Two companies working together deliver a solid 7" tablet in the Google-branded, Asus-manufactured Nexus 7 (2013), with a parenthetical necessary to distinguish the new entry from last year's tablet with the same name. I tested the 32 GB version; a 16 GB unit is also available.
The tablet was responsive, fast and fluid, and it looks great. Let's take a closer look.
Unboxing your new acquisition reveals the tablet, a micro-USB cord, AC adapter and tiny instruction sheet explaining how to charge and power on the device. That's even less manual than Apple devices offer!
But no fear. If you navigate to the recommended online support page, then browse a bit, you'll stumble on an 82-page pdf manual, perfect for those who like to learn by not doing. Of course, if you've used a current generation Android product (Jellybean 4.2 or above), you won't need to refer to the manual much at all. The Nexus 7 comes loaded with Jellybean 4.3, which gives it a few additional features (see below).
Now back to the box. Your first reaction on seeing the tablet may be that the size isn't quite what you expected. Indeed, the device looks and feels tall and thin. That's because the front glass is indeed taller than the usable area of the 7' diagonal touch screen.
Speaking of the screen, it's crisp and bright. You'll enjoy 1080p video on a 1920x1200 HD display at 323 pixels per inch (ppi) - twice the resolution of Apple's iPad mini. It's made of what Google describes as scratch resistant Corning glass. That doesn't sound like Corning's Gorilla Glass, so don't expect it to be as crack resistant if dropped as a cell phone might be. (The Samsung Galaxy S4, as a notable example, uses Gorilla Glass 3, while the iPhone 5 is a Gorilla Glass 2 device.)
This tabby has a svelte figure too, at 8.65 mm thick. It's a tad heavier than I'd like, at 0.64 lbs (290 grams), but that has to be counted as state of the art: iPad mini, for instance, is 308 grams.
The back of the tablet is fingerprint-resistant rubberized plastic, while the front has almost no bezel. Accentuating the clean look: the touch screen and non-touch screen portions of the glass are indistinguishable (rather than being different shades of black).
The rear facing camera is a 5 MP shooter, delivering sharp pics and video. Pictures can be taken in conventional format, as well as two forms of panorama: linear or spherical (photo sphere). As is strangely customary on tablets, there's no flash.
The front camera is 1.2 MP, sufficient for Skype, Google Hangouts and other videoconferencing apps. Frustratingly, the front camera is positioned to the top right side of the tablet, rather than at top center as is the camera on the iPad mini. That's a better design.
Audio includes stereo speakers with virtual surround sound, which I found reasonably good. The maximum volume was a bit lower than I'd like, and would make watching movies or listening to music tough in a noisy environment. You could always jack in a pair of earbuds or headphones if you like.
Connectivity options include dual-band (2.4G/5G) 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. I found that the WiFi and Bluetooth worked well, and did not test the NFC. A cellular LTE version is reported to be imminent.
Memory, as mentioned, is either 16 GB or 32 GB. There's no SD card slot, so you might want to spring for the 32 GB version, depending on how many apps, games, MP3's and video files you expect to load up on the device.
Refreshingly, there's no bloatware. That's an advantage of buying a pure Google device, as opposed to, say, a Samsung or other tablet. (Well, there is one piece of what I consider unnecessary duplication - why do Android devices have both a Gmail app and an Email app?)
I did miss one thing from my Samsung Galaxy tablet though: the keyboard on the Samsung includes a top row of digits (like a real keyboard), whereas on the Google stock keyboard you have to switch to the numbers and symbols keyboard in order to enter numbers. It's a seemingly small thing, but it's frustrating once you've become accustomed to the convenience of the Samsung kb.
The expected Micro USB port does double duty as supporting a Slimport cable. That's a wired solution (similar to the almost equally unknown MHL) that allows you to mirror your tablet screen to your bigscreen TV.
I didn't test a Slimport cable, but I did test the new Google Chromecast with the Nexus 7. As expected, they played well together, allowing you to wirelessly sling Netflix, YouTube and Google Play content to your TV. Click here for my review of the Chromecast.
The tablet includes five sensors: accelerometer, GPS, ambient light, compass and gyroscope.
Let's look briefly at the OS. New in Jellybean 4.3 are multiple profiles, so that several people can use the tablet with their own customizations, wallpaper and apps. In addition, the tablet owner can set restrictions on those profiles, so that kids can only access certain apps, for instance.
For those who care about what's under the hood, Google says the CPU is a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro running at 1.5GHz, and the graphics processor (GPU) is an Adreno 320 at 400MHz.
Powering this puppy is a healthy 3950 mAh battery delivering what Google promises is up to 9 hours of use. When it's time to recharge, you can do so with the included AC adapter and micro USB cable (no proprietary connector here, thankfully) or any other micro USB cable you have on hand. Or, for a fun trick, try recharging wirelessly: the tablet supports the Qi (pronounced "chee" - it means, essentially, "energy" in Chinese) standard for wireless charging. For this you need a wireless charger. I tested with both the GMYLE wireless charging pad and the Tylt Vu Wireless Charging Pad. See my review here.
Disclaimer: Google provided product for this review.