The new Nexus 7 is in our hands and as you'd expect, it's an improvement over last year's model in every appreciable way. The big show here is obviously the 1920 x 1200 screen, which Google claims has the highest pixel density of any tablet at 323ppi. It certainly looks good, with wide viewing angles and intense colors. This year's model is just a little taller and a little less wide than the old Nexus 7, which makes it easier to hold in one hand — at least in its portrait orientation. Instead of the old faux-leather backing, Google and Asus have opted for a matte, soft-touch black plastic that feels just fine.
It's running Android 4.3 — the first device to do so — but to be perfectly frank, the operating system's new features aren't things most users will immediately notice. As for games, we gave Asphalt 8 Airborne a shot and, just as in Google's on-stage demo, it was graphically better than most Android titles we've seen. The clouds reflected off the rear windshield and the parts from the battered car flew sharply — though at the end of the day a really good-looking game on Android still isn't as good as the best iOS has to offer.
The 1.5GHz Snapdragon Pro processor with Adreno 320 graphics and 2GB of RAM seems to be enough to push pixels around on this dense and bright display. Even in Chrome, a perennial dog when it comes to scroll lag on Android, the Nexus 7 kept up with our speedy swiping at least as well as the Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
A few of the Google employees wandering around had the LTE version on hand as well. Bearing a small SIM card slot, it will work with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile LTE. If you don't have LTE, it can fall back to HSPA on T-Mobile and AT&T, but it doesn't support 3G on Verizon.
Is the Nexus 7 worth the small price bump to $229 for the 16GB model? Looking at the screen, it's hard to say no. It's also hard to not notice how much better the Nexus 7's screen looks compared to the iPad mini's non-Retina display — though the number and quality of iPad apps still far outpaces the paltry set that's optimized for Android tablets.