Google Nexus 10 review: Perfect ten

GSMArena team, 12 December 2012.

The usual modest retail package

The Google Nexus 10 might be one badass tablet, but its retail box is nothing out of the usual. With tablets making far less profit per unit than smartphones, manufactures try to save as much as possible on accessories, so it would be foolish to expect a Nexus 10 selling at break-even to offer anything but the basics.

All you get with the Google Nexus 10 inside the rectangular box is the A/C adapter and a microUSB cable. The slate has a standard USB port, but you might want to keep that charger at hand (or at least get another high-powered one), as regular smartphone chargers take forever to fill the huge battery up.

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The retail package and its contents

We also got to play with the optional cover than you can purchase separately for your Google Nexus 10. It has a rather unorthodox way of attaching to the slate - you remove the plastic bit around the camera on the back and insert it in its place. The original plastic piece is rather thin and feels very fragile. Several changes didn't do any damage but we suggest you take extra care with this one (if you are planning to get the cover in the first place, of course).

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Attaching the optional cover is somewhat tricky

The cover automatically turns the display off when closed and wakes the tablet up when opened. The cover is cut out at the top to not get in the way of the camera lens when folded around back, and the stereo speakers aren't overlapped in case you want to use the Nexus 10 as a portable speaker. The cover cannot be used as a kickstand though, which is a bit of a nuisance.

Design and build quality

The Google Nexus 10 measures 263.9 x 177.6 x 8.9 mm, which is about right for a 10.1" tablet with a 16:10 screen. The bezels appear rather wide on those press images, but the truth is that the Nexus 10 has a smaller footprint than both the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Asus Transformer Infinity Pad. The 603g is pretty much standard for the Android camp and a good 59g lighter than the iPad.

We are quite pleased with the design, although clearly the Nexus 10 doesn't set out to impress with fit and finish. Our review unit looks nice in black and handles superbly. The rounded corners are more practical than the iPad's sharp edges and the matte plastic is a very sensible choice of finish. Even the two different plastic pieces at the back look far nicer together than we expected.

And while we are perfectly happy with the Nexus 10's looks, the build quality isn't exactly standard-setting. The backside doesn't feel perfectly solid and slightly gives in when pressed at the center. It's not bad enough to make the tablet feel cheap, but it's nowhere near the solid metal feel of the iPad either.

Display

The 10.1" Super PLS TFT display with a resolution of 2560x1600 pixels is the Nexus 10 crowning feature. Google claim it is the first tablet screen to reach the 300 ppi mark (though our math says 299ppi) and, as you would expect, it's stunningly sharp. We have seen far better in phones, of course, but it's a first for tablets.

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The marvelous screen at the front of the Nexus 10

Keep in mind though, that the pixel density advantage that the Nexus 10 holds over the Retina iPad is not too easy to spot. Even if know what to look for, the difference in major real-life scenarios varies from minor to negligible.

Part of the problem is that neither Android nor iOS knows very well what to do with that kind of pixel density and, more often than not, won't let you zoom out to the point where text would be illegible on lower res-screens but still good on such high-res unit. It's only stuff like document editing, 3D gaming and picture browsing that can take proper advantage of the Nexus 10's screen resolution.

What is a bit easier to spot is the excellent image quality that the Nexus 10 high-res display has. Its colors are vibrant and punchy and, while the blacks aren't too deep, the contrast is pretty good, particularly for a tablet. The viewing angles are the best of any tablet we have reviewed to date, but again this is an area where slates need to catch up with phones. Had this been a smartphone screen, it would have only been average.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Google Nexus 10 0.26 223 859 0.50 443 878
Sony Xperia Tablet S 0.35 334 947 0.67 526 783
Apple iPad mini 0.25 208 838 0.51 458 812
Apple iPad 3 0.21 167 809 0.6 477 779
Apple iPad 4 0.21 163 797 0.63 476 762
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 0 200 0 328
Asus Google Nexus 7 0.25 244 954 0.36 327 908
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 0.27 223 832 0.49 406 821
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 0.31 257 826 0.55 502 915
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus 0.17 196 1141 0.34 424 1236


And here is a snapshot of the display's matrix.


Google Nexus 10 and Apple iPad 4 display matrices compared

Overall, the Nexus 10's screen is the best to have on a tablet to date and should really help the Google slate on its mission. We'll see how the new GPU handles the increased strain in a minute, but the 10-inch Nexus passed the first important test with flying colors.

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