The Nexus 10 was released at the end of 2012, between the 2012 Nexus 7 and its replacement, the 2013 Nexus 7. In a market where devices beyond their first year tend to be pensioned off as their replacements arrive, the Nexus 10 is an old device.
Writing this in July 2014, there are ongoing rumours that Google is set to replace the 2013 Nexus 7 and 2012 Nexus 10 with a new model with a screen size between 8″ to 9″. I don’t know if this will happen; it’s plausible but that doesn’t make it a fact. There have also been ongoing rumours of a replacement Nexus 10 for some considerable time but nothing concrete at the time of writing.
We don’t officially know if the Nexus 10 will receive Android L when Google releases it in the fall of 2014, but as with my review of the original Nexus 7, regardless of what Google release and for what device later this year, the Nexus 10 will not suddenly become useless.
Without further ado, let me get the box specification out of the way. The Nexus 10 uses a 2,560 by 1,600 pixel, 10.1″ screen, is powered by a Samsung Exynos dual core processor clocked at up to 1.7 GHz. There’s 2 GB of RAM and either 16 GB or 32 GB of storage. It benefits from high speed WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC, front and rear camera and a 9,000 mAh battery.
The Nexus 10 is made in plastic by Samsung. The design has a couple of interesting quirks. The first is a removable rear plastic surround for use with some case designs and the second are stereo front facing speakers. As with most full size tablets, it feels naturally like it belongs in landscape mode in your hands rather than portrait mode, because it feels too tall.
The Nexus 10 has large bezels and in 2014, the fashion is to give devices the smallest bezel possible, which works fine unless you have less than perfect dexterity. I’m not unhappy with the Nexus 10’s bezels but I’m sure if there is a replacement, it’ll have smaller bezels. The tablet also has rounded corners and a slightly oval shape, less obvious when on the desk but feels quite pronounced when in the hand.
The front of the Nexus 10 is largely featureless. You have a front facing camera and a notification LED, which is hidden until it is illuminates. The dual front facing speakers are either side of the screen. These aren’t in the same league as HTC’s BoomSound (see here, here and here) but they’re perfectly usable.
Along the top edge (if you’re holding it in landscape mode) you’ll find the lock and volume buttons, with a MicroUSB and 3.5mm headphone socket along the left edge and a mini HDMI port on the right. Finally Samsung have provided a magnetic Pogo port on the bottom, where you’ll also find the primary microphone.
On the back, there’s a 5 Mpixel camera with a flash (quaint), a noise cancelling microphone and a removable plastic cover, designed for certain cases. Most of the rear surface is covered in a tactile rubber coating, which makes the tablet feel grippy. It doesn’t feel as expensive as say the iPad but it also doesn’t feel as though it’s going to jump out of your hands and smash into the floor.
Writing of cases, as with the first and second generation Nexus 7 models, plus the Moto G and HTC One (M8), the Nexus 10 has magnets built into the design so that the right case can be used to lock and unlock the screen. This is a beautiful little feature providing you can find a case that properly supports the feature.
The bad news is that you don’t get a MicroSD slot. This shouldn’t surprise anybody, as every Nexus (apart from the first) has made do with internal storage alone. This means that you are stuck with either 16 GB or 32 GB, backed up by cloud storage and a WiFi connection. There is no version with a cellular data modem.
I’m going to touch upon the dual core processor, which is a Samsung Exynos 5 Dual design. This processor is an ARM Cortex-A15, a powerful design that’s only just made it into smartphones because of power and heat issues. This is the exact same processor as lurks inside the Samsung Chromebook Series 3 that I’ve recently reviewed.
I don’t like benchmarking hardware as it can lead to erroneous results but I was close to resorting to this method to try to compare the Nexus 10 with the two other Nexus tablets. There’s very little in it; in day-to-day use the Nexus 10 feels marginally less responsive than the 2013 Nexus 7 but better than the 2012 Nexus 7.
The dual core processor is powerful but does stumble over heavyweight applications, in my case typically Google Docs or Google Chrome (and often both used back to back). Here, the bottleneck may be the amount of memory available, network or storage performance. When working with a complicated Google Docs file, the Nexus 10 typically renders the file quicker than the 2013 Nexus 7 but has less efficient memory management, so when multitasking it closes the file more readily. This means that there are times when you’ll switch back to Google Docs and have to reload the document you’ve been working on.
This is the only performance issue that I’ve come across apart from a very occasional stutter when multitasking, such as downloading application updates in the background whilst working with a heavyweight application in the foreground. The Nexus 10 acquits itself admirably, which is exactly what I expected.
I need to write about the screen, because the resolution means that it’s nearly as sharp as the Nexus 7’s 1080p display despite being considerably larger. It’s already beyond the point whereby my eyes can differentiate between individual pixels. As another point of interest, there are approximately 2 million pixels in a 1080p display and the Nexus 10 uses approximately 4 million pixels. This means that for a typical application, the hardware has twice as much work to do.
In any event, to my mind, screen sharpness is a lesser part of what makes a good screen. Color reproduction and vibrancy are more important, something that Samsung has cottoned on to with their AMOLED screens that have very bright, bold colors. In this respect, the Nexus 10 produces slightly muted colors. This is something of a Nexus tablet trait, which makes the ’10 less visually impressive as I would have hoped. I have mixed feelings about this because the color reproduction is realistic, so photographs look good, but sometimes the interface would benefit from bolder colors.
The screen is noticeably recessed under the glass more than the later generation Nexus 7 and whilst the ’10 has just as responsive a touchscreen, it looks less elegant.
Samsung gave the Nexus 10 a rear facing camera with a flash, plus a front facing camera for video calls and similar. I have limited expectations of tablet cameras; these work as I expected.
The Nexus 10 contains a 9,000 mAh rechargeable battery and all up, battery life is reasonable. It sits between the original Nexus 7 and the later Nexus 7; with reasonably careful use and keeping the screen dim, I can see ten hours of screen-on time to a charge. As a caveat to this, where the Nexus 10 does struggle is how long it can take to recharge, which is somewhere over six hours from the low battery warning to a full charge. Using the device whilst charging, especially with the screen brightness up, significantly extends this.
From a productivity perspective, the Nexus 10 is a great foundation for you to add your applications, accounts and services and customize the device into something that you want to do. The interface is fast and responsive, the screen is good and it has commendable battery life. A weakness is that the tablet is quite large but this as much a strength, depending on what you want to do on your device (and of course, where).
There is little to dislike.