dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n. It also supports Wi-Fi direct.
Browsing on the device is lightning fast, with text and image heavy full desktop sites loading in around 5 seconds. With the screen’s 2560 x 1600 resolution pages look crystal clear and rarely need zooming at all. If you do decide to zoom in you can do so with a pinch or a double tap, and none of the shine is lost, with everything just as crisp and clear as when it’s zoomed out.
Scrolling on the browser is generally fast and smooth, letting you glide around pages with ease and making it very fast to navigate. We say generally because surprisingly there were a few occasions where it seemed a bit jerky (namely content-heavy sites), but never enough to spoil the browsing experience.
The Google Nexus 10 comes with the Chrome browser, one of the best mobile browsers around and isn’t a million miles away from the desktop version.
The top of the screen contains the address bar, which you can tap on to type an address or search query. There’s also a microphone icon at the right hand side of it, which lets you use voice search.
To the left of the address bar there are forwards and backwards arrows, allowing you to move backwards and forwards through pages that you’ve visited. There’s also a refresh button to reload the current page.
A star in the address bar lets you quickly bookmark pages while an icon at the far right lets you open new tabs, view your bookmarks, share the current page or access the browser settings screen.
The settings screen in turn has most of the options you’d expect, from auto filling in forms, to which search engine it should use, as well as options to save passwords, block pop ups and more. There’s no Flash support, but in practice we didn’t really miss it – although you will currently butt up against the lack of support until HTML5 video becomes more prevalent across the web.
If you have more than one tab open these will all be visible at the very top of the screen and you can switch between them with a tap. You can also open or close tabs from here, so there’s no need to delve into the menu.
Bookmarks are shown as thumbnails and from the bookmarks menu you can see your most visited sites. If you enable syncing between devices you can also view and access tabs that are open in Chrome on other devices.
It’s all very straightforward and intuitive but there are plenty of other browsers available for download if you don’t get on with Chrome.
Whichever browser you use, the Nexus 10 is one of the best tablets on offer for web browsing. Pages are crisp and clear, they can be displayed in their full screen glory without the need to zoom in and sites load very quickly.
Movies, music and books
Media is the lifeblood of any tablet so we’ll say it straight off – the Google Nexus 10 does not disappoint in that regard. Google Play will always be the first stop for media consumption. You can rent and buy movies and there’s a respectable selection on offer. There are also thousands of books available to download.
Movies and books each have their own dedicated apps too, in the form of Play Movies and Play Books. These are primarily players, but there are also links in them to the relevant parts of Google Play for all your purchasing needs, and they work really well.
The Play Movies app displays images of all your side-loaded videos, along with information, such as the run time and a synopsis. It also displays suggestions for things to buy or rent – that may or may not be a good thing depending on your outlook, but it’s not very intrusive.
The Google Nexus 10 can also support a wide range of codecs, with anything from MP4 to H.264 to DivX playing happily on the device. We even got some AVIs chugging away on here, so you’ll be fully stocked in a way Apple can’t / won’t manage on the new iPad 4.
Once you actually play a video you get a progress bar along the bottom which you can drag or tap to move to different points in the video; tapping the video itself will pause it and an icon at the top right allows you to share it to supported services, such as YouTube.
It’s a basic set of options but it covers the important stuff. More importantly HD videos look stunning on the Nexus 10 and they sound pretty good too, as even the internal speakers can reach a respectable volume, and being forward-facing mean the tablet can be happily used without headphones (as long as nobody else is around to annoy).
You’re not limited to the stock player either, as there are dozens more available from Google Play, many of which are a lot more fully featured.
Movie Studio and YouTube
A ‘Movie Studio’ app also comes pre-installed and this lets you create video projects by filming or importing videos, then splicing them together, cutting bits and adding images and music or other sounds. It doesn’t allow much depth, but again there are other video editors available to download, some of which are free.
There’s also a dedicated YouTube app included with the Nexus 10, putting the entire YouTube library at your fingertips. This is nothing unusual as most phones and tablets come with a YouTube app, but it’s quick, easy to navigate and gives you yet another way to consume media.
There are so many other video apps available to download though. For example there’s a Netflix app on Google Play, which gives you full access to the streaming service on your tablet – assuming you have an account.
Play Books is pretty similar to Play Movies in terms of its features. There’s an attractive display of all your books when you open it. Tapping on any of them will take you to the point you last read up to and let you continue reading.
Once again the high resolution screen makes this a joy, as text is crisp and clear. You can read in portrait or landscape and reading in landscape gives a great impression of a real book, with two pages visible at once. You swipe to turn the page and an attractive page-turn transition accompanies it.
You can have books read aloud, change the typeface and font size, add bookmarks and notes and more. As with most other things on Android you’re not limited to the stock reader either, there are all sorts of others available from Google Play, including Kobo and Kindle, which have their own bookstores attached.
The Nexus 10 size, however, is not the most conducive to reading, as it’s rather large and the screen expansive.
In addition to Play Books, the Nexus 10 also comes with ‘Currents’, which lets you set up feeds for websites that you like and then it presents up to date content from them in a layout that looks a lot like a magazine. It’s a very attractive app and a great way of consuming web media.
Finding both books and videos on Google Play is easy to do, with an image focussed layout, categories and the ability to search for specific titles or authors.
Finally we come to music and Play Music really is an impressive beast. Not because of the options, they’re fairly standard, allowing you to sort music by artist, album, song or genre and create playlists, along with an equaliser to play with.
You can also pause and play your music or skip track from the notifications bar and the lockscreen, so you don’t lose control if you leave the player.
It’s a decent selection of settings and an attractive player, with a carousel of album artwork that you can glide through to find what you’re looking for, but it’s nothing amazing. So why are we so impressed? Because you can upload up to 20,000 songs to the cloud for free and stream or download them to any PC or Android device.
We’d wager that 20,000 songs is more music than many people even have and not only does it provide a handy back up, but it gives you access to them anywhere with an internet connection. This is the future of the cloud right here, or at least we hope it is, and it goes a long way towards overcoming any internal storage limitations.
The implementation isn’t perfect, you can unsurprisingly only stream your music using the Play Music app (though there’s nothing to stop you downloading it and then listening to it on other players). We also had some issues getting our music uploaded, first off it’s incredibly slow – uploading 20,000 tracks will likely take days or even weeks.
Secondly, thousands of our tracks encountered errors during upload and were skipped over as a result. It seems that uninstalling the PC client and then re-installing it sort of helped, causing some of the missing tracks to upload, but we still encountered errors on a large number.
But if and when you get your music online it really is fantastic having free access to your entire library on the move – and it’s much, much cheaper than the same service on iTunes Match or from Amazon, which only allow a limited amount of uploading (or none at all) before having to spend £21.99 to achieve the same thing.
For any music downloaded to the tablet you also have plenty of other players to choose from, so you’re not totally tied to Play Music, and the internal speakers are decently loud.
Most of the media players (both Google’s own and those available for download) have widgets too, which lets you access and control them from your homescreen.
In terms of supported file types for music and video you’re looking at MP4, H.264, DivX, WMV, MP3, WAV, eAAC+, WMA and Flac, so a pretty impressive selection, but there are plug-ins and players available from Google Play that cover just about every unsupported file type, for example MKV’s. So whatever format your media is in you should be able to get it to play one way or another.
Aside from downloading or streaming you can also get media onto the Google Nexus 10 by plugging it into a PC through the micro USB port. Once done you can access the tablet through Windows Explorer and easily copy and paste or drag and drop videos, music and books to and from it.
A micro HDMI port lets you hook the Nexus 10 up to a monitor or screen and view media on that, while Wi-Fi direct allows you to stream content to supported devices.
The only real failing on the media front is the lack of a micro SD card slot, and even with cloud storage for music that really is a big deal, as Google’s free cloud service doesn’t help for videos or games or for when there’s no internet connection.
Its absence is no surprise, since Google seem to have shunned micro SD support for its whole Nexus range, but it’s still disappointing. If you plan to use the Nexus 10 for media you should think very carefully about what size to buy, since that internal storage is all you get and it’s very easy to fill 16GB.
It’s a tough call as to which of the iPad 4 or Nexus 10 is the better media device. The Google Nexus 10 is far more versatile, with support for just about every file type under the sun, numerous players to choose from, widgets and free cloud storage.
The iPad conversely is a lot more locked down. It supports far fewer file types, everything has to be synced through iTunes and you’re pretty much stuck with Apple’s iPod player. But it’s also got simplicity on its side – things either work or they don’t and there’s not much to get to grips with.
Then there’s iTunes too, which has the edge over Google Play in terms of media content.
Where Apple once had an advantage with its Retina display Google have not only closed the gap but actually topped it in resolution terms at any rate.
That said the Nexus 10 isn’t quite so impressive with its handling of colours, as they’re never as deep or rich as some of its competitors – the iPad included.
If you’re moderately tech-savvy and not already entrenched in iTunes, then we’d give the Nexus 10 the edge, but if you want to keep things simple or already have your whole library in iTunes, then the iPad wins.
Apps and games
Google Play is your one stop shop for apps and games on the Google Nexus 10. Android recently matched Apple for number of available apps, hitting 700,000. It continues to grow faster than Apple’s app store too, so it will likely be the first to hit the big 1 million.
Of course it also doesn’t have the quality control and approval process of Apple’s store, so a large number of those apps will be totally useless, but that still leaves hundreds of thousands of genuinely worthwhile ones.
Navigating the store is easy, with everything split into categories and you can also just search by name if you know roughly what you’re looking for. Purchasing apps is easy too, as you simply register your bank details with Google and then you can buy and download anything in a couple of taps.
If you’ve already got an Android device you can also ask the Nexus 10 to sync with your account and automatically download any apps that you’ve previously purchased.
In terms of apps, as opposed to games, Android fares pretty well against Apple. Thanks to being such an open system there are many types of apps that you won’t find at all on iDevices, such as new launchers, plug-ins that let you customise the lockscreen or notifications bar, new keyboards and more.
As a general rule if there’s something you don’t like on the software side, or something you wish you could do, there’ll be an app to fix it. It can be very liberating and lets you set up your Nexus 10 exactly how you want it.
You’re not even limited to using Google Play to find apps as there are several other stores around as well. There’s a lot of overlap in apps between the stores of course, but they’re not identical.
There aren’t all that many apps on the Google Nexus 10 out of the box though. Other than the various media apps, it comes with a Calendar, which of course can be synced with your Google calendar and supports reminders.
There’s also a calculator, a clock with a stop watch and timer, and a gallery (which syncs to your Google account – so any pictures you take on your phone can be viewed on your tablet and vice versa). Then there’s the standard selection of Google apps – Maps, Navigation, People, Earth and Google Plus.
Plus of course you get the Gmail and Email apps that come with most Android devices. These are quick and easy to set up – in fact Gmail sets itself up, you can get push notifications for new emails and reading and composing emails in either of them is a breeze.
Where Android doesn’t fare so well is games. Don’t get us wrong, there’s a huge selection available, but it’s dwarfed by what’s available on Apple devices and thanks to the huge number of different Android devices with different specs, many game developers are reluctant to develop for the platform.
Unfortunately it’s a situation that’s not likely to change for the foreseeable future, so if you plan on playing a lot of games on your tablet, an iPad should always be your number one choice.
That said, playing games on the Google Nexus 10 is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Once again the stunning screen really helps, allowing Android games to dazzle like never before. With its 1.7GHz dual core processor and 2GB of RAM it doesn’t miss a beat in terms of performance either, effortlessly tackling HD games with no noticeable drops in frame rate.
The Google Nexus 10 has a 5 megapixel camera, along with a secondary 1.9 megapixel front facing snapper. As ever we’re really not sure how useful having a camera on a tablet is.
The front facing camera makes some sense as it could be used for Skype and other webcam things, but we have trouble envisaging anyone taking their tablet out to snap pictures on. If anything the front camera should maybe get a boost in quality, even if it meant dropping the megapixel count on the rear camera.
Using the Nexus 10 has done nothing to change our minds about the usefulness of a camera on a tablet. It managed to capture some reasonable quality snaps but nothing particularly eye catching.
In fact it can’t even match the camera performance of most high end smartphones, which really makes it a bit pointless, since a smartphone is both more portable and by extension more likely to be with you when you’re out and about. Plus taking pictures on a tablet inevitably leaves you looking ridiculous.
Still, if you do decide to use your Nexus 10 as a camera there are at least a few different settings to play with. You can turn flash on or off and pick between a handful of scene modes, such as ‘action’ and ‘night’. There’s also a panorama mode and the big new feature – ‘Photo Sphere’.
Photo Sphere extends the panorama idea by letting you take full 360 degree photo’s, which can then be viewed in a similar way to Google’s ‘Street View’ service- letting you look up, down and around. In practice- like panorama shots, it’s a series of connected photos.
Unlike panorama it doesn’t always look particularly seamless with odd distortions often appearing in the image where someone has moved or photos have overlapped. Still it’s a neat concept and a decent way of bringing a scene to life for those times when video is just too 2011.
We’re not sure whether Photo Sphere is much more than a novelty, but we reckon there will be occasions where it’s of some use. Taking a Photo Sphere image takes a lot longer than a single photo or even a panorama- so if time is of the essence then you’re best off resisting.
The Google Nexus 10 can shoot video in full HD 1080p, but as with the camera we struggle to muster much enthusiasm for it, as we can’t think of many occasions when we’d find ourselves reaching for our tablet to film on rather than our phone.
Again, the one real exception is the front facing camera, as we could see that getting some use for Skype and the like, but the main video camera, not so much. Still, with just about every other tablet on the planet packing photo and video capabilities Google and Samsung would be foolish to omit it from this.
The video camera’s performance roughly matches photos when used indoors. It captures solid quality footage and doesn’t take long to refocus when panning.
The video camera manages a reasonable amount of detail in outdoor scenes, though some of that is lost on objects in the background. Fast moving vehicles appear slightly blurred but don’t come out too bad.
The Google Nexus 10 comes with a pretty hefty 9,000 mAh lithium polymer battery. But although it’s a big battery it’s also got a big screen to power- slightly bigger even than an iPad’s. Google and Samsung are claiming that it will offer 9 hours of video, 7 hours of web browsing or 90 hours of music. They’re all pretty solid figures and in general the day to day performance matched them.
For general mixed use the battery performed admirably, easily seeing out a day or more with a mix of web browsing, reading, listening to music and taking a fair few photos and videos. That’s with it on all day and emails and Facebook updates being pushed to it.
But when watching videos it didn’t fair quite so well, with the battery dropping by 1% every five minutes or so. We ran our standard battery test on the tablet- turning the screen to full brightness, putting emails and social networks to push notifications and running a ninety minute video from full battery.
At the end the Nexus 10 had dropped to 71%. That’s a slightly faster drop than we seemed to experience anecdotally during general use.
The only difference was the screen brightness, so it seems clear that the screen is by far the biggest drain- particularly when turned to full capacity.
Thankfully you shouldn’t need it on full brightness most of the time. Plus you can set it to automatically adjust the brightness based on your environment, which is probably your best bet if you want to make sure you’re always getting the best experience while maximising the Nexus 10’s battery life.
Indeed with the screen off, even with music playing, it can go around 40 minutes without a noticeable drop, so the 90 hours of music claim doesn’t seem too unrealistic.
The gist of all this is that battery life will depend on what you use it for, but since most tasks require having the screen on and that’s such a big drain it’s ultimately pretty average. Not bad enough to let the side down, but not particularly impressive either.
Hands on gallery
The Google Nexus 10 is an incredibly important product for Google. With the Nexus 7 it entered the tablet market, but was only really competing with other Android tablets – it was friendly competition and it was against devices that by and large had struggled to achieve much market share anyway.
With the Nexus 10 it’s inevitably going to be compared to its biggest rival and one of its most successful products: the iPad. In short it can’t afford to get this wrong, so needs to hit the ground running in the larger tablet market and even then it’s going to be an uphill struggle to make much of a dent in the iPad’s sales.
Google clearly realised this, because it has delivered a top-end device with a world beating screen (at least in resolution terms) and a modest-enough price tag; but is it enough to topple the iPad and take its place at the top of the heap?
The display is one of the biggest talking points on the Google Nexus 10. At 300 pixels per inch it’s the highest resolution tablet display on the planet. This is a huge coup for Google and Samsung, since the Retina display on the iPad has always been one of its big selling points.
Thanks to having such a great screen it’s also superb for watching movies, web browsing and playing games on, delivering a hard to match performance for all three. Since media is such a big part of the tablet experience that’s a really big deal.
It’s a great performer too. Other than taking a while to process panoramic photos we never felt like it was struggling to keep up. It’s fast and smooth whatever you throw at it.
Android 4.2 isn’t a huge change from Android 4.1, but it brings with it a few nice additions such as Photo Sphere and gesture typing. Being a pure Google device it will also be among the first devices to get subsequent versions of Android, so it’s moderately future-proofed in that sense.
Then there’s the price tag, it might not be quite as rock bottom as the Google Nexus 7, but it’s still a good £80 cheaper than the cheapest iPad 4, which makes it substantially friendlier on the wallet.
Let’s not beat around the bush – the Google Nexus 10 isn’t the most attractive device out. It’s shown up by the Nexus 7 and blown away by the iPad in the appearance stakes. It doesn’t look cheap as such, but it doesn’t look great either.
The biggest problem though is arguably its lack of storage. There’s no micro SD card slot and the biggest version you can buy is only 32GB.
If you want to load it up with movies, music and games then even with that you’ll find that you quickly run out of space. Free cloud storage for music helps a little, but doesn’t eradicate the problem.
Ultimately unless most of your media is streamed you’re likely to run out of space and the cheaper 16GB version will feel even more limited.
The lack of a 3G or 4G version of the Nexus 10 is also disappointing. If Google want to be able to compete with the iPad it needs to be able to match what it can offer, and in this case the Nexus 10 is found lacking.
We fully expect a 3G (and probably 4G) version will be made available at some point- maybe even quite soon, but we can only work with what we’ve got and right now we’ve got a tablet that can’t connect to the internet in a substantial amount of places.
The Google Nexus 10 is clearly a brilliant tablet. It’s got top-end specs at a mid-range price; that alone makes it deserving of attention. Add to that a generally stunning screen and near faultless performance and it really does start to look like an iPad beater.
But after spending some time with it we can’t quite be as enthusiastic as we’d like. The lack of expandable storage combined with the fairly limited internal storage really hampers its media capabilities. Since tablets are for most people a media-centric device that’s a real issue and the single biggest problem with the Google Nexus 10, along with the screen offering slightly muted colours and contrast ratios.
We don’t want to end on a negative note as most of the other problems are little more than nitpicking and it really is an impressive device. If you want a 10 inch Android tablet this is easily one of the best there is, and in this price range it’s absolutely the best. The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity arguably beats it, but it also costs a lot more.
Looking away from Android we come to the biggest question – how does it fare against the iPad? The reality is that there’s not that much in it.
The iPad no longer boasts the highest resolution screen around and is left looking overpriced, while iOS 6 is starting to seem a bit old hat compared to Android 4.2. But it still tops the Nexus 10’s display for depth of colour; it’s got a much more premium build and is available with more storage and 3G connectivity.
Ultimately, other than the price, there’s little reason for Apple fans to jump ship to the Nexus 10, equally the Nexus 10 puts up enough of a defence to keep the Android faithful happy.
If Google and Samsung were to retool it with a micro SD card slot and 3G and 4G connectivity then we might have a new king on our hands. But for now if we have to pick a winner we’d say that the iPad edges the victory – just.
By James Rogerson, TechRadar