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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Unexciting hardware on tap
The Samsung-built Nexus 10 hardware itself is an uninspired black slab -- Google's current design preference. Its capabilities are what you'd expect: the usual cameras, MicroUSB port, MicroHDMI port (not a given on all Android tablets), speakers, microphone, Bluetooth radio, Wi-Fi radio, and near-field communications (NFC) capability, which is fast becoming an Android standard. There's also a Pogo Pin connector for a magnetically attached charger cable, though none is yet avalable. The MicroUSB port handles charging for you -- in fact, the Nexus 10 comes with a USB charger block. There's no cellular model available for travelers.

All in all, it's like a Toyota Corolla: Everything you need is there, but nothing to make your heart leap, though a few details will annoy you. One is the set of built-in speakers; the sound is hollow and flat, unpleasant for music and only tolerable for movies. If you want decent sound in an Android tablet, get a Samsung Galaxy 10.1. The Note 10.1's video display is also truer and more pleasant.

This may or may not be a hardware issue -- it's hard to tell, given Google's lack of customer support -- but apps routinely crashed on the Nexus 10, frequently popping up "The application has stopped" alerts for the Calendar, Clock, and Play Video apps. (Whoever heard of the Clock app crashing?!) I've never experienced this issue on other Android devices, including the Nexus 4 smartphone that runs the same Android version; I surmise it's an issue with the system's CPU and/or memory bus.

Finally, the Nexus 10 takes a disappointing approach to adding a protective cover. A plastic cover over the camera can be pulled off (with some difficulty) to be replaced with a cover that affixes to the same area. I'd be concerned about how often the plastic tabs will hold if you remove the cover frequently. Google provided InfoWorld with such a cover, though they're not available at its online store for purchase and do not come with the Nexus 10 itself. It provides minimal protection and can't tilt the tablet up for easier typing as Apple's and Samsung's tablet covers do. Why bother?

Skip the Nexus 10 and get a Note 10.1 instead
Other than the app crashes on my evaluation unit, there's nothing really bad about the Nexus 10. It's just that there's nothing really special either.

Better tablets at roughly the same price ($400 for 16GB of storage, $500 for 32GB) are available. For example, the Galaxy Note 10.1 offers a better user interface and pen capabilities for a little more ($500 and $550, respectively).

Google's hardware and software are clearly aimed at a middle market and no longer serve as an aspirational model. You can do better, and there's no reason not to.

This article, "Nexus 10 review: The so-so Android tablet," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at InfoWorld.com, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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