As we watched the Google I/O Day 1 keynote back in June, many of us at LockerGnome were excited for what we knew was coming. For instance: a 7″ Nexus device. We were so excited, in fact, a few of us pre-ordered the device the same day — myself included. Chris even pre-ordered during his live keynote discussion stream. I’m happy to report that those of us who pre-ordered are receiving these devices today, as planned. I am fortunate enough to get to take a break from this device to write a few of my initial impressions, so let’s get cracking.

The Packaging

Nexus 7: First ImpressionsThe first thing I said to myself upon seeing the box UPS dropped off was: “Wow, that’s a tiny box.” Indeed, the Nexus 7 came in perhaps the most compact box I’ve ever had expensive hardware arrive. Don’t worry, though — it’s bigger on the inside!

The box holding the Nexus 7 is clean and smooth, just like the device itself. Recently a video has been circulated mocking the Nexus 7 for being a bit of a pain to unbox. However, I had the insight to bring a pair of scissors to the party and things went swimmingly. It’s much less of a nightmare than said video would have you believe, trust me.

Upon opening the box, the Nexus 7 gave me a big smile as it sat front and center. Underneath it came the manuals, USB cable, and AC charger. Nothing too life-changing in the unboxing portion, but the device itself is what I cared about, anyway.

The Hardware

As soon as I unwrapped the Nexus 7 from its protective plastic wrappings, I almost had a bit of a breakdown when I first felt the back of the device. Perhaps it’s just personal preference, but I am in love with Asus’ choice of material to back the Nexus 7. It’s smooth to the touch, but I am also not at all worried about the device slipping out of my hand. It’s not a glossy material either, so there’s no need to worry about fingerprints muddying up the aesthetics.

The Nexus 7 is rounded in the back, but has a bit of a sharper edge as it makes its way to the front. This gives it a distinct feel when I’m holding it in my hand; the edge really gives me something for my fingers to hold onto, further quelling any fears that this thing is going to slip and slide while it is in my grasp.

For a $200/$250 tablet, the screen is surprisingly good. It’s no AMOLED display like on my Galaxy Nexus (which I prefer to traditional LCDs), but it’s very comparable to the LCD on my original Asus Transformer. The viewing angle is great, too; I can rotate the device almost a full 180 degrees and barely notice any sort of quality drop, so I don’t have any fears that guests on either side of me will have issues viewing the display.

As for audio, the speakers packed into the Nexus 7 represent the little tablet well. I played some music from Google Play as well as quickly ran through a few games and found the audio quality (and volume) enjoyable. Would hear again.

Performance-wise, I wasn’t expecting much out of a sub-$300 device. The Quad-core Tegra 3 holds its own, of course, so I’m glad Asus and Google managed to pack it into the Nexus 7 while keeping the costs low. My Transformer is rocking the dual-core Tegra 2 and my Galaxy Nexus is riding on a dual-core OMAP chipset, so naturally the Nexus 7 runs circles around them. Games run great and video is smooth.

The Software

Mere minutes did I have my shiny new Nexus 7 in hand when I was prompted to reboot. The 4.1.1 update had arrived quickly. I pressed reboot and the upgrade process took less than a minute. I’ve had Jelly Bean on my Galaxy Nexus since I/O, so you don’t have to tell me how much smoother it is than previous Android iterations. Jelly Bean on the Nexus 7 is no different. It’s buttery smooth, as expected.

With that said, Google Now is there as expected, along with all of Jelly Bean’s other features. For the minor update that Jelly Bean is, it’s more than enough for me to hold me over for Key Lime Pie (or whatever they decide to call the next iteration).

So there you have it: my first few moments with the Nexus 7. Based on these initial impressions along with what I’ve heard from around the Interwebs, I can say that the Nexus 7 is perhaps the most refreshing 7″ tablet to date. That, in addition to the fact that it starts at only $200, makes for one of the most affordable, satisfying experiences yet — at least in the Android realm.

Keep on the lookout in the future for a more in-depth review from LockerGnome. It’s sure to come packed with everything you could possibly both love and hate in Google’s new Nexus device.