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

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Note that to access the new multiuser and lock screen widget capabilities, you need to update the "Jelly Bean" software. Although Google says devices ship with that update, the loaner unit Google sent InfoWorld did not have it. Worse, the Settings app claimed the software was current, even though it was not. After we contacted Google, the update appeared an hour or so later. That may be a coincidence, but if these features don't appear on your unit, check for updates periodically.

The third new capability is the enhanced Camera app, which provides the kinds of controls over white balance and high dynamic range that you'd expect on a digital camera. These controls appear in a circular overlay menu onscreen. They make the Camera app much more capable than iOS's Camera app, though the menu overlays are often hard to distinguish. As with iOS, there are now postproduction tools in the Android Camera app such as cropping and color filters (but no red-eye removal as in iOS).

The fourth addition is support for the Miracast wireless streaming standard that builds on the Wi-Fi Direct standard, providing a way to share video to TVs and other devices. Many Android devices have supported the DLNA standard, but it's unevenly implemented by both device makers and home entertainment hardware vendors, making it an unreliable mess. Thus, Google has moved on to Miracast as its hope to match what Apple's proprietary AirPlay protocol enticingly delivers.

The probem is that Miracast is so new that few products support it yet (2013 is supposed to be the year they begin to arrive) -- it's a promise you can't take advantage of. The only good news is that the Wi-Fi Alliance is behind it; that's the group that created the Wi-Fi interoperability standard that made all those 802.11 protocols work across devices. The hope is that the Wi-Fi Alliance will ensure Miracast doesn't get fragmented as DLNA did.

The "Jelly Bean" keyboard has been modified to provide the new Input Method key (to switch keyboard layouts) that gets in the way of typing, though you get used to its presence after a while and learn to ignore it. I much prefer the onscreen keyboard that Samsung provides in its Galaxy Note 10.1; not only does it have an extra row for numerals, but its key size and spacing ease typing onscreen.

Finally, the "Jelly Bean" UI is designed to promote Google's inferior set of Google Play media apps and services, putting those front and center each time you restart the tablet, even if your primary use of the tablet is for other purposes. It's a minor annoyance, but an ongoing one.

The Chrome browser is a step backward
As part of the "pure" Android experience Google is promoting, the Nexus 10 comes with the Chrome browser rather than the stock Android Internet browser long featured on this mobile operating system. That's too bad, as Chrome is quite inferior to the (now former?) stock browser, especially the Android 4.1 version in the Samsung Galaxy Note II "phablet." Chrome is less HTML5-compatible than the stock browser, and its support of AJAX controls, such as for JavaScript menus and TinyMCE controls, is weak, so many forms-oriented sites are impossible to use. It also frustratingly displays many desktop sites as mobile sites, even when you enable the Prefer Desktop option.

I get why Google wants to make Chrome its standard browser across all platforms, but it should have ensured that the Android version was at least on a par with its predecessor. If you want a serious Android browsing experience, opt for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 instead, especially once it gets its own "Jelly Bean" update in the next month or so.

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