My Google Nexus 7 is here!
It arrived packaged in a minimalist matt black box, with an alarmingly tight grey sleeve. Clearly it's supposed to be an "unpackaging experience". I was underwhelmed, but I suppose if you've never bought anything by Apple you will be impressed.
When you pick the Nexus 7 up, it feels surprisingly heavy; however, it is very comfortable to hold. I was playing with it for several hours last night, and at no point did it feel too heavy. The screen is clear and bright and the touchscreen works great.
I'm slightly less impressed with the voice control. Yes, you can send an email entirely by voice, and it works, but you can only send it using Gmail as far as I can tell. OK, so having a Gmail account is virtually compulsory with one of these devices, but that doesn't mean that you want to actually use it for sending email! Still, voice actions do work, and I expect that Google Now will work too, although it won't get the opportunity with me. My understanding of Google Now is that it supposedly learns what your routine is, and then helpfully suggests stuff at opportune moments. For example, it stealthily tracks your location, works out that you are likely to be driving home at 5 o'clock, and then points out that there are delays on the M4, or something like that. Now, if it could warn about a dangerous build-up of doggie droppings on the public footpath through Hayslan Fields, it would be really useful for me.
Moving on to Jelly Bean, the new version of Android. I have to say, I'm a big fan of the HTC Sense user interface. My HTC Desire S phone has that bit of extra sparkle. Jelly Bean seems to lack sparkle, and the purpose of some of the icons (particularly the "clear" icon on the notifications popup) are not immediately obvious. Given the graphical horsepower of the Nexus, it is disappointing that there aren't more visual effects. In terms of applications, the Mail application looks great but still won't let you change the location of the "sent" and "trash" IMAP mailboxes (so not much use with my mail server, or many others). Fortunately, the Calendar application look great and works superbly too.
The Nexus really comes into its own as a media player. Reading ebooks is easy (although only time will tell whether the backlit screen causes eye strain - personally, I find the Kindle lacking in contrast, so I'm optimistic on this one). Playing videos and streaming from YouTube is a delight. Alas, the BBC iPlayer won't install, being marked as incompatible with the operating system. Hopefully this will soon change. There is plenty of screen real estate for websites, although on occasions the mobile version is served up (some mobile versions look a bit sad on a larger screen). The "half-way house" screen size is a good compromise though. Dedicated information apps, including "Google Currents", work really well and look stunning. You can't beat leafing through a real newspaper or a glossy magazine, but this is undeniably very convenient and more immediate (and cheaper).
16GB or 8GB? I've bought a 16GB model, but I reckon an 8GB one will do for most people (including me). Unless you want to load the device up with lots of video, you don't really need much storage (so long as you're in range of a friendly Wi-Fi).
In summary then, a slight disappointment, but a great piece of hardware and excellent value for money (particularly the 8GB one).