With impressive specs, the Nexus 10 seems like a special tablet, at least on paper. When put through a real-world test, Google's latest tablet performed well for the price but not enough to 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 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution and 300-pixel-per-inch (PPI) 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 2,048x1,536 resolution and 264 PPI. But once in use, the Nexus 10 does feel like it's worth about $100 less than its Apple rival.
I tested 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 and the colors in a music video looked fuller and more vibrant on the iPad than on the Nexus 10. Even a photo of 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 on its counterpart.
But that's not to say that the Nexus 10 isn't better at some things.
Its larger screen, for example, makes the Nexus 10 ideal 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 video.
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 of an 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 well if not better than it did on the iPad; "Dead Trigger" ran just as well but was missing effects such as 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'd expect from a high-end tablet.
The Nexus 10 has an HDMI out port and 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. NFC can be useful for instantly paying for purchases and transferring files from another NFC device. The tablet can also get nine hours of battery life during continuous use.
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, and the back will take respectable pictures. But Google doesn't claim the cameras record in HD, and the quality of the videos I recorded were fine but nothing special.
One thing unique to the Nexus 10's cameras is the new Photo Sphere feature, which arrives on Android devices with the 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system update. Photo Sphere enables you to shoot 360-degree panoramic images. This feature seems perfect for trips to 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 volume of sound produced is great for a tablet. 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.
All in all, the Nexus 10, which you can order online Nov. 13, is a solid tablet and a 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 an additional $100, the iPad may be the way to go.
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