Nexus 10 review: Finally an Android tablet with a beautiful display that’s priced right

Android tablets have been around since late 2010 starting with the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but the first mainstream Android tablet was the Motorola XOOM, which debuted in the spring of 2011. Soon after, we saw tablet after tablet after tablet get released, but nothing seemed to gain any major traction. Things started to change with the Amazon Kindle Fire in late 2011, but it was the Nexus 7 that seemed to really change things for Android tablets. Although the 7-inch size has proven its popularity, there is still a need for a premium well priced 10-inch Android tablet for those that want more real estate. The Nexus 10 appears to fill that need with the highest resolution display available today and at a reasonable price. How does it stack up with the “99″ other 10-inch tablets? Hit the break to get started.

Design

While the Nexus 7 was made by ASUS, Google opted for Samsung to make the Nexus 10. I personally think ASUS would have been the better choice, but Samsung was ahead of the curve in the display department, and Google wanted that to be the focal point. Samsung definitely put their stamp on the Nexus 10 as it very much resembles their latest 10.1-inch efforts, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and the Galaxy Note 10.1. Google still had some input as the back is much like the Nexus 7 with its rubberized feel. Samsung’s version of it is different in that the texture is softer and feels more leather-like. On the other hand, it’s more of a dirt magnet, stuff just sticks to it. It’s definitely a step up from past Samsung devices though. On the back side at the top, you will find a strip across the width of the tablet, which is synonymous with Samsung tablets. It of course houses the rear 5MP camera and flash.

The front of the Nexus 10 also features something Samsung started instituting with the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and that’s stereo speakers along the left and right side. I praised Samsung for this, and couldn’t believe no one else thought of this before. Samsung upgraded the design this time around as the speakers blend in better and are longer. They are actually just about as long as the tablet (when holding it in landscape mode).

The buttons and ports seem to line up with past Samsung efforts. When holding the Nexus 10 in landscape mode, you will find the power button and volume rocker at the top left. The left side top sports the micro USB port as well as the microphone jack. One thing you won’t find on past Samsung tablets is a micro HDMI port, but you will find it on the right side of the Nexus 10. The other change is a six-pot pogo pin connector replacing the proprietary charging port found on every other Samsung tablet. Charging can be done with the micro USB port as opposed to the usual proprietary ports. I love this option, but I found that when using another branded cable, it charged awfully slow. Last but not least, on the front side, the upper middle bezel houses the 1.9MP front facing camera.

All in all the Nexus 10 feels like a solid device, and is a step up for Samsung, but it’s not going to blow you away as far as quality. It’s not up there with the top of the line ASUS offerings, but then again the Nexus 10 is cheaper. It gets the job done and it matches its price point.

Hardware

The Nexus 10 features a 10.1-inch 2,560 x 1,600 display at 300 PPI. a 1.7 dual-core A15 CPU, Mali T604 GPU, 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, Corning Gorilla Glass 2, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and dual NFC chips (front and back).

Performance

Surprisingly the Nexus 10 doesn’t have a quad-core processor, but instead has a dual-core A15. When it comes to benchmarks it’s not going to match up with the quad-core offerings that are already available, but due to the 2GB of RAM paired with the Mali T604 GPU, the Nexus 10 holds its own. I have always stressed that “real world” results is where it counts, not benchmarks. I found that apps opened fast and transitions were just as quick. I have zero complaints, but for those that are into benchmarks, I ran the obligatory AnTuTu, which came in at 11,616. This is lower than all the quad-core devices, including the Nexus 7, which came in at 12,334, but again I stress the Nexus 10 is fast. The only issue might be that hardcore gamers could be left out in the cold and not be able to play some of the latest Tegra-only games. The Nexus 10 is capable of playing those games in theory, but if they are only allowed to be played on Tegra devices, then it doesn’t matter.

Now it’s time to talk display. I still can’t believe what Samsung was able to achieve with this display. It simply looks stunning with crisp text and a decent color representation. I compared it with the iPad 3 and the Nexus 10 was the clear winner. The only problem is that sometimes words show up a little too small, but on the flip side, they are crisper. The viewing angles are top notch as well. My particular device didn’t have any light leakage, but I know other review units did. The best thing is that pretty much all the apps I tried rendered properly on the display. You simply won’t find a better display on an Android tablet, or any other tablet for that matter.

The speakers are what I expected and then some. The fact that the stereo speakers are separated and on the front of the device makes it more pleasing. It just makes complete sense when watching a movie. For music, you don’t notice it so much because you generally are further away from the device. I stress that this is a tablet, so don’t expect it to replace your home theater, but you won’t find another tablet that sounds better,

Battery

If there is one negative on the Nexus 10, it appears to be battery life. I ran my usual video rundown test and got approximately 7 hours 45 minutes. That’s with the display turned up to about 66%, GPS on, WiFI connected, and Bluetooth on (not connected). You can certainly play with some of those settings to get more, but the bottom line is that most tablets get more with the same settings. The Nexus 7 alone gets me over 9  1/2 hours. I suspect it’s the display and the number of pixels as the cause. Probably not a deal breaker, but something you should know.

Software

The Nexus 10 features the latest version of Android 4.2 (now 4.2.1), as it should since it’s a Nexus. You won’t find any manufacturer UI skins or any of that nonsense as its pure stock Android. More importantly, since it’s a Nexus you will get the latest updates timely. Some of the newer features with Android 4.2 is multiple user accounts, quick settings, Photo Sphere, and a new keyboard that features swype-like capabilities.

Multi-user accounts lets you create different profiles for each person that will use the tablet. Since it’s tied to each individual’s Gmail account, they have their own apps and their own app data. So for example, if both you and your son have Angry Birds, you can both preserve your respective progress achieved in the game. Users can also customize their home screens and settings as they wish. When a user wants to log into their account, they do it from the lock screen and passwords or patterns can be implemented to ensure privacy. It’s easy to set up so check out our quick video showing you how.

The quick settings can be accessed by swiping down from the top right side (similar to swiping down on the top left side for notifications). It’s a nice addition, but takes a little getting used to since there no longer is a settings menu shortcut in the regular notification drop down (left side). In this quick settings area you will find settings for brightness, WiFi, Auto Rotate, Airplane Mode, and Bluetooth. Unfortunately the WiFi and Bluetooth aren’t quick toggles as they take you to the settings area, but I guess it’s an improvement over having nothing. You will also find the battery percentage remaining and tapping that brings you to your usage statistics.

Just like the Nexus 4, Photo Sphere is included, and it’s probably the coolest thing that’s far from perfect. Since this a tablet, I’m not sure how many people will use it, but on the other hand, the only other device it’s available on is the Nexus 4 and the GSM Galaxy Nexus. So the Nexus 10 is your only option if you don’t have either of those phones.

The new keyboard adds Swype-like capabilities. I am not much of a Swype guy, but my opinion is they did a very good job with it. It works just like Swype and it includes decent predictive text options. Most users probably would never know that the swipe gestures are available unless they read sites like us or if they accidentally swiped on the keyboard.

Camera

Samsung is one of the best when it comes to cameras, but seriously folks, this is a 10-inch tablet. I doubt anyone is looking to buy it hoping to utilize it as a primary camera. Still, if you’re in a pinch, you can use it and get decent photos. Here are some examples to judge for yourself. The last photo required flash.

As I mentioned above, Photo Sphere is included, and surprisingly, using a 10-inch tablet isn’t as awkward as one might think. The only issue is the results aren’t perfect (just like the Nexus 4), as many items don’t get stitched properly. For example, in the first image below the sidewalk is a little jagged and in the image below that, the grass suffers from a bad stitch. I also had trouble with there always being some sort of small black spot that wasn’t captured (the right side of the house and in the sky). That’s just a matter of practice, but the best results are when holding the tablet in portrait mode when taking the pictures. Even with its shortcomings, it’s still cool to play with and I’m sure it will continue to evolve.

Closing

On paper, the Nexus 10 seems like the 10-inch Android tablet everyone has been waiting for. It’s stock Android and has a gorgeous display. The downside is the processor, which will only affect the gamers who like to play Tegra-only games, and the battery. The only real competition here is the ASUS Transformer Inifinity TF700 and the Acer Iconia Tab A700. I personally didn’t review the TF700 tablet, but other experts feel that the display might be slightly better because it’s brighter. That might be true, but I seriously doubt the average person can see the difference. The Nexus 10 is plenty bright enough. As far as the A700 goes, it’s not nearly as nice as the Nexus 10 from what I remember.

The Nexus 10 is priced at $399 (16GB) and $499 (32GB), while the TF700 is priced at $429 (32GB) and $529 (64GB), and the A700 is as low as $399 (32GB). The advantages of the TF700 and A700 are that they both have a microSD slot for expanded storage and can play all the latest TegraZone games. The advantages of the Nexus 10 is that it sports Android 4.2 and will get updated to the next version of Android (most likely Key Lime Pie) within days of that announcement. The pricing is close so that’s not enough to sway anyone, but I think the Nexus 10 is the better buy since it will be updated quicker, and assuming you can live within the storage limits and slightly less battery life. ASUS makes a really nice tablet so I wouldn’t argue with you if you wanted to go that route instead. I would if you went with Acer only because they haven’t proven themselves enough in the updating department. So it’s either the Nexus or the ASUS Transformer Pad TF700, and the Nexus 7 wins by a hair on the chinny-chin-chin.

» See more articles by Robert Nazarian


  • rich_bown

    Not to be picky but I’ve had 4.2.1 on my galaxy nexus for a few weeks now, and so the only other device to have photosphere is not just the nexus 4

    • RobertNazarian

      You’re absolutely right, I don’t know how I missed that. I will update the post

  • Bakirsaad200

    That black spot in the sky is an invisible Russian spy aeroplane.

  • Chris

    Is that true about certain Tegra games not running on non tegra hardware? I’d like to test this theory on my S3. As I regularly install games from tegra zone with no issues.

  • jlschulz098

    no sd card slot, then Ill never buy one.

  • jlschulz098

    no sd card slot, then Ill never buy one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ricky.peters.50 Ricky Peters

      They have adapters that you can buy for $5 on Amazon that allow external storage

      • MG

        Link please?

  • Milind

    I don’t think the Nexus 10 is priced right at all. The Nexus 7 is priced right. The Nexus 4 is priced right as well. But the Nexus 10 is overpriced. The lack of an SD card already gives pause. But charging $100 for 16GB Ram is a complete rip off. At $350 and $380-$400, for the 16 & 32 models, it would have been priced right. I need Google to allow me to download and install the Google experience Android OS on any high end Android device directly from Google. Then I don’t have to care about some bone headed decision always made on every Nexus device just to get OS updates.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eleazar.dominguez.338 Eleazar Dominguez

    Are you crazy? The only downside is the processor? The cortex a15 is the fastest mobile processor on the market right now, better than any quad core device today

    • GraveUypo

      and to be totally honest, quad core is close to useless… even on desktop computers. the only real use for that i’ve ever had on my pc was rendering 3Dsmax scenes, which i’m pretty sure i won’t be doing on my cellphone.

      for the “bla bla bla multitaskmultitask multitask” people, you don’t need quad core for that. you won’t be running 4 applications that put full load on any core while in the background anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eleazar.dominguez.338 Eleazar Dominguez

    Are you crazy? The only downside is the processor? The cortex a15 is the fastest mobile processor on the market right now, better than any quad core device today

  • Jordan Samson

    Also most apps aren’t threaded for quad core so its by far the best processor in a phone

  • Al Bud

    Another thing that drives me crazy is the comment from this review and others about the price when compared to the ASUS. I hear this all the time about the ASUS Infinity is expensive. The list is $499 for the 32GB (less for the 16GB). It has been discounted for $430 on Amazon in the past. The Nexus 10 with 32GB is $499 always (no discounts. So where does the ASUS is too expensive. Give me a break.

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  • SmithTech

    The ASUS tab wins hands down.
    You tout real world performance on the processor, but choose the Nexus for faster updates.
    In the real world its usability and you’d be hard pressed to find an app that you couldn’t use because you were running 4.1 instead of 4.2 but battery life and storage for media will definitely hamper your day when you run out.
    The Nexus name is good for nothing more than geek bragging rights.
    “Ooh I’ve got a nexus so I always have the latest version”
    Well I’ve got all my media on a 64GB SD card and can watch more movies…

  • TheAL

    Good review. Unfortunately, my 10 did have noticeable light leakage. I replaced it multiple times, and all subsequent units were as bad or worse. Ultimately, I gave up and went for a refund. Will not be getting another Nexus 10 until the problem is 100% fixed. Hoping the “refresh” they may do with a quad-core will be free of this curse.