Google created a fair bit of confusion shortly after the launch of the new Nexus 7. During the event it was mentioned that the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro would power the tablet. On the surface, this is the same chipset that powers the Nexus 4, which is still one of the best performing Android smartphones out there. But there are a few key changes in the SoC.
Any hardware app will identify the SoC on the new Nexus 7 as a Snapdragon S4 Pro, but the reality this is much faster and more up to date than the S4 Pro you’ll find in the Nexus 4. There is a minute difference in the model numbers of these two different variants of the chipset. The one found on the Nexus 4 is the APQ8064 and the one that powers the Nexus 7 is the APQ8064-1AA. The new Nexus 7 has four Krait 300 CPUs powering it, compared to the Krait 200 that powers the Nexus 4. Clock frequency on the new Nexus 7 ranges from 384MHz when idle, to 1500MHz under full load.
The GPU is the same Adreno 320 clocked at 400MHz. RAM has been upgraded to 2GB PCDDR3L clocked at 1.5GHz (12.8GB/s). If you think, I’m just listing down the details of the Snapdragon 600 SoC you’d be correct in your guess. This is effectively a rebadged Snapdragon 600. I’m not quite sure why Google (or Qualcomm) chose to brand it as the much older S4 Pro, but it certainly does no favors to the image of the Nexus 7.
That does it for the technical specs of the device. What really matters at the end of the day is how it performs in everyday tasks. Android has always been demanding on hardware, partly because of its architecture and partly because of Google’s incompetence. The Android 4.3 experience on the Nexus 7 is a far cry from the lag-fest that Android is notorious for. During my usage, I experienced very little lag and stuttering. It’s nowhere near the fluidity of iOS, make no mistake about it, but it has come a long, long way from what it was 24 months ago.
I’d also like to mention a problem many 2012 Nexus 7 users experienced where the tablet slowed down to a crawl after loading it up with a few apps. This was blamed on the low quality storage ASUS choose to use in the tablet. Initially though that seemed like the logical conclusion; storage I/O is the biggest hardware bottleneck in almost any personal computer. After Android 4.3, however it turns out it was an issue on the software front. Android 4.3 brings support for fstrim. Fstrim also needs eMMC support, which was available in the old Nexus 7; it just wasn’t activated in Android 4.2. This feature is responsible for garbage collection when the device is idle. Whenever you delete an app from the tablet, the OS needs to tell the storage controller that the particular block is no longer in use and ready for garbage collection. This communication between the OS and the storage controller is enabled by fstrim. The crux of the matter is that you will not experience any age related issues on the Nexus 7 (old and new) running Android 4.3.
Synthetic benchmarks are a good way of measuring theoretical performance of the hardware. We put the new Nexus 7 through its paces by benchmarking it using the most popular apps.