When Google unveiled the Nexus 7 by ASUS at its I/O developers conference last year, no one was too surprised. Some reports form CES 2012 had hit the press months before, alleging ASUS and Google execs had a meeting at the Consumer Electronics Show and decided to take the Memo 370T, slightly revise it and rebrand it under the Nexus moniker.
Months passed after CES and little else was said of the matter, that is, until I/O was just around the corner. Word picked up, and just weeks later, Google announced the Nexus 7 on stage in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California.
At the time, the Nexus 7 was easily the best bang for your buck when it came to tablets. Starting at $199 (and going up to $299), it’s still one of the best deals you can find today. Many comparable tablets are much more expensive. The iPad mini, for example, starts at $329.99, a full $129 more than the Nexus 7. Even more ludicrous is the Toshiba Excite 7.7, which starts at $499.99.
Rightly so, the Nexus 7 quickly became one of the most popular Android tablets ever. The price was right, the specs were right, the build quality and design were right and there were few negative things to say about this miniature tablet.
When you look under the hood, however, it’s easy to see that the Nexus 7 is beginning to show its age. It’s powered by the 1.2GHz 4-Plus-1 NVIDIA Tegra 3 from last year, only offers 1GB RAM and it features a rather low-resolution 7-inch WXGA (1,280 by 800 pixels) display, especially in light of mobile displays featuring 1080p resolution and beyond. Originally offered in either 8GB or 16GB, the Nexus 7 now comes in either 16GB or 32GB, features a 1.2-megapixel front-facing shooter and a 4,325mAh battery.
For the price, it’s hard to dispute those specifications. But it’s clearly time for a refresh, and considering Google I/O 2013 is just two months away, there’s reason to believe El Goog will unveil the successor to the Nexus 7. (The Nexus 7 2?)
But what will the Nexus 7 part deux entail? Here’s what you can expect.
A better display … hopefully
Of all the specifications on the Nexus 7, the display is one of the more disappointing. At the time of the announcement and release, it wasn’t so bad. And it wasn’t looking bad after the iPad mini release either. But I cannot fathom why 7- and 8-inch tablets are still sporting WXGA resolution. If 4.7- and 5-inch smartphones can have 1080p displays and 10-inch tablets can house 2,560 by 1,600 pixel resolution, shouldn’t 1080p displays be a priority for mid-sized tablets?
Again, it may boil down to price, but we’re all spoiled by super high-density displays. The Nexus 7 successor needs a high density display. Whether it will actually feature one is another story.
The design and form factor of the Nexus 7 was fantastic. The soft-touch back gave the tablet a high-quality feel that was reminiscent of a soft leather glove. As far as build quality and design go, Google’s partner manufacturer – we’re not sure if ASUS will make it this time around – should keep the Nexus 7 successor on par with the Nexus 7, since that’s what we’ve seen with the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 despite being made by different manufacturers.
The one improvement that should definitely be made, however, is the screen to bezel ratio. The Nexus 7 is certainly bezel-heavy.
More storage options
The largest complaint with the Nexus 7 was storage. Originally, it came with only 8GB or 16GB. For a device focused primarily on multimedia, its storage options were quite meager. Google later updated the lineup to feature 16GB and 32GB, discontinuing the small, 8GB model.
With the move away from expandable storage, on-board storage options are more important than ever. While 16GB is plenty for most consumers, more capacities is never a bad thing. Hopefully, we will see the introduction of a 64GB model this year.
More efficiency and horsepower
It was exciting to learn the $200 Nexus 7 would feature NVIDIA’s latest processor technology last year. But the Tegra 3 quickly slipped into the shadows as more efficient and powerful quad-core chips entered the market. The Snapdragon S4 Pro proved the be the superior chip in 2012, used by a host of manufacturers in some of the most notable Android devices. Likewise, the 600 is the top choice for many manufacturers in 2013. Unless Samsung is the manufacturer, in which we would likely see the Exynos Octa, the tablet will probably be powered by the Qualcomm 600 or 800 chip.
No LTE again … unfortunately
In case you haven’t yet noticed the trend, no Nexus devices to date have featured LTE support (with the exception of the Galaxy Nexus, which, depending on who you ask, isn’t a true Nexus anyway). Nexus devices are not carrier branded, meaning they are not officially supported by any U.S. carriers, also meaning they would not officially support LTE connectivity.
Chances are, the Nexus 7 successor will come in a 3G/HSPA+ model. But if it does come with LTE, it will likely be for international LTE markets, not LTE here in the States. At this point, LTE on an unlocked device with no designated carrier is pointless, especially on a tablet that will likely be sold at or barely above cost.