The Nexus 10 from an iOS user’s perspective

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I wasn’t one of the first Apple fans on the iPad bandwagon. I held out for a while, due to the price and not knowing how such a device would fit into my digital routine. However, once I got a first gen iPad a few months after its release, it quickly became my favorite consumer electronics device. The portability, ease of use, great battery life, and fast-growing library of tablet-specific apps eventually made it, and its 2nd and 3rd generation counterparts, the centerpiece of my daily digital routine.

Despite the fact that I have never been dissatisfied with my iPad experience, I’ve always been curious about other tablet options that were available. The alternatives were few at first, but I did eventually pick up the original Barnes & Noble Nook Color, which kept me interested for a bit with all of its hacking possibilities. Then there was the HP Touchpad, the original Kindle Fire, Polaroid PMID701i (a cheap, easy to hack, 7″ ICS slate), Barnes & Noble Nook HD+, Lenovo A2109, and Nexus 7. All came, and before too much time passed, all went.

Recently, my desire to tread the grass on the other side returned. While I have been very happy with my switch to the iPad Mini, there are times when I miss the Retina display and extra screen real estate of my iPad 3. Because of this, I decided to take a look at the Nexus 10. While the B&N HD+ I had tried previously had as good or better screen than the Nexus, I found the software and ecosystem to be severely lacking, even after rooting and tweaking it. Then I picked up a Lenovo A2109 at a great price on sale. It had good build quality, and solid specs for $229, but the screen just wasn’t very good at all.

After these washouts, I figured the Nexus 10 was the natural next step. It has a top shelf screen and has the latest and greatest version of Android. While the 10 easily bests my other recent large screen Android tablets, it has still left me with many of the mixed feelings that my departed ones did. Being my first Android device from this manufacturer, it has also been a lesson in Good Samsung, Bad Samsung.

 

The Good

Screen

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It’s hard to argue with the claims about the screen of the Nexus 10. The color reproduction and clarity are spot on (something I actually found lacking in the Nexus 7), and you would be hard pressed to play find the pixels. It could be a little brighter, but this isn’t a glaring issue. While I wouldn’t say that it is necessarily hands-down better than the Retina display of the newer iPads, it is definitely every bit their equal. That aside, this is definitely where you see the good side of Samsung in the Nexus 10. This isn’t a big surprise to me, because where specs are concerned, they are usually at the top of their game.

The Nexus 10 does feel very different to the eye than an iPad due to its 16:9 resolution. This isn’t as noticeable with the Nexus 7, due to its smaller size, but as with all of the other large screen Android tablets that I have used, it is very apparent with the 10. Whether this is a good or bad thing just depends on what you tend to do with your tablet, and what you are used to, I guess. The 16:9 ratio is designed with landscape orientation in mind, which is pretty obvious looking at the front-facing camera location on just about every 10” Android tablet, the Nexus 10 included.

nexus-10-front-camera

This layout works very well for watching movies, surfing the web, and for gaming, which tend to be common tasks when using a tablet. However, for those of us who prefer the 4:3 layout of the iPad, which is designed to be a bit more balanced between portrait and landscape use, any big screen Android device is going to feel a little off in portrait mode.

Even though I still notice this with the Nexus 10, it feels better than most competing products thanks to its next positive…

 

Size and Weight

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I’ve never been a big fan of Samsung’s plasticy designs. I know they have gotten better over time and don’t feel as cheap as they used to, but I definitely prefer higher quality materials, and finished product that is a bit more substantial. It’s actually a little frustrating, considering that Samsung’s Wave Bada phones and some of their new Ultrabooks show what they are capable of in terms of design and higher-end materials. All that said, I do think that Samsung did a good job of keeping the weight and thickness of the Nexus 10 in check, which makes it feel much better in the hand than most large Android slates.

A good example of a tablet that struggles with this balance was the Lenovo A2109 that I briefly owned. It was a substantial device, to say the least. It certainly didn’t feel cheap (although the screen definitely looked cheap), but it felt heavy, and the ergonomics of the tablet didn’t help matters. There is a balance there between quality materials and weight, which I think Apple, Nokia, and HTC are all pretty good at hitting. Others, however, often seem to struggle with this balance.

Materials aside, Samsung does deserve credit for making a good decision on trade-offs. This is supposed to be a flagship tablet at a discounted price of $399, so Samsung (possibly at Google’s request, since this is a Nexus device) made a better decision than Lenovo on what to focus on. They put the emphasis on the screen, and in using a lighter weight plastic body, kept the 10 from feeling as bulky as most of its competition. One place where you notice this is actually in a spot I complained about a moment ago. While holding and using the Nexus 10 in portrait orientation still doesn’t feel as natural to me as my iPad does, it is a big improvement over other Android devices I’ve tried, thanks to the thinness and light weight.

 

Speakers

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Another aspect of the Nexus 10’s design that I think is really well thought out is the speaker placement. There are two front facing speakers, one on either side of the screen. This gives the user much better stereo separation than you can get with them placed on the back of the tablet. The bottom mounted speaker of the iPad is acceptable (especially the Mini, which has stereo speakers), but the Nexus 10 also has Apple’s number in this category.

This speaker position directs the sound right at you while you are gaming, watching a movie or listening to music. They could be a little louder, but they are good enough for times when you can’t or don’t want to use headphones or external speaker. I know that I am much more likely to use the speakers on a tablet, rather than headphones, so I appreciate this design choice.

 

Software (OS)

I’m not going to get too deep into this part…yet. However, as someone who has tried several Android tablets at different OS levels and with different UIs, and has at least rooted, if not loaded custom ROMs on all of them, I appreciate how much Google has done to clean up stock Android and make it faster and more organized. It is far better than it used to be. The OS itself is fast and smooth. I also have to mention the new user profiles feature of Android 4.2, which is a really good idea for a “family tablet” scenario. Photo Sphere is more of a tech demo than a useful feature, but it does work well and is fun to play with. This is more Good Google than Good Samsung, but the result is the same.

More on software in just a bit.

 

The Rest

By nature, there isn’t much fluff to a Nexus device. (Maybe this is a good thing, considering the glut of software “features” that Samsung packs their branded devices with.) They have the latest and greatest OS and software from Google and great specs, but not much else. As such, there isn’t a whole lot to cover here beyond what’s already been discussed. I guess it bears mentioning that the processor and memory are quite sufficient for anything that I have done with the device. The cameras also work well, even though I rarely use them. Also, I guess I managed to miss out on some of the early bugs that were reported to cause device crashes. Google has been quick with updates that seem to have put those problems to bed. That’s one of the main points of buying a Nexus device, so good on them for taking care of it.

I guess I should report that I haven’t done very much outside of the stock experience. The only thing I did try was to root the Nexus 10 and load the last version of Flash, which is possible if you need it for some reason. I wanted to get Amazon Instant Video working, since Amazon won’t release an Android version of this app (note- there is an iOS version, which I use quite often on my iPad).

nexus-10-flash-amazon-instant-video

While it works, I wouldn’t recommend this if you have another alternative. For the time I spent messing with it, the experience is poor, unreliable, and kills the battery.

 

The “Meh”

Software (OS)

As I mentioned before, I have used several Android tablets with different OS versions and setups, but none of them has held my attention very long. I’ve tested, rooted, and hacked around a bit, got bored, and then either taken the devices back or sold them. Even with all of the improvements in Jelly Bean, Android still just doesn’t grab me. Don’t misunderstand me, now. I’m not saying it sucks. If I thought that, I wouldn’t keep shelling out good money to try Android. I know that it works very well for a lot of people. This isn’t Bad Google. It’s simply a personal preference issue.

However, for someone like me who doesn’t want to (or in my case now, have time to) play around with home screens and set up a bunch of stuff to build up an experience, the stock OS just leaves me flat. I guess it comes down to this- Android is designed for those who want to really customize everything about their device, and have access to an endless supply of tweaks and widgets. I just have absolutely zero interest in messing with any of that anymore. I left that desire behind with Windows Mobile in 2005. Too much work for not enough return.

A personal example where Android falls flat for me is with widgets. I always thought that I would like using widgets, coming from the plain, widgetless interface of iOS. I used to jailbreak and use some lockscreen hacks to display notifications and additional information in older versions of iOS, so I figured that this feature would have some draw for me.

However, I still find them very frustrating to use in practice. Trying to squeeze what you want onto a given screen, where you want it, can be a real pain. It feels like there is a ton of wasted space and that the widgets aren’t configurable enough. I remember hearing that automatic sizing and adjustment were supposed to be improved in Jelly Bean, but I have still been disappointed in the results. I usually end up with a janky looking screen with either odd gaps or app icons stuck in weird locations because of widgets that don’t adjust and won’t line up the way I want them to.

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This screen is a good example, as the Box widget takes up far more space than it needs, and won’t align at the top. I know this is nitpicky, but widgets are a core feature of Android that just don’t work the way that I want them to out of the box. (Note: Since someone has already commented about how poorly this screen is laid out, I will clarify. I didn’t design this screen for personal use. It is laid out to illustrate how poorly some widgets work -ie. the Box widget, and the differing designs and appearances of most 3rd party widgets).

Beyond how they work, there is also the look of widgets. As with the speed of Android, the look and feel of it is also better than it used to be. However, many of the widgets I would be interested in using take that nicer, more uniform experience and throw it out the window. The widgets that 3rd party developers produce rarely look anything alike, or bear any resemblance to those that are part of the core OS. I end up with what looks like a community bulletin board at Starbucks on my homescreens.

You can see the diversity of look and feel in the previous screenshots. In the one below, you can see how much cleaner and less obtrusive Google’s own newer widgets are.

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I’m sure someone will point out that there are developers who specialize in making packages of coordinated widgets, or launchers with their own widgets included. Yes, I am aware of them, and I have even tried some of them. Sure, this fixes part of the problem of a clean look and some uniformity, but unfortunately, the main attraction of widgets is getting glanceable information out of apps. A widget maker isn’t going to be to do that for the majority of 3rd party apps. You’re basically stuck with what the dev puts out.

Maybe this aspect of Android will improve over time, since the OS itself is becoming more clean and cohesive. Maybe if devs get on board with Google’s recent design guidelines, 3rd party products will take on a more uniform look and feel. Until then, one of the biggest selling points of Android is pretty much lost on me. Again, this is a personal preference issue, but it has impacted my experience with all of my Android tablets, the Nexus 10 included. One user’s platform advantage can be another user’s major headache.

I bring this up here, even though it isn’t a problem exclusive to the Nexus 10, because I have been asked the question, “How could you prefer a platform that doesn’t offer as many options or customizations as Android?” before. Just remember that this review is from the perspective of someone who is an iOS user, and is happier with that experience. Even though I am a tech professional by trade, have been interested in mobile technology for close to 20 years, and have owned at least one device running just about every major mobile OS ever produced, that doesn’t mean that I am automatically required to run Linux via a command line and carry a 6” phablet running the latest version of Cyanogen to keep my geek status card certified and stamped. Believe it or not, some of us tech enthusiasts actually PREFER simplicity and a clean look and feel. If forced to choose between the customization of Android and the ease of use of iOS across my entire family, the hardware quality and design of Apple devices, and the extensive software and accessory ecosystem, then I will choose Apple all day, every day. But, again, that’s just me.

I guess I should also go ahead and state for the record that, if Apple changes iOS to allow for more glanceable information (which they definitely need to do in iOS 7), I hope they move more in the direction of Windows 8/Windows Mobile’s Modern UI than Android. I would like more information on my home screen. I just want it in a more seamless and uniform style, without much intervention on my part. While Microsoft’s implementation still needs a lot of work, I much prefer their more cohesive and integrated design aesthetic to Android. They have taken the out of the box ease of use of iOS and put an updated spin on it that allows for a lot more glanceable information to be displayed, and more flexibility.

 

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The other big “meh” for me in the Android department is the tech community’s new darling- Google Now. Maybe it’s that I’ve just used it on tablets (it seems like a better fit for use on phones), but even though I have tweaked settings and tried to prod it to do more for me, it just falls flat.

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I live in a mid-sized city, and work either there or in the rural areas surrounding it. As such, I find that the traffic information provided by Google (and Apple, as well, for that matter) to be either lacking, or flat out inaccurate. This means that Google Now’s reminders to leave for appointments and meetings aren’t nearly as useful as they should be. Thanks to the way that they use individual reports and data, as well as aggregated data, I find that Waze is FAR more representative of what is really happening on the road where I live, so that is what I depend on for solid, real-time traffic information every day.

Considering that the Nexus 10 has a built-in GPS chip (an advantage that you don’t get with the WiFi only iPad and iPad Mini models), I was also very disappointed that Google Now had absolutely no idea where I was for long stretches of time when I tried to use it. This happened twice while I was travelling home from working out of town. Google Now was giving me travel times to my house from my company’s office in Memphis, when I had been working in Nashville all week, and was driving home from there. Big difference. 3 hours worth of difference. And yes, the Nexus 10 did have a persistent Internet connection, either at the office in Nashville via WiFi, or in my car through my iPhone 5’s Personal Hotspot. Even when it finally registered that I wasn’t in Memphis (by updating the Nearby Attractions tab when I was about halfway home), it still never updated my arrival time for the hour and a half left of my trip.

As for other information, it just doesn’t do very much for me beyond what I get from other sources. It gives me Memphis Grizzlies game notifications and scores, but ESPN actually does this just as well, works cross-platform, and also gives me College Sports notifications that I am also very interested in, which Google Now curiously does not include. I also get the weather, but even iOS’ Notification Center has that. I can get that at a glance from any number of apps or services.

That’s about it. The only other thing Google Now has shown me are Nearby Attractions and Events, and occasionally package tracking info from Gmail. However, even that has been disappointing. It has only caught 2 out of the last 10 packages that have come through my Gmail, and none of these cards are there for more than a day. I am more interested in seeing this information as the package is about to arrive, making this feature useless for me, so far.

Google Now may end up being the best thing since sliced bread. I’m sure it works better on a phone, and probably has a lot more usefulness in a major metro area that has public transportation options and where Google has many more data points to more accurately track traffic. It just doesn’t add any value whatsoever for me, especially on the Nexus 10. I guess part of the issue for me is also that, if you don’t use Google search for EVERYTHING, all the time, then it doesn’t have enough information on you to go off of. I use Google Search often for research at work and for writing, but I don’t need to use it to pull up information that I already know where to find and how to get, and I don’t feel the need to change my habits just to make this tool work a little better. So, it may never work that well for me.

I realize that I just spent a lot of time ranting about software in a hardware review, but since this is a Nexus device, the software is supposed to be one of the big stars of the show. The only hardware feature of the Nexus 10 that truly stands out is the screen, so if the software isn’t compelling to the user in question, the value of the device takes a big hit.

 

Battery Life

I wouldn’t say that the battery life of the Nexus 10 is terrible. It will get you through most days. However, it doesn’t stand up to the Retina iPad, especially when it comes to standby time. I have gotten in the habit of just turning mine off when I don’t use it for a while, because if I don’t, it will be dead or close to it when I get back to it. This is with only a handful of widgets in use. Maybe it’s the dynamic app updates, or something else entirely, but Samsung could have done a better job here. A screen this big demands a better battery, even if that pushed the weight up a bit.

An even bigger negative is that the charger included with the Nexus 10 is not adequate. It will recharge the tablet overnight, but if you try to charge while using the tablet, your experience will be much different. If you are just surfing or reading, you might gain a few percent over the course of an hour or two, but if you are watching a movie, you will be lucky to hold your current charge level. If you are playing a game, you will actually continue to lose charge while plugged in.

Considering that the battery life of the Nexus 10 isn’t spectacular, and that the main purpose of such a tablet is to take advantage of the beautiful display, which drains said battery quickly when pushed, Samsung absolutely should have included a better charger in the box. Apple’s iPad 3 charger already worked better than the Nexus 10, and they still packed an even better one in with the iPad 4, to enable faster recharging. Come on Samsung. If you know you’re skimping on battery for the sake of size and weight, you should have nailed this.

 

The Bad

The Back

nexus-10-back

Ok, just so I don’t confuse anyone, yes, I did give Samsung credit for making the Nexus 10 slim and light. However, that doesn’t give them a pass for the cheap as hell material and feel of the back of the device. The plastic shell bends and flexes with ease, especially in the middle, and the soft-touch back just feels cheap and more tacky than soft.

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It is also a big time fingerprint magnet. I’ve used $100 tablets that felt more substantial than this. It’s pathetically bad for a device in this price range, especially one with a Nexus label on it.

Before anyone jumps in and tries to say that Samsung’s material choices here are the reason the tablet is thin and light, save some bytes on the Internet and don’t bother. Look no further than Asus’ design of the Nexus 7 for a model of how a tablet can be made inexpensive and kept relatively thin and light, without being made to feel dirt cheap. This is the bad old Samsung of the Captivate and Fascinate and their cheap plastic crap rearing its ugly head again. This poor design decision lessens the experience of holding the device. Google should never allow that on a Nexus device, especially one with a best-of-breed screen, so shame on them for giving this a pass, as well.

Since I have a strong opinion on this topic, I thought it would be a good idea to get some alternate opinions. I gave the Nexus 10 to eight other people to hold and try out to see what they thought of it. Six were iOS users, while the other two use Android. They were aware of the device, but had never seen one. Out of this group, no one had positive comments about the back of the Nexus 10. Six of the ten made negative comments about the back of the device, including both of the Android users. One of them (A GSIII owner, in fact) actually asked if it was defective because of how flexible the back was. Mine also makes a slight clicking noise when you push the center in at the Nexus label.

 

Third-Party Software

Or rather the extreme lack thereof. I can already see the Android fans in the audience raising their hands with protests on this matter, which is understandable. Hearing about this over and over has to get old, especially since the pure numbers are moving in Google’s favor. But unfortunately, numbers don’t equal quality, so the issue is still very, very real. They also don’t equal tablet-friendly versions of apps, which is also unfortunate. Not only does the Nexus 10 fail to improve this situation, it actually underlines it with a red marker and then highlights it with bright flashing neon. What’s the point of this screen, if there are so few apps available that show it off?

To backtrack for a second, I had a Nexus 7 for a few months that I sold just before Christmas. I wasn’t totally thrilled with the app situation on it either, but it was certainly far better than what I am seeing now. That’s because, with it’s smaller screen, it did a much better job of presenting apps that don’t have a tablet-specific interface or an HD version. The 7 is also much more comfortable to hold and use in portrait orientation because of its smaller size, so it isn’t as much of an issue when you use an app that doesn’t work in landscape.

Unfortunately, the Nexus 10’s bigger screen isn’t nearly as versatile. When an app serves up an interface designed for a screen half its size or less, it’s hard not to notice. When an app won’t rotate into landscape, it’s even worse. This completely kills the experience.

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Coming from the Nexus 7, it is very irritating. Coming from an iPad, where I haven’t had to use a pixel-doubled iPhone app in over two years (and I have more than 150 apps installed), it makes me want to smash the 10 against a wall.

To underline my point, here is a list of apps that I have used that offer up inferior experiences on the Nexus 10 in one way or another.

nexus-10-fifa-12

 

Smartphone Interface Only

ESPN ScoreCenter- Locked to Portrait
WatchESPN- Interface Locked to Portrait
DirecTV- Locked to Portrait
Spotify- Locked to Portrait
Olive Tree Bible Study- Blown up UI. Fuzzed Icons, Crashes

 

Inferior Experience to iPad Equivalent

NBA Game Time- No Radio Feature available
Weather Channel- Inferior graphics
AirStash- No Internet Passthrough
Pocket Informant- Crashes, Poor Sync Performance, Missing Features
DocsToGo- Locked to Google Docs. No other cloud options
Real Racing 2- Not available on Nexus 10. Poor version compared to iOS, even on the Nexus 7.
FIFA 12- Not available on Nexus 10. FIFA 13 not available on Android, at all
NBA Jam- Not Available on Nexus 10
NBA2k13- Buggy. Lots of graphic issues ie- floating headbands
PES 2012- No longer available for sale in Play Store. No update available. Crashes.

nexus-10-fifa-12

Bear in mind that this is just from the sampling of apps that I have loaded on the Nexus 10 since I got it. I’m sure there are plenty of other apps that either won’t run on the 10, have a poor interface, or just don’t work. This is the biggest frustration with and shortcoming of this tablet. Two of the apps that I use everyday on my iPad Mini, Pocket Informant and DocsToGo, are practically unusable on the Nexus 10, which really limits what I can use it for on its own. The 10 won’t function as my daily driver without these, and a handful of other apps that either aren’t available, or aren’t as good as their iOS counterparts.

This screen just begs to be used for games and media apps that will take advantage of it, but there are just so few that work well. If you look at my list above, you’ll see that DirecTV, and ESPN’s apps are just blown up phone versions. The interfaces are locked to portrait orientation, which is irritating. Then, when you get to the point of watching video in landscape, it is low resolution and just looks terrible.

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I do know that Flipboard looks amazing, and there are a few top notch games, such as N.O.V.A and Real Racing 3, that really show off what it is capable of, but that isn’t enough. The bottom line is this. Out of the apps I have tried, I can count on one hand the ones that really show off the Nexus 10’s awesome screen. This just isn’t the case with the iPad, as there is no shortage of apps that show off the Retina displays of the iPad 3 and 4. This would be more understandable if 10” Android tablets were something new, but they have been around for over two years now. The Nexus 7 has been very successful in part because it very skillfully sidesteps this issue. However, unless Google can somehow spur the development of apps that are more tablet friendly, the larger screen devices from their OEMs will continue to struggle head-to-head with the iPad.

 

Conclusion

For me, the meh and the bad of the Nexus 10 definitely outweigh the good. This is frustrating, because it definitely has some things going for it. The screen is first rate, and the thinness and weight are attractive, as well. Also, the $399 price tag is very compelling, considering the specs of the device.

However, even though I could have overlooked my personal gripes with certain aspects of the OS as well as the construction and materials used on the back of the device, the app situation is what really kills the Nexus 10 for me. Unfortunately, the amazing 10” screen just underlines that point. This tablet just isn’t the right form factor for what Android currently offers. The Nexus 7 remains a vastly superior choice for now. It is a far more comfortable fit with the current Google Play catalog, and is a much better value with its lower price.

Even though I am an avid iOS user, and wouldn’t trade my iPad for any of the Android devices that I have tried to this point, I am also a tech enthusiast and feel that competition is necessary to drive the industry forward. I had high hopes that both the Nexus 10 and Microsoft Surface RT would sell well and push Apple to bring their A game for the upcoming refreshes of their iPad line. However, that hasn’t happened. The Nexus 10 doesn’t seem to be having a major impact in the broader consumer market, or even in its own Google Play ecosystem, and the Surface has been a huge flop in terms of sales.

Ultimately, it is up to Google to take the reigns of this issue if they really want to make progress with larger form factors. Apple set the tone for developers with the iWork suite at the release of the iPad, and then pressed further with Garage Band and iMovie a year later. Apple also made sure to seed hardware and updated SDKs to key developers so that their apps could be showcased in hardware and software keynotes, and be ready for release at or close to launch.

Apple’s apps were some of the best tablet apps available at the time of their release. While they have been surpassed by third party apps in many ways at this point, they effectively served their purpose. They set the tone for what users would expect from tablet apps, and for what developers should expect to deliver if they wanted to charge a premium price. Apple knew that pixel-doubled iPhone apps wouldn’t sell their new device before they launched it, so they took the initiative to show the way. For the iPad to have a major impact, it needed apps that were tailored to the larger screen to keep it from becoming the big iPod Touch many pundits predicted that it would be. They helped to kickstart the process of tablet development that would make the iPad ecosystem the advantage that it STILL is today.

I realize that what I am suggesting is against the grain for Google. They tend to be somewhat hands-off with their 3rd party app developers. They do release a lot of software themselves, but it is typically centered around their core Google Experience apps. These are well thought out and look really good, thanks to Google’s new company-wide emphasis on design. However, none of them show off the capabilities of the Nexus 10 in grand fashion. If Google is really serious about competing against the full-sized iPad and future Microsoft and Windows 8 products, then they need to bring the sizzle that sells the steak.

Ultimately, the Nexus 10 feels like a device that’s desperately searching for a reason to exist. Few apps take advantage of its primary strength, so it doesn’t present the same value that the Nexus 7 does. Even if you have to have a bigger screen and can’t stand Apple, I’m not sure this is even the best 10” tablet option in the Android lineup. That’s the big failure here. This is a Nexus device. There should be absolutely no doubt that it is the best device in its class for showing off Google’s OS, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

So, as an iOS user, the Nexus 10 doesn’t present a compelling case for ownership. For me, the OS still isn’t a good fit, so I can’t see it being my primary platform. Despite that, however, the Nexus 7 was a very solid secondary device that was perfect for keeping up with “the other side.” But with a lack of apps that make the Nexus 10 indispensable, I don’t see any reason to keep it as a secondary device. I really expected more because of the Nexus name, but the 10 just failed to deliver the goods. Considering that the screen quality and price of the Nexus 10 seemed to be aimed right across Apple’s bow, I see this device as a failure, because it isn’t going to attract legions of existing iPad users to move to Android.

If you are an iOS user who wants to check out Android right now, then you should avoid the 10 and take a good look at the Nexus 7. It’s cheaper and is a much better fit with the current Google Play landscape. If you are interested in a larger screen tablet, I would honestly suggest that you hang onto your money and wait for the next round of big tablet announcements that will probably come between Summer and Fall. That’s likely what I will be doing.

As a value conscious individual, it feels wasteful and redundant to own both an iPad Mini and an Retina iPad. However, if I find myself interested in a large screen tablet in the near term, especially if Apple does a Spring refresh of the 4, that is the direction I will be heading in. The extra $100 over the Nexus 10’s starting price is nothing to sneeze at, but the iPad 4 is absolutely worth every penny more, thanks to the better built quality, expansive software and accessory ecosystem, and superior battery life. The iPad 5 should only improve on that.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know either way in the comments below, in our forums, or hit me up on Twitter @jhrogersii or on Google+.

 

The 16GB Nexus 10 can be purchased from the Google Play Store for $399, and the 32GB for $499.

The Nexus 10 in this review was independently purchased by the post author in the App Store. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

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  • Brad Gurgel

    Great, very in depth review. Nice work James! I had thought of giving this device a shot at one time, but from your review I am glad I did not.

  • Random reader

    Good review. My impressions exactly. I tried both, the new iPad and the nexus 10. The Nexus 10 is good, but just not there it. The user experience on iPad is very fluid and apps are higher quality. In the end, even though I wanted Nexus 10 to win, I decided against it.

  • James Rogers

    Thanks, Brad. Yeah, I definitely would not recommend this tablet to anyone. The Nexus 7 blows it away. The Note 8 would probably also be better for those that like the S-Pen and Samsung’s first party stuff.

    By the way, I enjoyed reading about your recent dips into the Android pond, as well. I’m not a big fan of Samsung’s software overload, but I’m sure it does add a lot more value for users in the Note 10.1 than what I got here in the Plain Jane Nexus 10. The first party stuff and the S-Pen probably help you get over the lack of good 3rd party options.

    • Patricio

      excellent review, if you can make one for the nexus 4, i have one, i love it, and i agree with how you did your review, yet i disagree on the customization part but thats nothing new.

      its a really profesional review, really techie, non fanboyed, and IMO, samsung deserves to be kicked and hard on how the do their business with android, the nexus 10 was a mayor flop compared to the nexus 4(talking about manufacturing defects), and the nexus 7 made by Asus is a killer, if they make the v2 of the nexus 7 i will get that one.

      i have used ios, and honestly… i feel it… lacking, cant do much with it without jailbreaking, and do some things on it, feels like a chore (i dont remember well i dont have an iphone anymore, and my ipod is … somewhere on my closet ).

      • James Rogers

        Thanks, Patricio. We all have our biases and preferences, but I try to avoid being a raging fanboy. The world has enough of those, on all platforms.

        I appreciate your take. iOS isn’t for everyone, and I know it can be a pain sometimes. I think some on the Android side have trouble understanding that a lot of iOS users, like myself, are fans of the build quality of the hardware and love the app and accessory ecosystems, which are still richer than what you get with Android. It’s a trade-off, but one I am willing to make to make because I find those things to be very important. But, it isn’t for everyone.

        I agree that the Nexus 7 is vastly superior to the 10. The only reason I’m not buying another one is so I can wait to see what’s coming next. I will probably be getting a new Retina iPad if it is updated next month, and then maybe the next Nexus 7 this summer. However, I have found myself interested in the Nexus 4. I know it has a lot better build quality than the 10, so I will probably be a lot more satisfied with it. That, and there is no shortage of good smartphone software for Android.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gideon-Waxfarb/100002251671344 Gideon Waxfarb

          The Nexus 4 is good, but just watch out for the glass back if you like to go ‘bareback’ on phones, since it slides right off of most smooth surfaces. I have found my Nexus 4 on the floor more times than I can remember. At the very least, you might need a skin on the back, esp if you get the wireless charging orb.

        • James Rogers

          Interesting. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard that, either. It was either one of the guys on The Verge, or on a TWIT show, but they were saying the exact same thing. I’m kind of used to glass backs, after the iPhone 4 and 4S, but since it was a flat back, it never slid off anything.

          If I get one, I will definitely put a Best Skins Ever skin on it. I put them on pretty much everything I own. Good, cheap protection.

          Thanks for the tip!

        • gabhpr

          Your posts are that of a raging fan boy. Stop reviewing android devices and stick with iOS. I’d rather read a good iOS article from you than a shitty biased as hell android one.

        • http://twitter.com/jhrogersii James Rogers

          Yeah, all us raging iOS fanboys drop hundreds of $$ on Android, webOS, Windows Phone, and Windows 8 devices, just to write bad reviews of them. Nailed it.

  • Atticus Daniel

    Good critical review. Here’s my take on your take.

    “I guess it comes down to this- Android is designed for those who want to really customize everything about their device, and have access to an endless supply of tweaks and widgets. I just have absolutely zero interest in messing with any of that anymore.”

    I agree completely. I love to customize my device and that’s why I would not choose the current iPad over the N10. While I think iPads are very nice they just seem homogenized to me. I think my mom would benefit from the homogenization while I would not. You like that I don’t, that’s fair.

    As far as your criticism of the look and feel of a widget customized device. No wonder you don’t care for it. Your setup is terrible. Let me know if you want screenshots to see how to do it right because you did it wrong.

    Personally I like the back. I think it’s soft and not cold like a device made of aluminum (which is darn cheap last I checked).

    “One of them (A GSIII owner, in fact) actually asked if it was defective because of how flexible the back was. Mine also makes a slight clicking noise when you push the center in at the Nexus label.spend zero time looking at the back of the device. You are obviously not alone in this criticism as I hear it often but am always a little bewildered by the complaint. On my last IOS device I bought a nice plastic skin with a cool picture to soften the feel of my iPod touch. I think I can agree to disagree on that point.”

    I think you did have a defective N10 mine does not click and it does not easily flex. So Maybe you have a point if there are a lot of defective units out there? But why are you trying to flex your tablet anyway?

    I also don’t think third party apps have much to do with the Nexus 10 they will improve over time as have the IOS offerings. I primarily use tablets to browse, email, read. I also have hundreds of apps that I like installed.

    • James Rogers

      Thank you for the your diplomatic critique. I have a few responses and clarifications.

      “As far as your criticism of the look and feel of a widget customized device. No wonder you don’t care for it. Your setup is terrible. Let me know if you want screenshots to see how to do it right because you did it wrong.”- Maybe I should have put a note in the review about that screenshot. That isn’t a screen that I would design or use. It was created as a worst-case to illustrate both of my complaints. The four primary widgets on the screen are from apps that I use a lot, but they have completely different designs, and just look terrible together. Also, I don’t know what’s going on with Box, but their widget is just awful. It takes up far more room than it uses to display information. Most widgets aren’t this bad when it comes to sizing and placement, but again, it illustrates my point about trying to fit what you want on a given screen.

      I know that this isn’t Google’s fault. It is the way they designed Android to work. However, on a screen that large, it feels like screens should be easier to create without diving into the Play Store and digging for launchers and customized widgets. Again, I have no interest in that myself, and a lot of less sophisticated users won’t have any idea how. As I stated in my review, I am a much bigger fan of Microsoft’s Modern UI, which gives the user the glanceable information of widgets, but puts that power into a sleek and unified framework.

      “Personally I like the back. I think it’s soft and not cold like a device made of aluminum (which is darn cheap last I checked).”- Not ALL aluminum is inexpensive. Light weight, high strength aluminum pressed into a unibody costs more to cast and mass produce than plastic molding. One look at just about any laptop manufacturer’s product catalog from low end to high end (including Samsung’s) will tell you that.

      It isn’t just that all plastic is cheap, or more to the point FEELS cheap. Several manufacturers have produced mobile electronic devices with sturdy plastics that have a higher end feel. HTC and Nokia immediately come to mind. Also, as I mentioned in the review, Asus did a much better job with this on the Nexus 7.

      All that said, I usually do put a clear skin on both the screen and backs of all my mobile devices. This is more for scratch protection than anything else, but it does add a litte extra grip. However, I have not put one on my iPad Mini, and haven’t had issues with scratches or slippage to date.

      I think you did have a defective N10 mine does not click and it does not easily flex. So Maybe you have a point if there are a lot of defective units out there? But why are you trying to flex your tablet anyway?”- I wouldn’t do this, normally. I tried to flex it because of how much give it had just putting my hands on the back. It felt really cheap and flimsy, so I want to see how much it would bend. Too much for a $399 device. If it’s a manufacturing process issue, then again, shame on Google for putting the Nexus brand on this and not making Samsung fix the problem.

      “I also don’t think third party apps have much to do with the Nexus 10 they will improve over time as have the IOS offerings. I primarily use tablets to browse, email, read. I also have hundreds of apps that I like installed.”- I disagree on this point. On a device that has nothing but the stock OS, and one standout hardware feature, you need quality software to make it a good value in the face of solid, less expensive competition. Those are all common uses for tablets that you list, but what has made the iPad a mainstream success is the number of either universal apps, or tablet-specific apps that are available. What’s the point of dropping $399 on a device with a spectacular screen, if there is little out there that takes full advantage of it?

      Like i said above, I can think of maybe 5 apps that look better on the 10 than on a Nexus 7. If that’s the case, then why spend that extra money for very little return?

      • Atticus Daniel

        Thanks for the response, James. I think between us we illustrate that these sorts of things are all about personal preference. My sister is looking for a tablet and I recommended the Nexus 7 as she seemed to like the size factor of my old first gen Kindle Fire (which is now running Jelly Bean 4.2.2). But I told her if she decides to go with a 10″ tablet maybe the iPad would be better for her. I think much like you, having more control and flexibility probably isn’t very important to her. To me not having that is a deal breaker.

        • James Rogers

          I agree. I think a lot of people get too hung up on platform loyalty, but it really should be all about personal preference. I’ve packed up and left a couple of platforms in the past, and I can do it again if it comes to that. I keep trying Android devices to make sure I am aware of what’s going on in other systems, and I will probably dip my toe into Windows 8 pretty soon, as well. Ultimately, being a fanboy is synonymous with being ignorant.

  • Optamizm

    If you have soft hands, the Nexus 10 will sit in your hand and can be turned to an angle of about 70 degrees before it starts to slide, I love it for this reason… It can sometimes be turned even more…

  • Shawn Shema

    Very nice critique James. There is one other issue that wasn’t pointed out, and I am assuming that it wasn’t brought up because you haven’t used it long enough. There are Wi-Fi issues common within N10 users. I am unsure if it’s due to a poorly built wireless card, or if its just within the OS itself. I whole-heartedly agree that the device has great potential, but Google has clearly made this an under-achieving device. I mean, there isn’t even an official smart cover for this device and they’re already talking about a bloody 2nd gen N10! As a 1st gen N10 user, I can only hope that these guys fix these issues and persuade enough developers to make apps optimal for this device.

    • James Rogers

      I have had mine for about a month and a half. It took me a while to really get into it because of how busy I’ve been lately, but I personally haven’t seen a lot of issues with my wireless network dropping since I started really using it a lot. However, I did have a lot of quality issues with streaming video on a very fast and stable network.

      I would agree with you, overall. This tablet just doesn’t stack up to the 7 in any regard, other than the screen, and that isn’t enough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zapote21 Luis Reich

    One problem that I NEVER see addressed though is the lack of file system access on iOS. I use my personal N10 for work. I also carry a 4S (issued by work) that I use for work email, and my personal Note 2. Everytime I see another professional out on the road with an iPad and we start talking, I always mention the lack of productivity from zero access to file system. And every single time, they all nod their head in agreement but continue to use the iPad. No thanks. Everytime I get a work email on my 4S with an attachment, I forward to my gmail so I can actually do something with that attachment. No mater how pretty, or whatever an iPad is, it can never match a Nexus 10 in terms of file manupulation, editing, and access by all apps, as well as file organization

    • James Rogers

      This is a fair point. However, it isn’t particularly difficult to get around. All of the document and photo apps that I use have access to the same cloud services. I have different files and things stashed in Google Docs, Box, and Dropbox. All of the apps that I use save to and extract from there, so there isn’t a big need for me to fool with the local file system.

      This would be more of a problem if I used Apple’s iWork apps and iCloud, but I don’t. I am a Windows user, so those apps don’t particularly fit what I need. Anyway, if you went all iCloud for doc storage, this would be more of a problem because they wouldn’t be accessible from any other apps.

      Also, for me personally, I would rather have a more powerful document editing app that is compatible with Office (which I need for work), than direct access to the file system. I only found one worthwhile app in Google Play (QuickOffice), while there are several available for iOS.

      I have a feeling that this will eventually go away. Because of the iPad’s popularity as an enterprise device, Apple will have to do something about it. I would expect a centralized File Store, similar to how they currently handle the Camera Roll. All apps can get access to it, as long as the user approves when prompted. That would do for most users, including myself.

      • takethattakethat

        give me a break…. you like don’t like how you have to customize stuff on Android but think its fine that iOS is missinga huge productivity feature but can get around “around it” with a little work. At the end of the day Android is a full fledge OS not some toy, and the plastic back is meant to be held, not cold metal that looks pretty but is useless

        • James Rogers

          Please take the time to use proper grammar when trolling.

          I think that Apple takes Sandboxing a bit too far, myself, but some users see it as a solid security feature. Considering that malware is basically non-existent in the iOS world, their measures certainly are effective. There is a trade-off for everything. Anyway, like I said in my previous comment, I would rather have more productivity app choices, which I do with iOS, than direct file system access. I don’t care if I can access my Office docs directly if I only have one app that is even passable to edit them with?

          You can try to defend that plastic back, but it is a piece of crap, pure and simple. It is easily bested by the less expensive Nexus 7. Hell, the Playbook/OG Kindle Fire makes it look bad.

        • http://twitter.com/BrandoHD Brandon

          But he has put your very own argument flat on its back y using your ow principles against you, bad grammar and all, you claim to lack the patience to properly organize widgets, but you have the patience to work around a huge productivity feature,or lack thereof, this was one of the main reasons that our team moved away from the iPad as an office tool

          Okay, it’s an article on what you “rather” no problem, but you have to take the valid critiques that come along with that

        • James Rogers

          I completely disagree. Loading the Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive apps takes almost no time at all. Connecting DocsToGo, Readle, Blogsy or another doc editor or viewer to these services is as easy as either entering your user and pass, or sometimes just tapping a button and giving the editor permission. To me, access to the file system is completely inconsequential because I never need it. Working with documents just requires that you choose the proper tool for your needs, and thankfully, the App Store has no shortage of them.

          For the record, his argument was about not wanting to spend time in one area, when I am doing so in another because of the lack of a file system. However, I have found that this requires no patience, and very little time on my end. Arranging home screens that I am happy with takes far longer. Again, from my perspective, this argument is inconsequential.

        • James Rogers

          You might want to check that grammar, as well.

  • Dane Walton, Jr.

    Horrible review: you spent too long complaining about Android & not discussing the actual tablet. If you dislike an OS this much, no new hardware is going to change your tune. The bias is clear as day towards the end, where you blame the tablet AND Android for 3rd party app developers.

    I like how Google Now is just ‘meh’ but clearly Apple hit a homer with Siri…kind of like how much Android’s widget’s “fall flat’ yet you want Apple to implement something that amounts to basically the same thing. If you can’t stay focused on the Nexus 10, don’t do a review of the Nexus 10.

    • James Rogers

      Fair, I guess. however, like I said in the review, when you are looking at a device that has no other hooks than the screen and the stock OS, the OS is a big factor. There’s no S-Pen or first-party software additions to fill this out.

      Third party apps are, ultimately, the responsibility of the developers. However, if Google wants the situation to improve for their larger screen devices, they need to get engaged and give devs a good kick in the backside. Lead. Show the way. Like Apple, it isn’t like they’re short of the cash to do it. Blow it out, and give users something to drool over with that screen. If they don’t, then what’s the point? And for the record, while Apple did a great job of this initially, they have been slacking pretty hard themselves over the last year and a half.

      Google Now was a meh for me because of the massive hype train that surrounds it. As for Siri, I didn’t turn around and extol how much better it is. It isn’t, for most people. It still needs a lot of TLC from Apple. It works well for me, personally, but that’s because I drive all the time for work, and it’s pretty good at delivering me the info I want hands free.

      If you’ve ever used Windows Phone, you’d see that their Live Tiles are not the same thing as widgets. They are, however, a nice middle ground between Apple’s stodgy Springboard, and Android’s widgets. The whole point of that was to show that I don’t think Apple’s solution is cutting it anymore, either. It isn’t enough to make me leave the things I like about the platform, but it desperately needs a refresh. I just hope that refresh goes in a different direction than Android.

      I understand your complaint. However, remember that this review was done from an iOS user’s perspective, and was aimed at a user like me, who is looking for something on the other side to take for a spin. That also puts the OS in play. That’s a valid concern for a non-Android user. If you read the end, that’s why I recommended the 7 if such a user wants something right now, and waiting for the “next thing” if they can. That’s hardware that does a better job of showcasing Android.

  • dwdw

    ehh isheeps…

    • James Rogers

      Astounding originality from the Google Goat. Can’t help butting heads with anything that moves.

  • xtabber

    If you expect an Android tablet to look and act like an iPad, of course it will fall short. My home screen has Weatherbug’s weather radar map animated wallpaper for background. Over that, I place clock, calendar, weather, agenda and to do list widgets with their own backgrounds set to full transparency. This lets me see at a glance everything I need to know at any given moment. The only icons are those on the task bar at the bottom of the home screen.

    Since Android gives me 5 home screen pages, I use the side pages for most other frequently used apps, but I use widgets instead of icons only when there is a good reason to do so. The widgets for Box and Evernote are little more than toolbars. Those for, say, Tune-in Radio and Neutron Music Player, really do provide useful real time information, instead of just launching the app.

    None of this is possible in iOS, so I wouldn’t expect you to look for such capabilities. I understand that not everyone wants or needs the flexibility that Android provides, but I can’t imagine living with the limitations of the iPad and iPhone, no matter how polished the hardware. The Nexus 7 and 10 are not the first tablets I have owned, but they are the first where I don’t feel I am making a compromise.

    Aside from that, I have experienced none of the problems mentioned in some of the other comments. I personally prefer the Nexus 10, which is a good thing, since my wife has pretty much appropriated my Nexus 7.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gideon-Waxfarb/100002251671344 Gideon Waxfarb

    Nice review. I’m not a fan of 10″ either, but if I had to choose, I’d rather tongue the sweaty asshole of a Kenyan marathon runner than use an iPad. My reasons are as follows:

    – Not only does the iPad cost more, but if I want to HDMI-out to watch a movie (or whatever) on the iPad, I need a $40 adapter. Why? The Nexus 10 does it with a $4 cable from Monoprice. This is one place where I feel your review is lacking; this REALLY ought to be mentioned, esp when you’re bitching about the lack of accessories on the Nex.

    – Sharing among iOS apps is kind of iffy, unless it’s Facebook or Twitter. I noticed this esp when I wanted to add browser links to Pocket. On Android, it’s a long-press. On iOS, you need some janky bookmarklet.

    – In general, the walled garden of the iPad doesn’t bother me, but the fact that they don’t allow emulators in the app store does. On Android, I can download all the emus I want, and pair a PS3 controller with it and I’m good to go.

    – I can block ads at the OS level. Sure, you have to root to do that, but this is fairly trivial on a Nexus device, and I can keep it after updating. Plus, I don’t need a crappy 3rd party app repository like jailbroken iPads.

    – The iPad (ios5) wouldn’t let me disable the lock screen. This drove me absolutely apeshit. I am at home… why do I need the lock screen?

    – Many apps on the iPad such as Facebook (as of ios5) don’t let you change the default notification tone, so when an iPad beeps from across the room, you have no idea which app is trying to get your attention.

    – No native Google Voice app for tablets. (Not sure if Google has made one recently.)

    Personally, I LOVE the customization of Android on phones, and the quick toggle widgets. On tablets, I don’t need that as much. Even still, I found the iPad to be like a prison… even very simple things I wanted to tweak were not available to me without a jailbreak. Of course, my dealbreakers are not your dealbreakers, and this review reminded me that each of us desires different things from our devices.

  • Tomas Borovka

    I will be very boring: personal preferences…

  • zifnab

    I love Android. Its the only phone i’ve ever owned. I’ve spent a lot of time on iPhone doing browser testing, and I just can’t bring myself to make the switch, more over the narrow screen size than the OS itself (I have giant hands). But they just don’t cut it on Tablet. I feel like the iPad 1 is better than every edition of Android tablet i’ve put my hands on, including the Nexus 7. I will admit that Jelly Bean made things much smoother, but as the reviewer pointed out the app situation is still dire. All these years later most apps still haven’t but scaled up to match with the larger display sizes… and who can fault the developers? Android Tablets don’t have the numbers.

    Personally i’ll probably stick with Android for my smart phone, and iOS for my tablets… though Windows Surface Pro may lure me away from the iPad since it does a lot more.

    • http://twitter.com/jhrogersii James Rogers

      I have heard others express similar opinions, and I think it makes a lot of sense. Android is very well suited to the smartphone, and I believe that iOS works much better on the larger screen of the iPad. The gesture navigation support adds a lot to the experience. The wealth of great tablet apps helps a lot, as well.

      I see what you’re saying about the Surface Pro. The form factor is just a little too locked down for me. I’m currently looking at the Lenovo Yoga 13.3 and some other Win 8 touchscreen ultra books for my next work machine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/enigma69 John Wentworth

    As an android enthusiast, but a iPad 3 tablet owner, I have to agree. Two things kills Android tablets for me, Apps not designed for tablets and battery life. I leave my iPad sitting around without charging it for a few to several days at a time, pluging in a smartphone every night is one thing but plugging in a tablet every night would get old fast as it’s not always with me. The lack of tablet apps is just sad too, I had a Asus Transformer Prime and returned it within 3 weeks because of how disappointing the apps were. I do miss widgets, but other than that I’m happier with iOS tablets. Android rocks though for smartphones, I’d never go back to a iPhone.

  • Lutz Froenicke

    productivity? Softmaker Office for android is fantastic. Easy to use and offers a more or less complete feature set.

    • http://twitter.com/jhrogersii James Rogers

      I’ll give that one a shot next time out. Thanks for the tip.

      One thing I am trying to do, however, since I am a cross-platform user rather than someone who really wants to switch, is find software that works equally well on BOTH iOS and Android. Unfortunately, that has been harder to find.