Nexus 10 review: The so-so Android tablet

Google's Samsung-made 'pure' Android tablet simply doesn't match up in quality or experience to Samsung's own Note 10.1

Maybe Google should stop trying to get into the hardware business. In the early days of Android, when there were some really crappy Android smartphones with poorly designed interface overlays being rushed to market to compete with the Apple iPhone, it made sense for Google to produce its own "pure" reference model (the problematic Nexus One) to steer the market to better quality. Even a year ago, it was logical to produce a reference model, the Galaxy Nexus, to showcase Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich."

But today, Google's line of Nexus devices -- the Nexus 4 smartphone, Nexus 7 mini tablet, and Nexus 10 full-size tablet -- showcase not quality but mediocrity. Google's other Nexus product, the Apple TV-like Nexus Q media interface box, was so bad that Google pulled it from the market before it shipped, based on widespread criticism of the beta units last spring.

[ Compare today's business tablets in InfoWorld's tablet comparison tool. | Read our tablet reviews: iPad Mini and fourth-gen iPadGalaxy Note 10.1Microsoft Surface RTMedia tablet deathmatchGalaxy Tab 2 seriesXyboard 10.1Acer Iconia W700 | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobilize newsletter. ]

Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean": More misses than hits in its new features
The Nexus 10's claim to fame is Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean," an update to the Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" release introduced in June's Nexus 7 and now making its way to Android devices from other manufacturers. Android 4.2 adds four software features to tablets.

The handiest is the ability to have multiple user accounts on the tablet. You switch user accounts at the lock screen that appears when you start the tablet or awaken it, much as you do in OS X or Windows. Each user has a separate instance of Android, so parents and kids don't get in each other's way; in a business scenario, personal and work personas could be kept separated.

Android 4.2 also lets you place some widgets, such as email or calendar, on your lock screen. (Each user account can have separate widgets; tap the user account bubble first to determine which account gets the added widgets.) The process is not intuitive. You have to swipe to the right on the lock screen to activate the widget box, then slide the widget box to "rotate" until a + (plus) icon appears, and finally tap the + icon to add a widget. You can have as many as four widgets, but you can add them only one by one.

It's nice to be able to scroll through your appointments or emails on the lock screen. You get more interaction with these apps than in iOS's lock screen notifications. But you can't add widgets to an account that has a PIN or password requirement imposed by Exchange or a mobile management tool -- only the clock widget is available. That's no doubt a security issue, but it greatly limits the utility of the widgets for business users. However, if you imposed a PIN or password yourself on the device through the Settings app (and if your server doesn't require its use), you can add widgets to the lock screen.

I was also frustrated that the screen would fade out while I was using the lock screen widgets. Android doesn't detect that you're using the screen to keep the tablet awake. Also, the selection of lock screen widgets is tiny. At this point, lock screen widgets is more a toy feature than a compelling one.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Web and Internet support (20.0%)
Business connectivity (20.0%)
Usability (15.0%)
Application support (15.0%)
Security and management (20.0%)
Hardware (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Google Nexus 10 8.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.2
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