It's made by Asus again, and it's come up with a slimmer, sleeker device than last year's slate. It feels incredibly well built, and I think getting rid of the textured back has made it even classier. Certainly as classy as any other 7-inch tablet you might care to mention.
There are two main changes to the hardware. Firstly, there's now a camera, a 5-megapixel affair, on the back. I had a quick play around with it and its results in the dim light of the club in which Asus showed it off were pretty dismal, with a huge amount of noise. That's not a fair test though, and it may well do much better in decent lighting.
The second major change is the screen, which has been bumped up from 720p to Full HD 1080p. The test images and videos Asus provided looked absolutely pin-sharp and its colours were gorgeous, although in the dark its contrast didn't look perfect. It seemed to struggle with fine gradations of black, occasionally looking blocky. Again, without testing it properly with a bunch of videos it's impossible to say. Nevertheless, it seems like a real improvement on the Nexus 7 -- hopefully the screen will be more durable too.
One odd thing was that when I turned the volume up above about halfway, the chassis began to vibrate unpleasantly. The speakers are built into the curved corners of the back and may simply have too little room to operate, the tablet being so thin. It may have been our test unit though, and I'll look forward to pumping out some noise when we have it in for review.
I wasn't able to test any high frame-rate games, but given it's packing a 1.5GHz quad-core chip and 2GB of RAM, I don't expect it'll break sweat. Its only limitation as an entertainment device is its lack of expandable memory, but given the 32GB model is only £239 -- £40 more than the 16GB -- I don't think it's much of a problem.
Android 4.3 is running the show and in my brief hands-on time I didn't notice any difference to previous versions whatsoever. Most of its promised tweaks are behind the scenes, such as adding support for the OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics standard, which will let developers more easily create gorgeous looking games. The new user profiles feature might prove handy if you're going to share the device with your family.
This new Nexus is shaping up to be another barnstormer. It starts at £40 more than the original Nexus, but it feels much more expensive -- I had a real tingle of gadget-lust holding it. Don't forget it's still much cheaper than Apple's iPad mini, too. We'll wait for the full review before we judge it, but this could well be the best 7-inch tablet around.