The Nexus 10, Lollipop, and the problem with big Android tablets

I’ve never been tempted to buy a large widescreen tablet. They’re good at certain things, but they’re too wide for everything onscreen to be reachable if you’re holding it with both hands. They’re too tall for portrait mode to be comfortable for long stretches. One-handed use is generally tolerable at best. Smaller widescreen tablets like the Nexus 7 are nice because they’re closer in size and heft to books, but 10-inch-and-up widescreen tablets have always been too gawky for my taste.

Which brings us to Google and Samsung’s Nexus 10. This tablet replaced the underwhelming Motorola Xoom in late 2012, and it was the Android ecosystem’s first answer to the high-density Retina display Apple had added to the iPad earlier that year. Its hardware was perfectly good then and it remains solid now—it has aged much better than the old Nexus 7—but hardware was never the Nexus 10’s problem.

The problem two years ago was that the Android ecosystem was light on good tablet apps. There wasn’t a ton to do with that big screen, which meant there wasn’t much incentive to choose the Nexus 10 over an iPad or a smaller Android tablet. In examining Lollipop on the Nexus 10, our biggest questions are about the ways the redesigned OS and apps make use of that extra space.

Performance: Nothing to see here

The Nexus 10’s hardware has aged much better than the 2012 Nexus 7’s. Samsung usually uses top-end flash memory in its devices, so the tablet doesn’t suffer from the smaller tablet’s NAND-related problems. It was also one of the first tablets to ship with an Exynos 5 SoC, which used a pretty fast dual-core Cortex A15-based CPU and a GPU that sits somewhere between the iPad 3 and iPad 4 in performance.

Our look at the old Nexus 7 showed that most apps don’t slow down significantly in the jump from KitKat to Lollipop and the Nexus 10 still glides along pretty smoothly most of the time. You’ll run into hitches occasionally, places where animations will stutter momentarily or an app will take an extra beat to respond to input, but it’s not the chronic problem that it is on the old Nexus 7. This is behavior that was present in KitKat, too, so we wouldn’t blame the software—we’re inclined to attribute it to the GPU, which is OK-not-great at driving a 2560×1600 display panel.

There’s no need to compare app launch times in Lollipop and KitKat on this tablet—just know that performance isn’t a problem here. If you’re happy with how your Nexus 10 is doing with KitKat, you’ll be equally happy with it after updating to Lollipop. As in our 2012 Nexus 7, our battery life tests showed Android 4.4 and 5.0 getting roughly equal amounts of runtime, though Project Volta may still end up getting you a little extra battery life in actual everyday use.

Read more: The Nexus 10, Lollipop, and the problem with big Android tablets | Ars Technica.