Google's Nexus 10: Hands-on impressions

Google's Nexus lineup is growing larger than ever this year -- both in numbers and in size.

Google Nexus 10 Hands-On Impressions

Yesterday, I took a detailed first look at the Nexus 4, the new pure Google Android phone made by LG. Today, it's time to turn our attention to the other fresh face in Google's gaggle: the Nexus 10, a 10.1-inch tablet made by Samsung and marking Google's first foray into large-screen Nexus territory. The tablet goes on sale directly from Google starting November 13; it'll cost $400 for a 16GB version or $500 for the 32GB model.

I'll be getting to know the Nexus 10 intimately over the next several days (ooh, baby) and will share some detailed thoughts on the device soon. For now, some first impressions:

In terms of hardware and form, the Nexus 10 is an interesting contrast to the Nexus 4. While the Nexus 4 is sleek, solid, and almost artfully constructed, the Nexus 10 strikes me as a bit more utilitarian in design. It doesn't feel cheap, mind you, but as far as basic form goes, it definitely gives off a less premium vibe.

Nexus 10 Tablet

Following Samsung's typical style, the Nexus 10's body is decidedly plastic. It's not flimsy and toy-like, thankfully, like the uninspired casing on Sammy's recent Galaxy Note 10.1; rather, the tablet has a rubberized sort of feel that's actually quite pleasant to the touch. Still, compared to something like the Asus Transformer Prime, with its exceptional metallic-spun material, the Nexus 10 looks and feels fairly ordinary.

The upside is that the Nexus 10 is relatively thin and light, two qualities that make a big difference when it comes to tablets. The device is 8.9-mm. thick and 1.33 lbs. For comparison, Apple's current 10-inch iPad is 9.4-mm. thick and 1.44 lbs.; the Transformer Prime, meanwhile, comes in at a slimmer 8.3 mm. and 1.29 lbs.

But size isn't everything (or so I hear). The true power of the Nexus 10 revolves around what's inside. And when it comes to experience, man, does this thing shine.

As we learned with the Nexus 7, having pure unadulterated Android software on a tablet goes a long way. Sure, manufacturers like Asus deliver near-stock software experiences on their own devices, but based on my usage so far, I'd say their performance is easily outshined by the effortless fluidity achieved by Google's untouched Android 4.2 OS on the Nexus 10. Other tablets may offer sexier hardware design, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say the Nexus 10 provides the best overall user experience you'll find on a 10-inch Android tablet today. And that's pretty damn significant in my book.

Nexus 10 Android 4.2 UI

Speaking of software, Android 4.2 does introduce a whole new interface for 10-inch tablets -- one that more closely resembles the phone-style interface seen on the Nexus 7 than the unique tablet-specific setup introduced in Honeycomb and carried over to Ice Cream Sandwich.

I'm not ready to reach any final conclusions yet, but I will say this: First, I can certainly appreciate the cross-form consistency the Android team is striving to achieve with this change. I think new users of 10-inch tablets will be immediately comfortable in this environment, and for the growth of Android as a platform, that's incredibly important.

But, having the main system navigation buttons centered along the bottom of the screen does make it a bit difficult to reach them while holding the tablet with two hands in landscape mode. I get why they're centered from a conceptual standpoint, but I sure wish there were a way for the user to reposition them to the right or left of the screen as desired.

Oh, and about that screen: It's outstanding. At 2560 x 1600 resolution, 300ppi, the Nexus 10 takes tablet display technology to new heights (yes, ones that exceed even those of "magical" "retina" creations). The numbers don't lie; the Nexus 10's display looks every bit as good as you'd expect. Combined with the front-facing stereo speakers -- a very nice touch -- this makes video-watching on the Nexus 10 a pretty awesome experience.

One thing's for sure: The Nexus 10 is not Just Another Android Tablet. And these first impressions are only the start: I'll be spending a lot of time using the device over the next several days and seeing how it performs in various real-world settings. I'll share my detailed thoughts in an in-depth review next week.

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Be sure to keep your eye on Android Power for updates. And in the meantime, feel free to come chat with me about all this new Nexus stuff on Google+. We've had some great discussions over there lately, and I'll be sharing more bits and pieces over the coming days.

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

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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