Google Nexus 10 Tablet: First Impressions

The Nexus 10 tablet is Google's biggest and boldest tablet. It has amazing resolution and technical specifications. I've been testing one for a few days, and here are my first impressions.

This article is not a product review. I'm not going into technical specifications, OS issues, or the competitive aspects of the product. It's also not part of the eBook and eReader series. I'll be publishing part 5 of that series next week, focusing on this Nexus 10 and Google Play. This is simply a report on my Out of Box experiences.

The first thing I noticed is how light it feels for its size. It's a bit taller than the iPad 4, but the weight is 603 grams compared to the iPad's 652 grams. It doesn't feel flimsy, however. That density and weight per unit area comes through while still feeling light in the hand.

This Nexus has a soft back that will likely keep it from sliding on a table. It's grippy but stays clean. The stereo speakers are on the front, on each side, and that's very much in contrast to the iPad's mono speaker on the back bottom that can be muffled when resting in your lap.

The set up is very much like the iPad, but the first thing I noticed was the artistic design, the look and feel. It seems the Nexus theme is dark colors accented by blue, and the general feeling I got is that the UI is tasteful and muted. The typography is superb, and there is an attempt, in some places, to make the text appear as if it's floating in black, very much in contrast to iOS where the theme is white, rounded rectangles that collect logical functions in a sea of gray. I liked it a lot.

Here's what the Settings page looks like, and you can compare it to iOS to see what I mean.

Thin blue lines and checkboxes on black are good looking.

One of the nice things about Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean" is that you can swipe down on the upper right to obtain a Quick Settings matrix. It looks like this:

Swipe down on upper right to bring up often used settings.

Another nice UI feature is the vertical ellipsis on the top right that, in context, offers some useful options. For example, if you're in the Chrome browser, it brings up a drop down menu to share or find in page or create a new tab. It's a very explicit, coherent way of doing things with text rather than scattered icons. I liked it for its elegance and extensibility.

That E.T. Feeling

I've sat with the Nexus 10 for long periods of time, downloaded software, emailed screen shots, watched TV shows on Netflix, and looked at Play Books. It's a pleasant experience, but it's more than that.

After having used an iPad for well over two years, the sensation of the Nexus is that it was designed by some very smart people, an intelligent alien mind if you will. It has surprises. It does some things more smartly, more elegantly than an iPad. It has a very crisp, typographic look like the new Twitterrific 5 for iOS. Certain design decisions jump out at you, and you think, wow, that works just fine. I like that.

Slightly taller, slightly lighter.  Battery life depends on use.

As I said, this isn't a review. It takes weeks of discovery and analysis to compare two complex OSes like iOS and Android. The purpose here is to simply say, this is a beautiful, well-conceived product that is easy to handle and fun to use out of the box.

Another thing that comes through is a kind of elegant complexity. Google isn't afraid to reveal things and show you stuff. There's no fear that you'll be visually overloaded. Here's an example of the download page for Netflix. It uses the whole screen and has a lot of information. But it's good information, and it's presented nicely.

Lots of detail on this purchase page.

Not everyone will like all that information, and I'll admit that my reaction is one of welcome contrast rather than any mindful expression of an absolute standard. Different people have different preferences.

This is not competitive analysis. Others have written extensive, competitive analyses, and I will also weigh in after much more testing. I'm here to tell you that, out of the box, handling the Nexus 10, setting it up, emailing, watching Netflix, reading a book, watching Ice Age (it's gorgeous at 2560 x 1600) taking some photos and videos, downloading apps, reading the 157 page guide book with a downloaded Adobe Reader, I had a lot of fun. It's a beautiful and nicely made pure tablet. Most of all, it's different. It's a dark beauty, intensely geeky and intelligent and respectful of the user.

I'm not shy about saying that, out of the box, I like it a lot. But first impressions aren't the whole story, so I'll be moving on to the next stages.