By Stephen Schenck | July 30, 2013 7:12 AM
Last year, Google really let loose with its Nexus line of devices, graduating from the odd phone every year or so (and the even odder tablet) to step up to a product family composed of not just one, but two different tablets. Obviously, the Nexus 7 got things started, and we just saw that first model replaced with this year’s hardware upgrade. Then in October of last year the Nexus 10 launched, and we’re similarly looking forward to learn what we might be able to expect from this year’s refresh.
For a time, looking forward to a new Nexus 10 this year was more assumption than fact, but Google head Sundar Pichai himself has reportedly been confirming the company’s intent to have Samsung deliver just such a tablet, and sometime soon.
So as this new Nexus 10 begins to take shape, I find myself wondering about some of the details of this new hardware. What could we get in terms of a display? How about a processor? There are plenty of options, so let’s take a moment to consider some of the more likely outcomes.
Room to Grow
I think the biggest challenge we’re faced with, right out of the gate with this new Nexus 10, is that the old version was pretty darn well-equipped to start with. It has that early Exynos 5 Dual chip, bringing A15-based cores to Android, and the 2560 x 1600 display with its 300ppi pixel density gives even current-gen iPads a run for their money.
Clearly, there’s room for improvement with the SoC there, but what about the display? Will Samsung really push things even further? We’ve heard of the fantastic limits it can get to with screens like the 3200 x 1800 panel on the ATIV Q, but haven’t seen it reach such heights at this smaller 10-inch size. Maybe more than that, do we really need a higher-res panel this year?
And there’s already some evidence suggesting Samsung could top-out at 2560 x 1600 for its Android tablets – just look at the pair of models we talked about yesterday, both sporting such screens. That isn’t to say that we won’t see an improvement this year – think brightness, viewing angles, all that good stuff – but I’m neither betting on a higher-res screen, nor particularly hoping for one.
In a dream world, I’d ask Samsung to give the new Nexus 10 an OLED panel, but I think we all know that ain’t happening.
Back to that SoC: what should we look for? I suppose the most obvious answer would be one of the new Exynos 5 Octas with the updated GPU, but I’m not so sure that’s where the Nexus 10 is heading. Remember, we didn’t see the Nexus 7 jump from a Tegra 3 to a Snapdragon 800 – the new one’s using the same old APQ8064 from last year’s Nexus 4.
Frankly, until we know a little more about how much that new Exynos will cost, and what its power consumption looks like, it’s hard to understand how it would fit into the Nexus 10 picture – I want to leave it on the table, but there are certainly other possibilities. I think a Snapdragon chip might be a real option, especially if Google is concerned with keeping the tablet’s cost down. I might offer “600,” based on the meager upgrade the new Nexus 7 saw, but 800 would be lovely.
We’re running into ghosts of the old Nexus 10 again when we start talking about the tablet’s general build. At 8.9 millimeters thick, for instance, I’m not about to start suggesting that Samsung worry about thinning things down for this year’s model; that’s fine by me the way it is.
While bezels on tablets are a necessary evil, and the Nexus 10′s weren’t so bad to begin with, we could still stand to make it a bit narrower – maybe a finger’s width all around would be ideal.
The first Nexus 10 also had a solid heft to it – lighter than some of its competition, but not so light as to feel cheap. Maybe a smidge lighter would be fine, but I don’t want to see Samsung get carried away.
A plastic body is all but a given, but I’d love to see Samsung pay some more attention to just how that works – specifically, some more thought could be put into how to make the tablet comfortable to hold, and a textured back could go a long way to helping the new Nexus 10 feel more secure in your hand – for big tablets like 10-inchers, that’s more important than ever.
Odds & Ends
What else would I like to see on this year’s model? What about one of Samsung’s new 3GB RAM chips, tailor-made for smartphones and tablets? We saw the Nexus 7 go from 1GB to 2GB, so maybe the Nexus 10 will make a similar journey. As upgrades go, it’s cheap enough to implement, and especially if there’s not going to be a stand-out SoC this year, it couldn’t hurt on the spec sheet.
I would capital-l Love to get S-pen support, but that’s not going to happen. There’s far too strong an identity built-up around the S Pen and the Note series – such that they stand separately from the rest of Samsung’s tablets – and I can’t see the company sharing that mojo with Google.
Wireless charging? I like it more now than I did a year ago, but it just feels impractical at this size. Android 5.0? It certainly could happen, but I’m not feeling any inertia towards it – give us some time to catch up to 4.3 first.
What about a better camera? I’m one of those freaks who could care less how large a device is when we’re talking cameras – a 15-inch tablet deserves a decent one every bit as much as a 4-inch smartphone. So let’s give the new Nexus 10 an eight-megapixel main shooter at minimum.
Ultimately, I don’t expect the new Nexus 10 to be remarkably different from last year’s. Compared to the Nexus 7 refresh, I think the changes we’re looking at are going to be much less profound. Still, there’s a lot of potential here, and it will be interesting to see how the rumors surrounding this tablet evolve over the coming months.