Google's Nexus 10: To buy or not to buy?

Recommending Google's new Nexus 4 was easy. The phone is fantastic -- and while it won't be the right device for everyone, its first-class user experience and tremendous value put it in a league of its own.

Google Nexus 10

With the Nexus 10, things are a bit more complicated. I finished reviewing the new 10-in. tablet last week, and though the device has a lot of good things going for it, it also has a lot of competition breathing down its neck.

The Nexus 10 goes on sale tomorrow -- $399 for a 16GB version or $499 for a 32GB model. So is it the right tablet for you?

To get a detailed feel for all the tablet's strengths and weaknesses and what it's actually like to use on a daily basis, you'll want to read through my full Nexus 10 review. But let's talk now in general terms about how the tablet stacks up next to other top-notch Android options.

First off, I'd give some careful thought to size; when it comes to tablets, bigger isn't necessarily always better. Case in point: Google's Nexus 7 tablet, which sells for $200 to $250. I own the Nexus 7 myself and have found that the 7-in. form has really won me over (yikes -- please don't take those words out of context). Compared to larger devices, I find the Nexus 7 far more comfortable to hold, particularly for long periods of time, and also more natural to use.

Google Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 is pretty much a no-brainer: Two-hundred bucks for that type of technology is a frickin' steal -- easily the best bang for your buck when it comes to tablets today. The N7 gives you stellar performance, a great form, and the same pure Google Android experience you'll get on any Nexus device. For me, it's proven to be the perfect complement to my smartphone -- and given the choice, I find myself reaching for it over a 10-in. tablet almost every time.

That said, the 10-in. model certainly has its advantages. A bigger display obviously means more screen space, which can be nice in any number of circumstances. Beyond that, the Nexus 10 has the best display you'll find on any tablet out there. Combined with its front-facing stereo speakers, that makes it a pretty phenomenal device for movie-watching or game play.

Within the field of 10-in. Android tablets, the Nexus 10 has some significant perks. Its starting point of $400 is one of them: If you want a good 10-in. tablet and don't want to spend more than 400 bones, the Nexus 10 is absolutely the way to go. But once you get up into higher storage territory, the question of "which is best" gets a little less clear.

To wit: At $500, the 32GB Nexus 10 is the same price as the 32GB Asus Transformer Pad Infinity -- the product I would have listed as the best all-around 10-in. Android tablet up until now. And looking at the two tablets together, there really is no clear winner.

The Nexus 10 has the better display -- not ridiculously better, but better nonetheless. It also has double the RAM of the Transformer.

Nexus 10 vs. Transformer Pad Infinity

And while Asus provides near-stock Android software on its tablets (and has generally been quite good about providing timely upgrades), I'd still give the Nexus 10 the edge; its pure Google Android software is better-looking, free from bloatware, and more consistently smooth and snappy to use.

The Transformer Pad, on the other hand, has a noticeably nicer external form: Its brushed-aluminum casing is far sleeker and more premium-looking than the Nexus 10's plastic casing. It also has an SD card slot, which allows you to expand its storage, and an optional keyboard dock accessory, which lets you effectively transform the tablet into a single-piece swinging-lid laptop (and add an extra four-and-a-half hours of battery life onto the device, too). That's a powerful option to have.

In the end, like with most tech-purchasing decisions, there is no universally right answer; it all comes down to what's important to you and what you want in your device. Generally speaking, I'd recommend the Nexus 7 for most people right now: As far as I'm concerned, it's the best overall Android tablet experience you can get at the moment -- and the best overall value as well.

For someone set on a 10-in. tablet, I'd wholeheartedly recommend the new Nexus 10. It delivers the best overall user experience in that class of device, thanks to its superb display, outstanding performance, and unadulterated Android software (with guaranteed fast and frequent future upgrades directly from Google).

For some people, though, the Nexus 10's unassuming design and/or low storage ceiling will be turn-offs. In those cases -- and in the case of anyone who wants laptop-like transformation potential in a tablet -- the Transformer Pad Infinity is a solid alternative well worth considering.

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Still not sure which is the right path for you? Click over to my in-depth Nexus 10 review. By the time you've finished reading about my experiences with the device, one way or another, I suspect you'll have your answer.

[Google Nexus 10 deep-dive review: Pure Android, supersized]

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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