Nexus 10 review

Google Nexus 10 tablet

Google's Nexus 10 is a larger version of its impressive Nexus 7. Find out about this Android Jelly Bean tablet in our Nexus 10 review. Updated on 02/07/13.

Since the Nexus 7, there has been a raft of rival devices including the Apple iPad Mini, Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble Nook HD.

The 10in side has been less so, with few stand-out exceptional devices to rival the full-sized iPad. Google's Nexus 10 is the first Android tablet of the year which looks like it has a package which can seriously take on the iPad. See Google Nexus 10 price in UK and specs.

Even with big name releases from the likes of Sony with its impressive Xperia Tablet Z, the Nexus 10 remains our top Android tablet offering fantastic hardware and software for a more than reasonable price tag.

The iPad 4 remains its biggest rival but Apple's tablet is still more expensive so it's not exactly a no brainer.

Google Nexus 10 review: Design

The design of the Nexus 10 isn’t too far removed from the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) but there are enough variances to easily tell the difference. It's not a surprise since the tablet is made by Samsung.

Like most 10in Android tablets, the Nexus 10 is designed in a landscape orientation.  It has a Gorilla Glass 2 front and plastic casing. The material has a soft and grippy feel to the touch, but doesn't match the quality of the iPad or some Android tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime.

The Nexus 10 is comfortable to hold in either landscape or portrait mode. It's both thinner and lighter than the most recent iPad at 9mm and 604g.

Phyical power and volume buttons are located on top of the tablet while ports are located on the sides. It's refreshing to find that the Nexus 10 uses a microUSB port to charge rather than a proprietary one. See also: Group test: what's the best Android tablet?

Google Nexus 10 review: Build Quality

As we've mentioned, the Nexus 10 doesn’t have an aluminium body like the iPad. Build quality is excellent but not quite up to the standards set by Apple.

There's a thin plastic section which surrounds the rear facing camera with a spotted pattern. This is removable but you won't need to take it off. The information which legally has to be printed on the tablet can be hidden behind it but there's a better reason for it. It also serves as a place to attach a 'book cover' similar to Apple's Smart Cover, available for £24 from the Google Play Store.

Google Nexus 10 review: Hardware

If you’re after a tablet with impressive specifications then the Nexus 10 will satisfy. Samsung has equipped it with its own 1.7GHz Exynos 5250, a dual-core processor based on the ARM Cortex-A15 architecture. Backing this up is an impressive 2GB of RAM.

In the GeekBench 2 test the Nexus 10 crushed its rivals with a score of 2505. A new tablet record proving this is one speedy tablet. Its nearest competition, the iPad 4, scored 1769.

The Nexus 10 couldn't beat the iPad in every benchmark, though. It scored an average of 1329ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test – a respectable result but the iPad 4 managed a swift 854ms.

In terms of graphics, the Nexus 10 is very competent. In the GLBenchmark test it managed a good 27fps thanks to its quad-core Mali-T604 GPU. The result is better than the iPad 3's 22fps but not as good as the iPad 4's 39fps.

Google Nexus 10 screen

Aside from the scientific numbers, performance is excellent. The Nexus 10 quickly responds to any input or command. Apps open quickly and pinch zooming in the Chrome browser is silky smooth.

There are two storage options to choose from with the Nexus 10 – 16GB of 32GB. Like Apple, Google has decided to not include a microSD card slot for additional storage. If 32GB isn't enough then you'll have to opt for a tablet with a memory card slot or a higher capacity of internal storage.

The last two iPads have had an impressive Retina quality screen as a great selling point. The Nexus 10 goes even further with a whopping 2560 x 1600 resolution – the same as the 13in MacBook Pro with Retina display. Google calls it the "world’s highest resolution tablet display".

A pixel density of 300ppi is nothing short of incredible. Everything displayed on the screen looks super sharp and detailed. We found the screen very responsive and viewing angles are astounding.

At 16:10 the aspect ratio is good for watching films, and there's also the bonus of front facing stereo speakers – much more appropriate than a lot of tablets which have rear facing mono speakers.

The Nexus 10 is well connected with Bluetooth and dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi with MIMO (multiple input multiple output) antennae and Wi-Fi Direct. There's also NFC (near-field communications) and GPS. If you want mobile data on-the-go you'll have to tether the Nexus 10 as there is no 3G or 4G model.

As we said earlier, the Nexus 10 has a microUSB port for charging and connecting to a PC. It also has, to our delight, a micro HDMI port so you can connect the tablet to an external display like a TV or a monitor. Sadly, a cable isn't provided in the box.

Lastly, there's a 'Magnetic Pogo pin charger' on the bottom edge of the tablet. However, at the time of writing, there's nothing in the box to use with this and we can't find a docking station to purchase anywhere. We assume accessories will arrive in due course.

Next page: cameras, software and battery life

We continue our Nexus 10 review with a look at the cameras, software and battery life.

Google Nexus 10 review: Cameras

If you don't mind looking a bit odd when taking photos with a 10in slab of glass and plastic then the Nexus 10 has a good-quality 5Mp rear facing camera with an LED flash. It can shoot video footage up to full HD 1080p quality.

There are a few simple settings within the camera app like exposure and white balance but you can go to town afterwards. The built-in editing software allows you to crop and tweak photos plus add Instagram style filters and frames. Like the Nexus 4, there is the new Photo Sphere mode for 360 degree panoramas.

The front facing camera can take still photos at 1.9Mp or shoot at up to 720p for tasks like video calling. It provides the kind of high-quality image you'd expect from a top-end tablet.

Google Nexus 10 review: Software

In the Android world, a Nexus device is a sure fire way to get Google's latest operating system. It also means you're top of the list for updates when future versions are released. This makes the Nexus 10 more attractive than other Android tablets.

See also: Add Flash to Android.

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is the latest version of the OS and the Nexus 10 has the pure vanilla experience which Google intended. Ie. Without the clutter and bloatware which other manufacturers can so often add on.

The user interface is fluid and has the familiar set of homescreens, permanent Google search bar and customisable app tray. You can setup the Nexus 10 how you like with app shortcuts, widgets and wallpapers.

Since Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, there have been features such as expandable and actionable notifications, offline dictation and Google Now. These are all present in version 4.2, of course, and Google Now has new information cards like package tracking and hotel bookings.

Google Now on Nexus 10

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean has a few new features, some especially handy for tablet users. The best is being able to have multiple users on one tablet. You can easily switch between accounts without having to log out and log in. Each has their own apps, widgets, wallpaper and layout.

The interface now has two pull down bars – swipe downwards from the left hand side of the screen and you get the regular notification bar, swipe from the right and you get a new quick settings bar.

Certain widgets can now be displayed on the lockscreen in a rotating carousel. This gets you information such as new emails and your calendar quickly but at the cost of anyone being able to view the content without needing to unlock the tablet.

A real boon of a feature is gesture typing on the keyboard. This means you can swipe around the keyboard with one continuous gesture for each word you type, spaces are added automatically. It's much easier and faster than typing on the large keyboard with one hand. Alternatively you can use voice dictation.

It's not all plain sailing, though. Previous versions of Android for tablets have displayed the navigation buttons – home, back and recent apps- in the bottom left of the screen and notifications in the bottom right. However, 4.2 shows the navigation buttons centralised at the bottom of the screen with no option to move them anywhere else.

Google Nexus 10 review: Battery life

The Nexus 10 has a 33.3Wh (9000mAh) battery which promises up to nine hours of continuous video playback. We've found the battery life to be outstanding, similar to that of the iPad.

With general every now and then use, the Nexus 10 will last at least a few days if not a week or two. Of, course if you use it solidly then you're going to need to charge it much soon. The point is, that device offers the kind of good battery life that you would expect from the high-end tablet.

Our colleague, JR Raphael from Computerworld US said: "I found the tablet's stamina to be top-notch; even with moderate to heavy use, I was often able to go a solid few days between charges."

On the next two pages, you can read JR's review of the Nexus 10.

The following review is a second opinion by our colleague, JR Raphael from Computerworld US.

The Google Nexus 10 is a 10in Android tablet with a gorgeous HD display with superb front-facing stereo speakers, excellent performance and outstanding battery life. It also runs pure Google Android software and is guaranteed to receive future OS upgrades as soon as they're released. 

The device does have very limited on-board storage, though, with no option to add extra space via an SD card. The Google Nexus 10 also has a plastic-based body that looks and feels less premium than some of the competition.

But if you can stomach the storage - and don't mind the unassuming design - the Nexus 10 offers tremendous value at a relatively low cost. For anyone looking for a solid 10-in. tablet with a great all-around user experience, it's a tough act to beat.

The Nexus 10 is a bit different from Google's past efforts. The tablet, manufactured by Samsung, enters a realm that's already crowded with noteworthy contenders - and its price, while certainly low, is nowhere near as eye-catching as what we saw with the recent Nexus 7 and Nexus 4 devices.

The Nexus 10 will be sold directly by Google for £319 for a 16GB version or £389 for a 32GB model. So what's it like to use, and is it worth the cost? I've spent the past several days living with the tablet to find out.

Google Nexus 10 review: specifications and performance

Google's Nexus 10 is powered by a 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos 5250 dual-core processor along with 2GB of RAM. It's easy to get caught up in specs like the number of cores when talking about tablets (quad-core is quickly becoming par for the course these days), but it's important to remember that those numbers alone don't determine a device's performance.

The experience of using the Nexus 10, in fact, is more consistently smooth and snappy than what I've experienced with most other 10-in. Android tablets - including those with quad-core chips. Navigating through the home screens is fast and fluid, apps load instantly and multitasking feels effortless. Web browsing is a breeze, too, even with numerous tabs open in the Chrome browser. There's nothing to complain about in terms of performance here; the Nexus 10 absolutely delivers.

The Nexus 10 packs a 9000mAh battery that promises nine hours of nonstop video streaming, seven hours of continuous Web browsing and 500 hours of standby time. I found the tablet's stamina to be top-notch; even with moderate to heavy use, I was often able to go a solid few days between charges.

One area where the Nexus 10 falls short is in storage: The tablet's internal space is limited to either 16GB or 32GB. Once you factor in system files and all that fun stuff, even on the 32GB device, you're left with only about 27GB to 28GB of actual usable space -- and the device does not have an SD card slot for external storage. As with its Nexus 4, Google is clearly putting the focus on cloud storage and Web-based streaming, but that kind of configuration isn't going to work for everyone.

The Nexus 10 has two cameras: a front-facing 1.9-megapixel, 720p camera for vanity pics and video chat; and a rear-facing 5-megapixel, 1080p camera for stills and general recordings. When it comes to still pictures, the cameras are okay but not great; they'll get the job done, but you'll get far better quality from pretty much any current high-end smartphone camera. (Does anyone actually take photos on a tablet, anyway?)

Google's Nexus 10 supports near-field communication (NFC) for contact-free sharing and services, including Google Wallet, which comes preloaded on the device. Contrary to some reports, the tablet does not support the new Miracast wireless display-sharing protocol announced for the Nexus 4.

The Nexus 10 is currently available as a Wi-Fi-based device; at this point, Google has not announced any plans for a 3G- or 4G-capable version.

Google Nexus 10 review: Body and display

In terms of design, the Google Nexus 10 feels very much like a Samsung tablet: The device has a plastic-based construction that comes across as more utilitarian than premium. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's a significant difference from the sleek and metal-centric approach used by products like the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity and Apple's iPad. (Of course, the iPad is more expensive, with a 16GB model costing £399. The Transformer Pad has a higher starting price, too, but it's actually in line with the Nexus 10's higher-end offering: £380 for a 32GB tablet.)

The Nexus 10's casing has a rubberized sort of feel that's pleasant to the touch; the tablet is easy to hold and never feels like it's slipping out of your hands. At 603g and a 8.9mm thickness, the device is relatively light and thin, too - more so even than Apple's latest offering, which comes in at 652g and 9.4mm.

The Nexus 10's best physical attribute, however, is its face. The tablet boasts a striking 2560-x-1600-pixel, 10.1-in. display with 300ppi, making it the highest resolution screen on any tablet today - the kind of resolution you'd typically see on a 30-in. computer monitor. The iPad, for comparison, has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 with 264ppi.

The Corning Gorilla Glass 2 screen is every bit as sharp as you'd expect: colours pop and details shine with a level of clarity that simply delights the eye. Watching HD videos - movies, in particular - is just an awesome experience on this device, particularly when you factor in its dual front-facing stereo speakers, which provide the best on-board audio of any tablet I've used.

The only negative is the Nexus 10's built-in autobrightness feature, which I found to be rather erratic: Regardless of where I used the tablet, the screen's brightness would randomly fluctuate every 30 seconds or so, even when I was holding the device perfectly still in stable lighting conditions. This seems to be a consistent issue with Samsung-made mobile products.

The Nexus 10's speakers are built into a plastic bezel that surrounds the display and extends seamlessly onto the device's sides and back. The left side of the unit houses a 3.5mm headphone jack along with a micro-USB port. That's right, folks: The Nexus 10, unlike most tablets, actually charges via a standard micro-USB connector instead of a proprietary alternative. (Hallelujah!).

The tablet has a power button and volume rocker directly next to each other on the far left of its top edge. That placement is somewhat unusual; the side of a device is a far more common spot for volume control. It's a minor detail, for sure, but even after a week of using the Nexus 10, I find it feels slightly unnatural to press left or right instead of up or down on the volume rocker to adjust the sound level.

On the right of the tablet, you have a dedicated micro-HDMI port -- no special adapter or connector required there, either. The device's bottom, meanwhile, has a magnetic charging port, presumably for future docking accessories.

The Nexus 10's back is a single piece of hard plastic, save for an inch-and-a-half-tall panel of removable material surrounding the camera at the top. The removable panel is another very Samsung-like touch; it's thin, flimsy, and feels like it'd be all too easy to snap in half. I was actually worried I was going to break it when I first peeled it off my device (thankfully, I did not).

Why would you even peel the panel off in the first place, you might be wondering? Unlike many Samsung-made phones, the panel doesn't give you access to the device's battery or other interiors. It does, however, serve as a placeholder for an optional cover accessory; Google sent me a bright red cover to try out.

Once attached, the cover flips around the top of the device to protect the screen. It also serves as an easy on-off switch: With the help of a hidden magnet, the cover automatically activates the Nexus 10's display when you lift it up and puts it to sleep when you place it back down. It's a nice touch that -- particularly with the way it integrates naturally into the tablet's form -- makes the product feel more complete.

(Google says the covers will be sold directly through its Google Play Store but has yet to release any info about their pricing or when they'll be available.)

NEXT PAGE: Google Nexus 10 software and apps >>

We continue our Nexus 10 review with a look at the software and apps.

Google Nexus 10 review: The software

Like with all of Google's Nexus devices, the software is what really sets the Nexus 10 apart from the competition. The Nexus 10 ships with a pure stock version of Google's new Android 4.2 operating system. That means you get the actual software Google's Android team created -- no cluttered and messy manufacturer-added interfaces and no mountains of bloatware glued onto the system.

The Nexus 10 ships with a pure stock version of Google's new Android 4.2 operating system.

The result is a fast, fluid and visually consistent user interface that's a pleasure to use. Equally important, it's a guarantee of fast and frequent future upgrades: While most Android tablets are dependent on their manufacturers for OS upgrades, Nexus devices receive their software directly from Google, typically within a week or two of a new release. That's a sharp contrast to the agonizing wait-and-see game owners of manufacturer-controlled tablets commonly face.

Android 4.2 brings a new but familiar look to the 10-in. tablet form: Instead of the tablet-specific UI introduced with Android 3.0 and carried over ever since, the Nexus 10 utilizes a setup that's more similar to what you find on an Android phone. It's very much like the UI used on the Nexus 7, only with a few additional tweaks designed to take advantage of the larger screen space.

At the top of the home screen, you have a persistent Google search bar that provides access to both the Google Now intelligent assistant tool and the Jelly Bean Voice Search feature. At the bottom, you have a Favorites Tray with eight customizable icons and a permanent shortcut to the app drawer. Beneath the tray is a black bar with virtual navigation buttons that let you move back, return home or switch apps from anywhere in the system; the buttons remain centered in that bar regardless of how you're holding the tablet.

Then there are the notifications: While previous Android tablets have displayed notifications as tiles in the lower-right corner of the screen, the Nexus 10 instead uses a variation of the standard top-of-screen setup. The main notifications pulldown is accessed by swiping down on the left side of the screen. Swiping down on the right, meanwhile, brings down a separate "quick settings" panel -- a new feature of Android 4.2 that provides quick access to basic system settings.

Even as someone who's used Android tablets since their earliest incarnations, I've found the new 10-in. tablet UI easy to use and adapt to. It feels completely natural to move from an Android phone to a 7-in. tablet to a 10-in. device -- and that platform-wide consistency is very much Google's goal with this UI change. From a perspective of platform growth and accessibility, that makes perfect sense.

The one area where I'm not completely sold is on the placement of the virtual navigation buttons. Those are buttons you frequently access while using a device -- and when holding a 10-in. tablet in landscape mode with two hands, their centered orientation makes them rather difficult to reach. I get why they're centered from a conceptual standpoint, but it'd sure be nice if there were a way for the user to reposition them to the left or right side of the screen for more ergonomic access.

Interface aside, Android 4.2 now supports multiple user accounts on tablets. Google says the feature will let each user maintain separate home screen setups and app collections as well as access to his own Google-related services like email and storage.

Multiuser support was not yet available on the prerelease software on my review device, so I wasn't able to test it. Google says it'll be added via an over-the-air update on the day the tablet launches; I'll revisit it in my blog once I've had the chance to check it out.

Android 4.2 introduces a slew of other new features, such as a redesigned Camera app, a new system keyboard with slide-to-type support and a powerful multilayered security system. There are also some improvements to the Gmail app and signs of subtle polish sprinkled throughout the UI.

Google Nexus 10 review: Apps

Before I wrap up, there's one elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: the apps. Android is frequently criticized for the lack of apps that are optimized for the tablet form, particularly in comparison to Apple's iOS platform.

So how real of a problem is it? Well, it's all relative. In terms of objective measurements, Google doesn't release numbers about the percentage of "tablet apps" vs. "phone apps" within its Play Store. Android apps aren't really classified separately like that in the first place; rather, apps that are properly coded to Android 4.x design standards can scale up from one form to another without issue. (Very few Android apps have separate phone and tablet editions.) If they're designed well, they'll also incorporate additional UI elements -- multiple on-screen columns, for example -- when a larger screen size is detected.

Based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, I'd say it's probably fair to conclude that iOS has more apps that are optimized for the tablet form at this point. It's also fair to say that Android's collection of tablet-optimized apps is rapidly expanding -- and there's no shortage of sharp-looking selections to be found.

Pretty much all of Google's applications - Gmail, Maps, Google Docs/Drive, YouTube, Google Calendar, Google+ and so forth - look fantastic on a 10-in. device, as you'd expect. Popular note-taking apps like Evernote and Springpad are fully optimized for the large-screen form, as are video-streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus. You can find plenty of tablet-friendly office suites, communication tools, multimedia programs, reference utilities and news and weather applications, too, not to mention resizable, interactive widgets that live and function right on your tablet's home screen.

Google Nexus 10: Specs

  • Screen: 10.1in diagonal, 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution (300ppi), WQXGA, Corning Gorilla Glass 2
  • Memory: 16GB internal storage (actual formatted capacity will be less), 2GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • CPU/GPU: CPU: Dual-core A15
  • GPU: Mali T604
  • Cameras: 5Mp (main), 1.9Mp (front)
  • Battery: 9000 mAh Lithium polymer
  • Connectivity: Micro USB, Magnetic Pogo pin charger, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Wireless: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (MIMO+HT40), Bluetooth, NFC (Android Beam)
  • Size: 264 x 178 x 8.9mm
  • Weight: 603g
  • Screen: 10.1in diagonal, 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution (300ppi), WQXGA, Corning Gorilla Glass 2
  • Memory: 16GB internal storage (actual formatted capacity will be less), 2GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • CPU/GPU: CPU: Dual-core A15
  • GPU: Mali T604
  • Cameras: 5Mp (main), 1.9Mp (front)
  • Battery: 9000 mAh Lithium polymer
  • Connectivity: Micro USB, Magnetic Pogo pin charger, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Wireless: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (MIMO+HT40), Bluetooth, NFC (Android Beam)
  • Size: 264 x 178 x 8.9mm
  • Weight: 603g

OUR VERDICT

The Nexus 10 is easily the best 10in Android tablet we've seen to date. It has a fantastic screen, decent cameras and software features all for a more than reasonable price. Those looking for an alternative to the full-sized iPad needn't look any further.

Find the best price