What Google's new Nexus 7 is actually like to use

Google New Nexus 7

Google's original Nexus 7 was hands down the tablet to own in 2012. So does its long-anticipated successor do enough to maintain that "must-have" title?

I've been spending some time with the new Nexus 7, and my first impression is that it's basically a better version of the original -- everything that made the original so good with dramatically updated hardware and improvements all around.

I'll be taking the tablet with me on my honeymoon next month (yup, your ol' Android pal is tying the knot this weekend!) and will share detailed thoughts on the device once I'm back. I always like to spend a meaningful amount of time with a product before reaching any final conclusions and -- my fiancee's eye-rolling aside -- this is the perfect opportunity to put the tablet to the real-world test.

For now, though, some initial impressions on what the new Nexus 7 is actually like to use:

New Nexus 7 Tablet

• The screen is, in a word, stunning. The original Nexus 7's display was passable, particularly given the device's small size, but it was never a high point. With the new model -- made, like the last one, by Asus -- the display is simply outstanding. The numbers don't lie: 323 pixels per inch is enough to make your eyes smile.

• I'm surprised by how much thinner and narrower the new Nexus 7 feels compared to its predecessor. The tablet is really quite svelte; though its display is actually the same size as the first-gen model's, the side bezels are significantly smaller. The tablet is actually a hair taller than its older brother, but what you notice most is the width; it's easier to hold with one hand and fit (albeit somewhat awkwardly) into a front pocket.*

*Unless you wear super tight skinny jeans, in which case -- let's be honest -- you probably use Apple products.

New Nexus 7 Tablet - Back

• Size aside, the new Nexus 7 has a refreshed look and feel: Gone is the trademark textured back of last year's model; in its place, the new Nexus 7 has a smooth plastic surface that's reminiscent of the Nexus 10. It has a slightly less rubberized feel than the N10 but is still quite soft to the touch and easy to grip; while plastic, it's a sharp contrast to the cheap toy-like feel of the material used on many (non-Nexus) Samsung tablets.

• Stereo speakers -- huzzah! The new Nexus 7's dual-speaker system is a serious upgrade from the first model. The speakers still aren't great, mind you; they're on the back of the device and tend to sound a bit tinny, as is the case with most tablets these days. They definitely don't hold a candle to the Nexus 10's front-facing stereo speakers in either sound quality or volume potential. But they're pretty good -- and much better than the last Nexus 7 and most other mobile devices.

• Perhaps the most significant thing I've noticed about the new Nexus 7 thus far is how well it runs. This thing is smooth and speedy in a way that'll make you resent your old N7 in no time. It's no big shock, really, given the device's 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM -- the same exact setup seen in the Nexus 4 -- but still, it's nice to see the Nexus 7 finally holding its own in performance alongside the rest of the Nexus family.

The new Nexus 7 runs Android 4.3, of course -- though most of the significant changes in that release are under-the-hood improvements that won't be immediately apparent to most users (at least, those coming from Android 4.2).

And there's a lot more to the tablet, too -- a new rear-facing camera, HDMI out capabilities, an unlocked multicarrier LTE option, improved battery life, and Qi-compatible wireless charging (the sweet spot's a little hard to find, but I can confirm the tablet does work with the Nexus 4 Wireless Charger).

The real test, of course, is how it all stacks up in the real world. I'll be traveling with the tablet over the next couple weeks and will share some more in-depth impressions with you soon.

Based on my initial impressions, though, I think it's safe to say we have a serious new contender for the crown. Google didn't need to do much to push the Nexus 7 forward into 2013 territory -- and with the new Nexus 7, it seems to have done all the right things.

UPDATE: New Nexus 7 revisited: 3 weeks with Google's latest tablet

Android Power Twitter

The new Nexus 7 goes on sale in the U.S. next Tuesday, July 30, for $229 (16GB Wi-Fi model), $269 (32GB Wi-Fi model), and $349 (32GB LTE model). Google says the tablet will come to Canada, the U.K., and other countries soon.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon