Google Nexus 7 (2012) vs Microsoft Surface RT: The War Between Tegra 3 Tablets from 2 Tech Giants

Posted by B. Johnson
February 26, 2016 | 0 comments
Google Nexus 7 (2012) vs Microsoft Surface RT: The War Between Tegra 3 Tablets from 2 Tech GiantsThe productivity tablets became a huge trend around few years ago ever since Asus started cranking this tablet category out with its Asus Transformer series.

Asus was actually one of the manufacturers that used to be really active and aggressive to release productivity tablets to this market.

However, when the first-gen Microsoft Surface RT came out, more and more tablet manufacturers finally started taking this tablet market more seriously than before.

The interesting fact about Microsoft Surface RT is that, this tablet makes use of Nvidia’s Tegra 3 mobile processor, which continues on the second-gen Microsoft Surface RT 2 that is also powered by Nvidia's own mobile processor, Tegra 4.

Google Nexus 7 (2012) vs Microsoft Surface RT (Tegra 3) benchmarks and gaming performance

So this is actually the reason why today, I want to put this productivity tablet with a pure media-consumption device from Google – which is Google Nexus 7.

I think it would be interesting to see these 2 devices compete in this review because as many of you know, this Nexus 7 is equipped with the same Tegra 3 processor just like Microsoft Surface RT. I really want to see how these tablets perform especially in terms of gaming.

Well, if you’re also interested as I am to see these 2 devices fare against each other in this review, as well as my take on their gaming performance, then here you go, my comparison review between Google Nexus 7 (2012) and Microsoft Surface RT.

Introduction

As Tegra 3 tablets, of course both Google Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface RT will excel in terms of gaming performance.

Their processors are more than sufficient to handle some heavy 3D games, their GPUs are able to deliver powerful graphics performance and I think they both have good selection of games that will run perfectly on these 2 devices.

However, Microsoft Surface RT is intended by Microsoft as a pure productivity-tablet, with media-consumption and gaming purposes on the side.

So if you’re looking for a simple productivity tablet in the first place, then Microsoft Surface RT is probably the one you should consider here.

But amazingly, besides great as a productivity device, I think Microsoft Surface RT is also impressive as a media-consumption tablet and even a better media tablet than Google Nexus 7.

I mean, it has a slightly higher resolution screen, it has 1.2MP cameras front and back, it has microSD card slot support and there’s also bigger 2GB of RAM that would serve better performance for multitasking on this device.

Meanwhile, Google Nexus 7 is more prominent as a media-consumption and gaming tablet.

It has a powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor along with 12-core GPU, it has a pretty sharp 720p resolution on its 7-inch display, but there’s no microSD card slot nor a rear-facing camera.

So I think it’s pretty obvious that Microsoft Surface RT looks more appealing to buy here than Google’s tablet.

That might be true, but the questions remain. Despite being all better tablet than Google Nexus 7 (especially in terms of specs):

Does Microsoft Surface RT have what it takes to be a better gaming tablet than Google Nexus 7?

Which one between these 2 devices that is a better device in the whole aspect?

Is it worth it to buy Microsoft Surface RT instead of Google Nexus 7?

Well, hopefully, we’re about to find out the answers of these questions at the end of this review. So be sure to stick around!

Design

Design is actually one of the things about Microsoft Surface RT that makes me really impressed with this tablet.

As a matter of fact, I’m really amazed to see how Microsoft could come up with such a brilliant looking design of this device.

So Microsoft Surface RT actually looks pretty generic with any other tablets out there, even the iPad. The front side looks pretty standard and similar with any other devices on the market.

It has round-shaped corners, the bezels are pretty thick and there’s one home button with Windows logo on it.

However, the brilliant side of this tablet actually can be found on its rear-side.

So on the rear-cover of Microsoft Surface RT, there is this cool mechanism of a hinge that is used as the kickstand for the tablet.

So it offers more flexibility and stability to the users if they want to turn this tablet as a laptop or a tablet to watch movies.

However, compared to the second-gen Microsoft Surface RT 2 or even the Microsoft Surface 3 (which is powered by the full-fledged Windows 8.1), the hinge design of Microsoft Surface RT is not as flexible as it only pops one way, while the successors have more flexible hinge design that can be popped 3 ways.

Microsoft Surface RT also offers the Surface Type Cover, which is the thin keyboard dock that can be attached to the tablet.

The cool thing is, the magnet that attaches the tablet and this Type Cover is pretty solid.

And the fact that the Type Cover is really thin and light, you can even hold the tablet in the air with the keyboard cover dangling like a paper.

Okay, now we go further to Google Nexus 7.

The design of Google Nexus 7 is pretty generic and basically similar with Microsoft Surface RT, with the same rounded edge on every corner and dark black bezels all over the screen, which is pretty standard.

However, this Google's tablet actually has its own characteristics and easy to identify especially compared to other regular Android tablets out there. I mean, if the screen is turned off, I believe you can tell that this tablet is Google Nexus 7 just by looking at the front side of this device.

Its thin bezels on the left and right are pretty distinctive than other tablets on the market, and the rounded corners of this device also make it easier for us to identify that it is a Nexus tablet.

Between the 2, I think both tablets are good in terms of design.

But when it comes to build quality, I will definitely side on Microsoft Surface RT because I’ve already see that this tablet is really strong and durable as it survives in some extreme drop tests conducted by YouTubers.

This really contradicts with Google Nexus 7, which is not as strong as Microsoft Surface RT in build quality. But even so, both tablets still look appealing to buy and have their own characteristics than any other competitors out there.

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Google Nexus 7 (2012)Microsoft Surface RT (Tegra 3)
Released in July 2012
7.0 inch LED-backlit IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 800 x 1280 pixels, (~216 ppi pixel density)
1.2 MP front-facing camera
Quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9 CPU
ULP GeForce GPU
1GB RAM
Android OS 4.1 (Jelly Bean), upgradable to 4.4.2 Android KitKat
8/16GB/32GB Internal
No microSD card slot
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth
NFC
USB
Infrared
GPS
No GPRS
No EDGE
No Radio
No Java
Non-removable Li-Ion 4325 mAh battery
No SIM
Released 2012, November
Weight 680.4 g (1.50 lb)
Built-in kickstand
10.6 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen, 1366 x 768 pixels, 16M colors (~148 ppi pixel density)
ClearType technology
Microsoft Windows 8 RT, upgradable to Windows 8.1 RT
Quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A9 Nvidia Tegra 3 T30 Chipset
ULP GeForce GPU
2 GB RAM
microSD memory card slot for up to 64 GB
32/64 GB Internal storage
No GPRS
No EDGE
1.2 MP raer-facing camera, 1280 x 800 pixels
Video 720p
1.2 MP front-facing camera, 720p@30fps
HTML5 Browser
No Radio
No GPS No Java
Dark Titanium Color Options
31.5 Wh Non-removable Li-Ion battery

As 2 tablets released in the same year, both Google Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface RT actually some noticeable in commons in the hardware department.

The most prominent thing that makes this tablet identical one to another is definitely their processors – which is Tegra 3 quad-core processor.

So just like Google Nexus 7, interestingly Microsoft Surface RT is also powered by the same Tegra 3 quad-core processor along with the 12-core GeForce ULP GPU.

However, as far as the entire specs goes, it’s definitely Microsoft Surface RT that will come out as the winner here if compared to Google’s tablet.

I mean:
  • it has bigger 2GB of RAM,
  • a much larger and sharper 10.6-inch display sporting the 1366x768 pixels (which is slightly sharper than 1280x720 pixel display on Google Nexus 7),
  • bigger 31.5Wh battery
  • and not to mention, this productivity tablet is equipped with microSD card slot for up to 64GB and a rear-facing camera (1.2MP).
On the other side of the road, Google Nexus 7 is not as prepared as Microsoft Surface RT when it comes to hardware specs.

It may have the same Tegra 3 quad-core processor as well as the 12-core GPU.

But this tablet only comes with 720p resolution on its smaller 7-inch display, smaller 1GB of RAM and it has no rear-facing camera nor microSD card slot, forcing you to delete your existing files or games if you’re running out of space on internal storage.

So by looking at the spec sheet of both tablets, I think it’s quite obvious that Microsoft Surface RT is just a much better offering than Google Nexus 7.

It may be far more expensive and its Windows RT may not have huge selection of games, but if you’re looking for a simple productivity tablet with Windows RT platform, then Microsoft Surface RT is still worth to buy.

Besides, there are many popular games that can be found on this device. So you can still use it as a gaming device if you want to.

Screen

When it comes to sharpness, I think both Google Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface RT are really equal.

Okay, Microsoft Surface RT may have higher resolution screen than Google Nexus 7 (1366x768 pixels VS 1280x720 pixels).

However, the extra pixels found on the display of Microsoft Surface RT are actually not that many compared to the display of Google Nexus 7.

Not to mention, Google’s tablet has a smaller 7-inch screen, as opposed to the larger 10.6-inch display of Microsoft Surface RT.

So all the pixels are being pushed to a smaller 7-inch display, resulting in higher pixel density than the display of Microsoft’s tablet.

So the screens of both tablets are equally sharp. Text looks readable, image looks pretty sharp and they are still good for reading books, browsing the web, watching movies or playing games.

But of course, you will still need to do the pinch-to-zoom gesture a lot especially when reading books or browsing the web.

This is actually a good decision by both manufacturers to go with this medium-resolution screen for both tablets.

I mean, by using this medium-resolution screen, their Tegra 3 processors will not be burdened with such a heavy load when executing all the pixels on the screen.

And this means, these tablets will perform much even faster and smoother, plus more efficient with battery life

User Interface

As entirely different category tablets, Google Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface RT come pre-installed with different type of platforms, with Google’s tablet using Android OS, while Microsoft Surface RT making use of Windows RT platform.

So their UIs will have entirely different layouts and features, not to mention, visual interface and pre-loaded apps.

Microsoft Surface RT is a productivity tablet.

So it makes sense that Windows RT platform provides a plenty features related to productivity: like Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and some other Office documents that enable users to do some productive stuff with this tablet.

However, besides great as a productivity tablet, Microsoft Surface RT is actually also amazing for a media-consumption device and even gaming tablet.

But of course, when it comes to app and game catalogue, this tablet is really lacking compared to Google Nexus 7.

On the other hand, Google Nexus 7 comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box. And the great thing is, the software is pure stock Android without any customizations from the manufacturer (or in this case, Asus).

So if you’re already familiar with all the features and design layout of regular Android UI, then you will feel at home when using this tablet.

So you can add widgets or app shortcuts on the homescreen, you can use your photos as the wallpaper, there are app drawer, drop-down windows for notifications or settings and many other more.

Between the 2, I think the UIs of both tablets are equally great.

Microsoft Surface RT has a fully featured UI that looks and works almost similar with the full-fledged version of Windows 8 Pro OS.

Meanwhile, the UI of Google Nexus 7 is also really awesome to use as it has all the complete elements and features of Android Jelly Bean.

So the decision to buy any of these tablets actually will come down to personal choice actually.

I mean, if you’re looking for a simple productivity tablet, then Microsoft Surface RT could be the one you should consider here.

On the other hand, if you’re only looking for a pure media-consumption and gaming tablet, then Google Nexus 7 will do a better job to satisfy you.

Back to Top

Talking about the gaming performances of both tablets, I think both devices are perfectly good for that matter. They both have a great powerful Tegra 3 processor, along with a staggering 12-core of GeForce ULP GPU.

But when pitted side-by-side, I think Google Nexus 7 is a slightly more superior than Microsoft Surface RT.

Okay, don’t get me wrong. I know that Microsoft Surface RT is also equipped with the same Tegra 3 processor as well as the 12-core GPU just like Google's slate.

Not to mention, Microsoft’s tablet has a much bigger 2GB of RAM, as opposed to the 1GB of RAM found inside Google Nexus 7.

However, when it comes to game selection between the 2, I think it’s quite obvious that Google Nexus 7 with its Android platform has a much bigger game catalog than the Windows RT of Microsoft Surface RT.

And this is why Google Nexus 7 has Modern Combat 4, NOVA 3, Dead Trigger, ShadowGun DeadZone, GTA Vice City, Horn, NFS: Most Wanted or Asphalt 8: Airborne – which all of these games will run perfectly and smoothly even in full highest graphics (although Asphalt 8: Airborne doesn’t run so smoothly on this device).

On the other hand, the Windows RT is still lacking in terms of game catalog especially compared to Android OS, let alone iOS.

Okay, this tablet may have some similar games available on Windows RT MarketPlace like Asphalt 8: Airborne, Modern Combat 4, GTA San Andreas, Mass Effect: Infiltrator, Six Guns, Temple Run 2 or Minion Rush (and even HALO Spartan Assault) – which all run smoothly on this tablet.

But there is no game like Dead Trigger, ShadowGun or Horn on this platform.

So if you happen to love these 3 games, then you won’t be able to play these games on this device. Not to mention, Windows RT is also still lacking in terms of app selection.

And this will force you to find other replacements for some of your favorite Android or iOS apps, which of course, will not be as great as the original versions.

This really contradicts with Google Nexus 7 that has almost all the popular and unpopular apps or games available on the App Store right now.

So all you need to do is go to Google Play Store, download the apps, install them to the tablet and run them perfectly on this Google Nexus 7.

Anyway, as far as the gaming performance is concerned, no doubt that these 2 devices are more than capable to run all the aforementioned games above perfectly.

However, given that Tegra 3 processor is already considered as an old-gen processor, so either Google Nexus 7 or Microsoft Surface RT won’t be able to handle GTA San Andreas smoothly in full highest graphics.

But the good thing is, this GTA game provides users the options to set the graphics to medium or low with some specific parameters like shadows, reflections, resolution, visual effects and many more.

So I believe it’s still playable on these devices in medium to low graphics.

Anyway guys, if you want to know more about their gaming performances, including what games that will run on these tablets, check out my YouTube video playlist or Pinterest page. :)

Cameras

Unfortunately, Google Nexus 7 is not equipped with a rear-facing camera, although there’s still a front-facing shooter that might come in handy to do selfies or video calls.

This issue was actually the one that held people back from getting this tablet when it first came out.

So if you’re still planning to buy Google Nexus 7 with a rear-facing camera, then you can still buy the second-gen Google Nexus 7 (2013 edition). But sadly, many reviews said that the rear-facing camera of this tablet left a lot to be desired.

On the other hand with Google’s tablet, Microsoft Surface RT is well prepared when it comes to photography.

It has 1.2MP cameras front and back, enabling you to take some photos or record videos while doing other things like typing words on Microsoft Words or anything.

Of course, in terms of quality and sharpness, you just cannot compare the cameras of this tablet with other flagship rivals like iPads or Samsung GALAXY tablets.

But at least, it gets the job done everytime you need to snap something when you forgot to bring your smartphone at your disposal.

Battery Life

Both Google Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface RT actually have solid and long lasting battery life.

So Google’s tablet – according to various reviews – is capable to last around 9 hours and 49 minutes in moderate use.

On the other hand, Microsoft Surface RT managed to last around 15 hours and 31 minutes when used without WiFi in minimum brightness.

Meanwhile, when tasked to browse the web with WiFi, this tablet could still survive in long 8 hours and 35 minutes.

I believe their UIs – which are really simple and have less customizations – is the reason why these 2 tablets could last that long in battery life.

Their medium resolution displays and Tegra 3 processors – which are less power hungry – can also be the other factors for their great long lasting battery life.

So even if you get any of these tablets, both Google Nexus 7 or Microsoft Surface RT will not disappoint you either as a media-consumption tablet or gaming device.

My Personal Opinions

So after checking out every important aspect of these 2 devices, in conclusion, I’ve got to say that both devices are really impressive in the whole aspect.

I mean, Microsoft Surface RT is definitely great as a simple productivity tablet.
  • It has a great productivity platform (Windows RT),
  • it has powerful set of hardware and performance,
  • it has the hinge design to keep it stable as a laptop,
  • it has the keyboard Type Cover (which is thin and light to weight)
  • and it ticks all the requirements for a good solid but simple productivity tablet.
On the other hand, Google Nexus 7 is also not too shabby at all as an affordable tablet for either enjoying media contents or even playing games.
  • It comes with a powerful Tegra 3 processor,
  • it has great gaming performance,
  • it has rich game/app selection on Google Play Store,
  • it has good battery life,
  • its build quality is good
  • and everything about this device is good for a pure media-consumption tablet.
However, there are many things on Google Nexus 7 that will probably keep you away from getting this tablet.

For example, this tablet has no microSD card slot and a rear-facing camera, which are really important for today’s standards.

On the other hand, Microsoft Surface RT is equipped with microSD card slot and a rear-facing camera.

Not to mention, I’ve also heard a lot that many users of Google Nexus 7 experienced that this tablet suddenly became laggy and buggy after a few months of use.

Many believed that its low quality flash storage was the culprit of this problem, which was probably why this device became sluggish when it's running out of storage.

So if you’re still planning to buy Google Nexus 7, I strongly recommend you to pick up the second generation instead.

Between the 2, I think both tablets are great. So the decision of buying any of these devices will definitely come down to your personal preference or needs.

I mean, if you’re looking for a simple productivity tablet, and you also don’t mind having the small app selection on Windows RT, then Microsoft Surface RT can still be a pretty good choice.

Meanwhile, if you’re on the street looking for a pure media-consumption tablet, then Google Nexus 7 is also not too shabby at all. But I still recommend you to get the second generation model if you want a better Nexus 7 tablet.

Anyway, to sum this up, I’m gonna answer some of the questions I’ve already asked above:

Does Microsoft Surface RT have what it takes to be a better gaming tablet than Google Nexus 7?

No, I think both tablets are equally great for gaming.

I mean, they handle some latest graphically demanding games very smoothly even in full graphics and they both have good battery lives.

However, when it comes to game catalog, I’ve got to say that Google Nexus 7 is slightly superior here because its Android platform has a much bigger game selection on Google Play Store, compared to Windows RT MarketPlace.

So you’ll find almost all popular and unpopular games on Google Nexus 7.

Which one between these 2 devices that is a better tablet in the whole aspect?

I think in the whole aspect, it’s Microsoft Surface RT that will come out as the winner in this comparison review. Why?

Well, it’s clearly because:
  • it has a much bigger and higher resolution display,
  • it has the same Tegra 3 processor,
  • it has keyboard Type Cover,
  • it has kickstand on the back and the most importantly,
  • Microsoft Surface RT comes with microSD card slot and and a rear-facing camera, which Google Nexus 7 don't.
So you literally can do and keep a lot of things with this Surface tablet than on Google Nexus 7.

Is it worth it to buy Microsoft Surface RT instead of Google Nexus 7?

In my opinion, yes. I think it’s worth it to buy Microsoft Surface RT than Google Nexus 7, but only if you’re looking for a simple productivity tablet in the first place.

But if you’re only looking for an affordable tablet for enjoying media contents or playing games, then Google Nexus 7 is not a bad choice either.

But again, I strongly recommend you to pick up the second generation instead of this model. It has a more powerful gaming performance, a much sharper full HD display, bigger RAM, a rear-facing camera, newer software and better looking design/build quality.

Pros and Cons

Google Nexus 7 (2012)

Pros:
  • Good for playing games like NOVA 3, Modern Combat 4, GTA Vice City
  • It's probably cheap right now
  • Solid quality hardware for its affordable price
Cons:
  • NO microSD card slot
  • NO rear-facing camera
  • It suffers a lot when playing GTA San Andreas
  • Many users experienced that this tablet became laggy if it's running out of storage
  • Tegra 3 processor is not so powerful for today's gaming
  • 720p resolution on a 7-inch tablet is so outdated

Microsoft Surface RT (Tegra 3)

Pros:
  • It has microSD card slot and a rear-facing camera (as opposed to Google Nexus 7)
  • Powerful for playing 3D games
  • Pretty great as a simple productivity tablet
  • It works with Xbox gaming controller seamlessly without any hacking process
  • It's got almost all the great productivity features found on the Pro version, if not all
Cons:
  • Windows RT lacks app and especially game selection
  • Windows RT has no future
  • It's not so powerful anymore for today's standards, esp. for gaming

Disclaimer: Hi guys, bear in mind that this is not some in-depth review. This is Read more...
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