Specs, design and battery life
A seven-inch 1200 x 800 HD backlit screen is capable of hosting images with 216 pixels per inch. While this poses no threat to Apple's patented retina display, it's more than adequate for all your media playback needs, and eclipses most devices in the middle-to-lower end of the tablet spectrum.
Asus has taken a minimalist approach with the tablet's design. The sleek Corning glass screen accounts for much of the front surface, with no physical buttons to speak of. A 1.2 mega-pixel camera sits at the top for video conferencing and taking grainy pictures, while volume and power buttons are located along the left hand side. Headphone and micro USB inputs can be found along the bottom.
The build quality feels robust and durable, despite the rear of the device being coated entirely in plastic. Weighing in at 340 grams, it has been produced with portability in mind, making it ideal for that commute to work. Its 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm dimensions make it comfortable to grip whether in landscape or portrait position.
Despite the hefty processor inside, the Nexus 7 isn't the power-hungry beast you might expect. Google claims that the slate's 4325mAh battery is capable of supporting up to eight hours of continuous usage. While the figure declines slightly during extending HD video session or mammoth gaming fesst, we found that they are as good as their world. The Nexus coasts through a few days on a single charge if used intermittently for basic tasks like web browsing or reading.
Operating system and software
The Nexus 7 serves as the launch vehicle for the latest version of Google's operating system, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The new OS builds on predecessor Ice Cream Sandwich in all of the right ways. A feature dubbed 'Project Butter' has been incorporated to eliminate the lag that has long plagued Android, so users are in for a pleasingly fluid experience.
Colours appear dull and muted on the device's home screen, though this isn't an issue once app has been launched. Web surfing or perusing your photo album is a vibrant experience, and speaking of internet, the Nexus 7 is the first device to use Google Chrome as its default browser. So far, we've found no reason to switch to an alternative. It runs as fluidly as the interface itself, and the improved voice search brings up search results in a flash.
The usual raft of Google apps come pre-loaded, including Currents, Maps, Earth and YouTube, plus the ever-expanding Google Play store offers access to many, many more. Google were even good enough to throw in £15 of store credit for you to kit out your device with software.
With its compact form factor, the Nexus 7 is ideal for e-books and could well deal the first generation Kindle Fire a death blow in the US market, providing Google up the number of books available on Google Play, which is at present restricted to bestsellers and thoroughly mainstream titles. There can be no complaints about this device as an e-reader. Navigation is smooth and speedy and clarity is never an issue. What more could lovers of all things literary want?
Magazines are a different story. While these are not yet available to purchase through Google Play in the UK, several magazine apps are available and the limited screen size can be a hindrance here. We found ourselves switching to a text only view to compensate for the small lettering. Digital graphic novels can also be fiddly to read as manual navigation is called for the zone in on points of interest.
Gaming and video content looks sharp and runs nicely on the 1200 x 800 HD display. We put the device through its paces with some of Google Play's most technologically demanding games, such as Dead Trigger, Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto 3 and found the hardware was more than up to the task. The relatively small screen is a drawback when running games that rely on a lot of virtual buttons, but this is more down to software design than the tablet itself.
There isn't a great deal to say about the Nexus 7 as a music player. It offers much the same experience as many Android tablets, with comprehensive software and an extensive library to launch on the Play Store in the UK at some point. However, we wouldn't recommend carrying the device around in your pocket. While it would fit, it's certainly no match for a smartphone or iPod for this purpose.
The Google Nexus 7 cherry picks the best aspects of a high-end tablet and a pint-sized e-reader and combines them into one economical package. Asus has provided powerful hardware specs ideal for gaming and media playback with a form factor slick enough to rival the Kindle Fire. Priced at £159 for the 8GB or £199 FOR 16GB (available at Carphone Warehouse), you won't find many better tablets at this end of the spectrum.
Additional reporting by Andrew Laughlin.