Google Nexus 10 full review

Nexus 10

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is not like other tablets - it uses Samsung's 'S-Pen' stylus for input, and has a highly customised version of Android 4, aimed at making it perfect for creative types. By contrast the Nexus 10 is the latest high-end Android device subsidised by Google. It is designed to pull in cash-rich tech fans in order to kick some life into the Android world.

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Price and availability

On the face of it this is a big win for the Nexus. Because Google subsidises Samsung to make the Nexus 10, it is a huge bargain. The Nexus 10 costs £319 for the model with 16GB of storage, and £389 for the 32GB flavour. For a full-sized Android tablet of the calibre of the Nexus 10, that's amazing.

The Galaxy Note 10.1, by contrast, looks expensive. It starts at £399 for the basic 16GB model and £499 for the 16GB Note 10.1 with 3G. The 32GB Wi-Fi-only Galaxy Note 10.1 costs around £469.

But before you write off the Note 10.1, it is important to point out three salient facts. First, it is a creative device, designed to allow you be productive. The Nexus 10 by contrast is principally a nice gadget for web browsing and media consumption. It's also important to point out that the Nexus 10 is artificially cheap. Like all Nexus products it is subsidised by Google. There's nothing wrong with this, but it is the Nexus that is out of synch with the market, not the Note 10.1.

Finally, the Nexus 10 costs only £319, but it is pretty hard to get hold of. You can buy it only direct from Google Play. As I write there is no stock available, and when there is it will go quickly. The Nexus 10 is a great deal, but it is hard to get hold of.  

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Dimensions and design

As you might expect from two tablets made by Samsung, the design of the Nexus 10 isn't too far removed from Note 10.1 (or indeed the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1). There are enough variances to easily tell the difference, however.

Like most 10in Android tablets, the Nexus 10 is designed in a landscape orientation.  It has a Gorilla Glass 2 front and plastic casing. The material has a soft and grippy feel to the touch, but doesn't match the quality of the iPad or some Android tablets such as the Asus Transformer Prime. The Nexus 10 is comfortable to hold in either landscape or portrait mode. It's both thinner and lighter than the most recent iPad at 9mm and 604g.

Phyical power and volume buttons are located on top of the tablet while ports are located on the sides. It's refreshing to find that the Nexus 10 uses a microUSB port to charge rather than a proprietary one.

The Note 10.1 measures 256x175x8.9mm; and weighs in at 583g - it's lighter than the Nexus 10. The Note has a distinctive but not especially high-end look, with either a white or dark gray plastic back, matching bezel, and silver plastics accents around the edges.

You'll find that you hold both tablets in landscape form in two hands. What's unique about the Note, just as with the original 5.3in Galaxy Note, is its stylus. Whether you need a stylus or not is debatable, but there's no doubt that if you need to annotate documents, draw or use a stylus for any other reason, it's something no other 10in tablet offers.

When you remove the stylus from the bottom of the Note 10.1, a shortcut bar appears where you can launch, among other apps, Samsung's own S Note app. This is probably the best of all the extra apps Samsung preloads and allows you to write notes, sketch and even write formulas. Text and equations can then be converted to editable text.

The pen is highly responsive and relatively comfortable to use. There will be other styluses available to buy, which are both longer and thicker. The standard pen, though, beats any capacitive stylus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Screen

The Note 10.1, then, is different. The screen responds to your fingers as usual, but also works like a Wacom tablet when you write with the pressure-sensitive stylus. That screen is a mixed bag. Despite having the same 1280 x 800 resolution as the Galaxy Tab 2, it's sharper and has more vivid colours. Viewing angles are good, too. Next to the Nexus 10, though, it looks inferior.

The Nexus 10 has a whopping 2560 x 1600 resolution – the same as the 13in MacBook Pro with Retina display. Google calls it the "world's highest resolution tablet display".

A pixel density of 300ppi is nothing short of incredible. Everything displayed on the screen looks super sharp and detailed. We found the screen very responsive and viewing angles are astounding.

At 16:10 the aspect ratio is good for watching films, and there's also the bonus of front-facing stereo speakers – much more appropriate than a lot of tablets which have rear facing mono speakers.

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Performance

The Nexus 10 is a performer, too. Samsung has equipped it with its own 1.7GHz Exynos 5250, a dual-core processor based on the ARM Cortex-A15 architecture. Backing this up is an impressive 2GB of RAM.

In the GeekBench 2 test the Nexus 10 crushed its rivals with a score of 2505. A new tablet record proving this is one speedy tablet. Its nearest competition, the iPad 4, scored 1769.

The Nexus 10 couldn't beat the iPad in every benchmark, though. It scored an average of 1329ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test – a respectable result but the iPad 4 managed a swift 854ms.

In terms of graphics, the Nexus 10 is very competent. In the GLBenchmark test it managed a good 27fps thanks to its quad-core Mali-T604 GPU. The result is better than the iPad 3's 22fps but not as good as the iPad 4's 39fps.
Aside from the scientific numbers, performance is excellent. The Nexus 10 quickly responds to any input or command. Apps open quickly and pinch zooming in the Chrome browser is silky smooth.

We haven't yet run the same tests on the Note 10.1, but expect more of the same. Inside the Note is a fast 1.4GHz quad-core processor and also has 2GB of RAM - more than any other tablet we've seen apart from the Nexus 10.

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Storage and connectivity

The basic Note 10.1 comes with 16GB of storage, but a 32GB model is also available. There's built-in GPS, Bluetooth and also Wi-Fi direct for sharing photos and other files with compatible devices. The equivalent 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model costs £499. I'm indebted to a reader for pointing out that I failed to mention the fact that the Galazy Note 10.1 can accept a MicroSD card of up to 64GB. A pretty big plus point.

The Nexus 10 comes in 16GB and 32GB flavours. It is well connected with Bluetooth and dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi with MIMO (multiple input multiple output) antennae and Wi-Fi Direct. There's also NFC (near-field communications) and GPS. If you want mobile data on-the-go you'll have to tether the Nexus 10 as there is no 3G or 4G model.

There's a microUSB port for charging and connecting to a PC. It also has, to our delight, a micro HDMI port so you can connect the tablet to an external display like a TV or a monitor. Sadly, a cable isn't provided in the box.

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Cameras

In terms of cameras, it's something of a draw. The Nexus 10 has a 5Mp rear facing camera with an LED flash. It can shoot video footage up to full HD 1080p quality. The Note 10.1 has very similar specifications, taking very similar shots.

Both tablets have front facing cameras that can take still photos at 1.9Mp or shoot at up to 720p for tasks such as video calling. They provide the kind of high-quality image you'd expect from a top-end tablet.

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Software

In the Android world, a Nexus device is a sure fire way to get Google's latest operating system. It also means you're top of the list for updates when future versions are released. This makes the Nexus 10 more attractive than other Android tablets.

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is the latest version of the OS and the Nexus 10 has the pure vanilla experience which Google intended. Ie. Without the clutter and bloatware which other manufacturers can so often add on.

The user interface is fluid and has the familiar set of homescreens, permanent Google search bar and customisable app tray. You can setup the Nexus 10 how you like with app shortcuts, widgets and wallpapers.

With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Samsung offers its most tailored OS and locked-and-loaded app selection yet. Samsung ships the Note 10.1 with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich on-board. Jelly Bean will come, according to Samsung, by the end of the year.

Like other Samsung devices, this tablet is not for Android purists. Most of the overlays and modifications make for a more friendly experience - though occasionally we find the multiple paths to doing the same thing more confusing than helpful. For example, we tired of the pop-up utility launcher that runs along the bottom of the screen, simply because it was easy to accidentally launch.

Samsung does its most far-reaching TouchWiz (Samsung's custom touch user interface) overhaul of the Android OS seen on one of its tablets yet. Among the tweaks: It replaces such basics as the Settings menu and the layout of the Notify launcher. The Notify launcher adds new options to existing menus. The trade off is you get more control over many options, but in other cases Samsung clutters the interface. Changed also is the stock Android keyboard which is now a Samsung keyboard with off-white buttons with black letters, and a dedicated number row.

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Battery

The Galaxy Note 10.1 has a battery rated at 7000mAh capacity. It's rated at up to 2,000 minutes of talk time, and in our tests will easily get you through a couple of days of moderate use.

The Nexus 10 also has a big battery - in this case a 9000mAh cell. It has if anything better battery life than the Note 10.1.

Nexus 10 vs Galaxy Note 10.1: Verdict

The Note 10.1 is an interesting and useful tablet. It's S-Pen offers creative options that make it unique amongst today's breed of tablets. It is reasonably priced and performs well. But the Nexus 10 is a game changer: the first tablet that can outperform the iPad, and priced to shift. It's just a shame it is tough to get hold of.


Google Nexus 10: Specs

  • Screen: 10.1in diagonal, 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution (300ppi), WQXGA, Corning Gorilla Glass 2
  • Memory: 16GB internal storage (actual formatted capacity will be less), 2GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • CPU/GPU: CPU: Dual-core A15
  • GPU: Mali T604
  • Cameras: 5Mp (main), 1.9Mp (front)
  • Battery: 9000 mAh Lithium polymer
  • Connectivity: Micro USB, Magnetic Pogo pin charger, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Wireless: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (MIMO+HT40), Bluetooth, NFC (Android Beam)
  • Size: 264 x 178 x 8.9mm
  • Weight: 603g