I bought the top-of-the-line model from the Play store for $349; I was still liking last year’s model but this is sleeker and prettier and goes faster. The differences are less dramatic than I’d expected, but they’re good things.
In the hand and pocket · It’s lighter and thinner and smoother. The first two are good; I think I slightly prefer the textured back of last year’s 7, but this balances much better in the hand.
It’s also very slightly taller; just enough to cause problems with one of the pockets I’d been parking its predecessor in. But I doubt this will bother most people.
Fast! · Where you really notice this is in switching and starting apps; they flow into place on the screen dramatically, unsubtly faster.
Perceptions are weird; I didn’t notice my everyday apps actually running faster on the new tablet, but when I poked around my old one to preparatory to wiping it and handing it on, it suddenly felt sluggish.
The Screen · 1920x1200, 323dpi. Those are impressive numbers; the original “Retina” iPhone 4 was 326dpi, and real actual retinal scientist Bryan Jones says you need 287dpi to vanish the pixels for a real actual human retina, and I sure enough can’t see any pixels.
Last year’s N7 was a mere 216dpi, and I thought the screen was good. I put old & new down side-by-side on a table and if you’re looking at normal-sized text or ordinary app graphics, the difference isn’t material. But fine print is qualitatively more readable on the new N7 for me; I suspect I’ll be cranking the fonts down on a few apps to get more stuff on the screen. And my pictures look nicer! No, I don’t know why. There’s no reasonable way to publish anything that will demonstrate the effect on whatever ordinary-rez screens most of you are reading this.
And a camera · Which I used to take the pictures here. I didn’t go out looking for photo subjects because that’s not what you’d do with this, just pointed it around in Vancouver airport, on a flight to California, and out a window at Google.
I punched ’em up a bit in Lightroom because I do that with all my pictures. I’d call them generally OK but low-contrast, and high on the luminance noise in dark areas. Of course, I’m heavily spoiled by the insanely high-quality captures coming off the Fujifilm X-series sensor.
Most people aren’t going to take a lot of pictures with a tablet, even at this form factor. But if you need to, the ones you get will be perfectly usable.
Battery · Last year’s N7 could get through a day and so can this. Weirdly, it charges faster.
Cellular data · My last few devices have had 3G and when the signal was good displayed “H” for HSPA+ in the status bar, and when I saw that, the network was, I thought, “fast enough” for most of what I wanted to do, even videoconferencing and MLB.tv. I measured 5M down/2 up at our cabin.
Now I see “4G” in Canada and “LTE” in the US and yeah, it’s faster. Some bug keeps SpeedTest.net from running in Canada, but in Silly Valley it says 32M down/6 up on T-Mobile. Yow.
Even better, the first time I got on a plane and swapped the SIM it locked onto the TMO LTE faster than I’ve had any Android device lock onto new-territory mobile data ever; before the plane had even slowed down much on the runway. Gotta like that.
And what you really have to like is that, unlike last year’s model, it’ll make a WiFi hot spot. Which was used to publish the words you are now reading.
Take-away · I could have saved some money by skipping mobile data and tethering to another device, and more by buying 16G not 32. Which is to say that I could have been reasonably happy for $229, but I’m super-happy with what I got.