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Our testing methods
The following page covers all the nerdy details related to our test methods and systems. If you're already familiar with how we do things around here, feel free to skip ahead to the performance results.

To put the Nexus 7's performance in perspective, we tested the tablet against a wide range of competitors, including the full lineup of Asus' Transformers, the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Kindle Fire, and the last two iPads. Most of the Transformers offer multiple operating modes with different performance levels. We tested those tablets in all of their possible configurations. Despite the fact that the Nexus 7 is also manufactured by Asus, the Google tablet has only one operating mode.

Here are the key details for the systems we tested:

System Processor Screen size Display resolution Memory Storage OS
Galaxy Tab 10.1 Nvidia Tegra 2 10.1" 1280x800 1GB 16GB Android 3.2
iPad 2 Apple A5 9.7" 1024x768 512MB 16GB iOS 5.1
iPad 3 Apple A5X 9.7" 2048x1536 1GB 16GB iOS 5.1.1
Kindle Fire TI OMAP 4430 7" 1024x600 512MB 8GB Android 2.3
Nexus 7 Nvidia Tegra 3 7" 1280x800 1GB 16GB Android 4.1
Transformer Nvidia Tegra 2 10.1" 1280x800 1GB 16GB Android 4.0
Transformer Pad 300 Nvidia Tegra 3 10.1" 1280x800 1GB 64GB Android 4.0
Transformer Pad Infinity Nvidia Tegra 3 10.1" 1920x1200 1GB 64GB Android 4.0
Transformer Prime Nvidia Tegra 3 10.1" 1280x800 1GB 32GB Android 4.0

We're still working out the best ways to test tablet performance, and I expect we'll be using the high-speed camera more in future reviews. For now, standard benchmarks give us an easy way to assess relative performance across a broad array of contenders. We used the following test applications:

Unfortunately, the Kindle and the iPads won't be able to participate in all our tests due the availability of benchmark applications on each platform. The Fire needs to be rooted to access the Play store, and the iPads run an entirely different operating system that requires separate binaries.

Some further notes on our methods:

  • Our web-surfing tests were run inside the native browser on each device. Silk, the Kindle's cloud-based web renderer, was disabled throughout because it actually delivers a slower real-world browsing experience than letting the device request pages itself.
  • GLBenchmark was tested with its standard and offscreen modes. The standard tests run at the native resolution and often invoke vsync, which can't be disabled. The offscreen tests run at 1280x720 but aren't shown on the screen, preventing vsync from artificially limiting the performance of the graphics processor.

    The iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 were tested with an older version of GLBenchmark than the other tablets. We've included the results for reference, but they're not directly comparable.

  • We did our best to match the screen brightness of each tablet before our battery life tests. The original Transformer, the Transformer Prime, and the Transformer Pad 300 were all configured with a ~40% brightness level. The Infinity's screen is a tad darker, so it took a brightness setting closer to 50%. Matching that level on the Nexus 7 took the brightness slider up to around 25%. That seemed a little low, but we confirmed with our colorimeter that the brightness levels were comparable.

    All battery life testing was conducted with the Transformers running in balanced mode. After being run dry for a first test, those tablets were connected to their optional keyboard docks, which include secondary batteries, for a second round.

  • The longest idle interval allowed by the Nexus 7 is 30 minutes, complicating our battery testing. We had to manually refresh the Nexus' browser window every 29 minutes to ensure the tablet didn't nap during our web-surfing test. Manual intervention wasn't necessary to keep the Nexus awake during our movie playback test.

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.