PROs *Super-sharp screen
CONs *Rather buggy
*Real-life performance doesn't match spec
*Difficult to find good apps
Google's Nexus 10 tablet (£319 for the base 16GB model) is nearly perfect on paper, with the highest resolution screen in the business, a fast processor, the very latest version of Android, and an elegant design. But the sad fact is that it’s not as good as its theoretical billing in practice.
Physical features and battery Made by Samsung, the company that brought us the excellent Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, the Nexus 10 is certainly a handsome tablet. It feels like a premium quality device for its £319 basic model price tag. It's an all-black tablet with a glossy front and a comfortable soft-touch back. At 178 x 9 x 264mm (WxDxH), it's a little narrower than the fourth-generation Apple iPad, and at 600 grams it's a hair lighter. It's very similar in size and shape to the Asus Transformer TF700.
The 300 ppi, 2,560 x 1,600 screen is the sharpest tablet screen out there, even besting the iPad's 2,048 x 1,536 Retina display. Although as we'll see below, third-party apps often make very poor use of this gorgeous screen. The display is bracketed by two large, well-spaced stereo speakers, along with a 1.9-megapixel camera, which is placed to encourage you to use this tablet primarily in landscape mode.
The microUSB and headphone jacks are on the left side when you hold the tablet in landscape (see the above image), and the microHDMI jack is on the right (see below). The volume rocker and power button, which are easy to find with your fingers, are on the top panel. There's a docking port on the bottom that can also charge the tablet, but at the moment, there are no docks available for it.
These super-high-resolution tablets typically suffer in the battery life department. I got 5 hours and 9 minutes of video playback with the Nexus 10 switched to full screen brightness. This result fell a bit short of the 5 hours and 36 minutes the fourth-generation Apple iPad scored on the same test, and way short of the 7 hours and 17 minutes turned in by the Asus TF700, with its 1,920 x 1,200 screen. Expect battery life to almost double if you reduce the brightness to half.
The tablet has Wi-Fi 802.11n built in, along with Bluetooth 4.0 for audio devices, mice, keyboards and file transfers, alongside NFC.
ndroid and Nexus
The primary advantage of a Nexus-branded device is that it should be the first tablet to receive new versions of the Android OS. And indeed, the Nexus 10 has the latest Android version 4.2 on board, the only 10in tablet to do so at the moment.
Jelly Bean 4.2 is a grab bag of new features, including a 360-degree photo panorama mode, Qualcomm's Miracast Wi-Fi display system, built-in malware scanning, and an improved notification centre. If you want to read up more on these, check out our article here. They're all useful, but none of them are exactly must-have features.
The most important feature in Android 4.2, multiuser support, wasn't available on my review tablet, and will be delivered as a software update in the coming days. According to Google, different users will be able to log in and see different home screens, apps, email, photos, and storage. Another attractive feature, lock screen widgets, will display useful information on your lock screen like Windows Phone 8 devices do; that will also come along with this update.
Performance The Nexus 10 uses a Samsung Exynos 5250, 1.7GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor. On benchmarks it screamed, delivering the fastest Geekbench scores of any device we've ever tested. Its 2,480 result bested the quad-core LG Optimus G smartphone's 2,129 and the fourth-generation iPad's 1,768. But the Geekbench scores will be meaningless for most people given the Nexus 10's trouble running various apps and games, which we’ll come onto momentarily.
Digging into the Basemark OS benchmark, I started to see the issues that would haunt my Nexus 10 testing. The fast processor did very well on Basemark's system and graphics components, with scores just behind the Optimus G with its quad-core Krait processor. But Basemark's program startup test, which launches the contact book, browser, and Bluetooth, showed a slower result than many top smartphones.
Web browsing speed also didn't measure up to the processor specs. The Nexus 10's Browsermark benchmark result was very good at 156,055, but behind the Galaxy Note 10.1's 167,208, and considerably slower than the iPad 4's 196,803. I found the same difference with real-life web pages. A basket of popular pages loaded in 5.7 seconds on average, making it a fast tablet, but slower than the 5.35 seconds I saw on the iPad 4.
Pushing pixels makes some of the difference. The ultra-high-res screen puts a strain on the processor, which shows in lower on-screen frame rates. This tablet has to push around 4 million pixels, whereas HD-screen phones only have to deal with around a quarter of that. The graphics benchmark Taiji, which simulates a game scene, registered only 26 frames per second where the Optimus G and Google Nexus 4 phones show 53 to 55. The iPad appears to have better graphics hardware overall, even with its 3.1 million pixels to push. The iPad ran the GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD test twice as smoothly as Google’s tablet, generating 52 frames per second to the Nexus 10’s 27 frames per second.
Performance differences were clear both in interactive web pages, which were less responsive on the Nexus, and in the Asphalt 7 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted driving games. Both games had noticeably lower frame rates on the Nexus 10 compared to the iPad 4, and sometimes hastily painted in the background I was looking at while I was driving. On the iPad, backgrounds appeared without having to watch them be painted, as it were.
The Nexus 10 features the latest 5GHz, MIMO Wi-Fi 802.11n. Its wireless performance was considerably faster than Google’s Nexus 7, but not as fast as the fourth-generation iPad. On a 5GHz, high-speed office network, the Nexus 10 averaged an admirable 22.3Mbps down, but the iPad 4 hit 37Mbps down.
During my testing, I encountered several other bugs. Searching and downloading 63 apps to test, the Google Play store crashed twice. At one point my on-screen keyboard devolved into a mosaic of pixels. I also saw an occasional strange graphical stutter or flicker on the screen.