Consumers won’t get their hands on the new Nexus 10 tablet from Google for another few days, but the review embargo lifts today, so all your favourite techies have now weighed in on the Samsung-manufactured Android slate. The first wave of reviews are all quite positive, with a few nagging doubts about the app support situation. By being of a similar size and only a bit cheaper than the iPad, the Nexus 10 has invited that inevitable comparison, and fortunately it looks like it compares quite favorably to Apple’s 10-inch slab.
The first thing most reviewers mentioned was the build quality: it’s good, but in a very different way than the iPad. Instead of a pretty, minimalist package that looks good from afar, Google has opted for a more form-follows-function, utilitarian design. The large screen bezel and grippy, matte back are all a testament to this design philosophy.
In The Verge‘s review, they had this to say about the Nexus 10′s build:
In general, this is a really well-built device, and in many ways I prefer its design to the iPad. The iPad feels very metallic and cold, industrial even — this tablet feels more comfortable, more usable, and more friendly in a way.
Every review we could find also pointed out the quality of the Nexus 10′s hardware components. The massive resolution of the Nexus 10′s display caught the eye of everyone who reviewed it, and many once again compared it to the Retina display in the latest iPad.
Wired praised the high-res display in their review, saying:
Up close and at arm’s length, it looks just as good as the third- and fourth-generation iPad’s 2048 x 1536 Retina display. The resolution of the Nexus 10 is actually higher — 2560 x 1600 across 10.055-inches — though the two display resolutions appear identical to the naked eye. Nothing looks bad on the Nexus 10. Colors are bright and vibrant. Detail is plentiful, and text rivals the printed page. Movies, photos, web pages, books, magazines and particularly games — everything looks outstanding.
The Verge was of a similar opinion, giving the Nexus 10 display the same high marks they gave the iPad Retina display:
At one point I sat for almost an hour, eyes flicking back and forth, trying to decide whether the latest-gen iPad or the Nexus 10 has a better screen. It’s a huge, huge compliment to Google and Samsung that I couldn’t decide, and called it a draw. (I think the iPad renders text slightly better and the Nexus 10′s images popped a bit more, but I’m seriously nitpicking.) The Nexus 10′s screen is absolutely phenomenal — its ridiculous 2560 x 1600 resolution (that’s 300ppi, if you’re counting) makes text look insanely sharp, its colors are really accurate, and its viewing angles are so good that I can actually lay the tablet down on my chest while I lie in bed and still comfortably watch a movie.
The screen wasn’t the only part of the Nexus 10′s hardware that impressed either. The new Exynos processor is purportedly quite speedy, 2GB of RAM keeps everything ticking along while you multitask, and front mounted speakers are a bonus not often found on tablets. Engadget (among others) made special mention of the speakers in their review, saying:
Where so many other tablet makers relegate the speakers on the back or, at best, the sides facing outward, here they’re exactly where they should be: to the left and right of the display and pointing front and center. Their sound is reasonably warm, too, packing a lot of punch for a tablet. But, the most important part of that sentence is “for a tablet.” Sound is adequate at best, and you’ll want to augment more serious viewing experiences with a set of headphones or external speakers.
On the hardware side of things, everything looks like Samsung and Google really knocked it out of the park. There’s one thing that holds the Nexus 10 back from being a true iPad killer, though: apps. Android tablets haven’t sold in large quantities until recently, so the selection of Android apps that are optimized for a tablet screen is incredibly small. Wired made note of this shortcoming in their review of the Nexus 10:
Unfortunately, the same dark cloud hovering over all larger Android tablets also pains the Nexus 10: a lack of apps. There simply aren’t enough tablet-specific apps available on Android, and no matter how swift or shiny or sexy your hardware is, that really stings. It’s the apps that make the tablet.
Android tablet sales have been doing much better lately, though, with the Nexus 7 and the new Kindle Fire selling like hotcakes. Google’s Nexus lineup should kickstart the development of some solid tablet-optimized Android apps, and the only major drawback for the Nexus 10 should disappear over the next few months.
Verdict: This is a fantastic piece of hardware, but waiting until the app ecosystem improves before you buy one wouldn’t be a terrible idea. It’s cheaper than an iPad, and it wins the hardware battle easily, but it’s all going to depend on whether the app situation can be sorted out.