2012 will go down as the year that Google made its big move in the world of portables. While Nexus phones have been around for years in various guises, this year Nexus has become a family of products with two tablets, the 7in Nexus 7 and this, the 10in Google Nexus 10, joining the range.
With the rollout of the latest and greatest incarnation of Android, version 4.2 (aka Jelly Bean), and the release and tweaking of clever new software such as Google Now and Google Voice, the landscape looks prettier than ever for the Google camp.
Getting our hands on the Nexus 10 tablet, it’s clear to see that a uniformity has developed amongst the Nexus products, even if the tablets and phone are all made by different companies (LG builds the Nexus 4, Asus built the Nexus 7 and Samsung is on board for this 10in offering).
Google Nexus 10: Build quality
That said, while the phone and 7in tablet mastered the premium feel despite low price tags, the Nexus 10 doesn’t quite impart the same quality.
Sure, it’s solid and feels slim and fairly light, but up against the new iPad 4, against which it must surely compete, it lacks flair. The soft rear casing provides welcome grip, but there’s some flex to the chassis and the small power and volume controls (huddled at the left of the top edge when in landscape mode) feel workmanlike rather than satisfying.
Google Nexus 10: Hi-res screen
There’s nothing workmanlike about the screen, however. The 10.055in (yes, we’re humouring them) screen sports a stonking 2560 x 1060-pixel resolution – or 300 pixels per inch, the resolution in which this very magazine is printed.
It’s a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, too, and knocks the iPad for six on paper. You have a choice of 16- or 32GB of storage – and with no SD card slot, you must choose carefully – plus 2GB of RAM powered by a dual-core processor.
Google Nexus 10: Tech specs
Elsewhere there’s the standard microUSB input for power and to connect to your computer for dragging-and-dropping content; a micro HDMI output (missing on the Nexus 7); plus Bluetooth, NFC (near field communication) and wi-fi support.
There’s no 3G/4G model yet. Front (5MP) and back cameras, a mic and the usual GPS, compass and gyroscope sensors are here.
Turn the tablet on and you’ll see one immediate addition: the ability to add multiple users – a simple but effective tool.
Speed and resolution are two of the key strengths in Google’s mind, and the Nexus 10 interface is certainly rapid as we flick around sharply drawn apps and widgets.
Google Nexus 10: Web browser
Jump into the web browser and again there’s no issue when it comes to loading times but pinching, scrolling and zooming our way around the usual sites shows it’s still not quite as stuck to our fingertip as on the iPad. But in isolation we’re happy with the overall feel and responsiveness.
A neat feature is the integration of Google Now. Hold the home button and you’ll be prompted to drag up to open Google Now. This not only brings voice and web search but also ‘cards’ of content, which you can tailor, from the latest weather, traffic reports, local business, football scores and more. As a search and information centre, it’s hard to beat.
Google Nexus 10: Google Play store
The Google Play store is now a full content offering, thanks to the addition of Google Play Music. So apps, films, TV shows, books and music can be bought and organised.
Google Play Music looks good and has a neat trick up its sleeve: free cloud storage of your tunes. You can upload up to 20,000 songs to stream or download and play offline, all for free. It’s a neat feature and works well, although uploading content seemed a little slow to us.
The other issue is in the number of tailored tablet apps. While the hefty Android library will work, there’s a tiny fraction built for the Nexus 10 – compared with 250,000 or so for the iPad. That said, the Google apps looks great and a few we tried, such as streaming music from Rdio, upscaled to the widescreen form just fine.
Google Nexus 10: Video performance
That 16:9 aspect ratio comes in to its own when watching video, delivering noticeably bigger images than on a similarly sized 4:3 tablet. And the picture quality is excellent.
Colours are natural rather than overblown, edges are drawn sharply and faces are given plenty of texture thanks to good levels of detail.
Motion is smooth, too. Black levels could be a fraction darker and there’s a smidgeon of subtlety missing at times, but it’s arguably the most watchable tablet screen we’ve seen.
Google Nexus 10: Sound Quality
Sonically it’s not quite as much of a runaway success, but is still enjoyable. Vocals are clean, there’s plenty of texture and detail to strings or guitars and you won’t be wanting for bass. In fact, there’s perhaps a bit too much meat on the bones at times, slowing the pace of some tracks and softening the punch and dynamics.
In Google Play Music, Google has at least nailed down a good quality stock music player for Android.
Google claims a battery life of 10 hours for video, and we find no reason to disagree: it will give you a good few films on a long-haul flight or, perhaps more relevantly, you can use it for an hour or two a day without needing to constantly worry about charge.
Google Nexus 10: Verdict
Offering a good few quid saving on the new iPad, it’s hard not to be impressed with the Nexus 10. Video is superb and music isn’t far behind, while the interface, features and content offerings are thorough.
The build could have a little more sparkle and we await more tablet-specific app offerings but the Nexus 10 is already a serious contender.
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