Review: Google Nexus 7 (2013)

When Google debuted its first Nexus-branded tablet last summer, it was pretty much everything we wanted. Its pint-sized body was handsome and speedy, the display was beautiful, and it ran a version of Android that (finally) felt like it was made to run on a tablet. The $200 price tag was gravy.

Fast forward a year. There’s now Apple’s 7.9-inch iPad mini to contend with, and several other budget-priced 7-inch Android tablets have shuffled onto the playing field. The shelves are getting crowded, and consumers previously on the fence about tablet ownership are opening their wallets. If there was ever a time for Google and its Nexus 7 hardware partner Asus to step up and deliver something new and improved, it’s now.

So here we have it, delivered pretty much right on cue at a launch event in late July: a new Nexus 7. This new one comes with a price bump — it’s now $230, up from the $200 starting price of last year’s 7-inch Nexus tablet. The 4G LTE version tops out at $350.

The 2013 model boasts improvements all around that justify the modest price hike, though. The tablet loses 2 ounces of heft and 2 millimeters of thickness. On-board is the latest version of Android, 4.3 Jelly Bean. Battery life has grown from a respectable 7 to 8 hours to an even more respectable 9 hours. There’s an NFC chip for pairing to peripherals. And the 1920×1200 resolution, 323 pixel-per-inch HD display is deliciously sharp.

And just for yucks, Google has included wireless charging on the Nexus 7, making it perhaps the first tablet since the ill-fated HP TouchPad to include this feature. Google just isn’t letting the wireless charging thing go. The tech hasn’t gone big-time yet, as it’s still limited to a few devices — the Nexus 7 uses the same Qi platform as Nokia’s recent Lumia phones and last year’s Nexus 4 handset — making it more of a novelty for most consumers, since they’ll likely be lacking the wireless charging hardware when they buy the tablet. But it’s there, so smoke em if you got em (Apparently, a number of Starbucks across the U.S. are getting wireless charging stations, so eventually you’ll be able to power up while you caffeinate).

The 2013 Nexus 7 sets itself apart from the hordes of tablets crowding store shelves by offering the most premium Android tablet experience available at a decidedly economical price tag. Asus and Google give us exactly what we want out of a tablet — a dazzling display, complaint-free performance, and solid battery life — and wraps it in a super svelte, lightweight package. Now, can we get some more tablet-optimized apps, Google?

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