I've been burned before buying products I haven't had a chance to try out in person. The Eee PC 701. The HP Mini 1120nr. Those were the days when I wanted to buy only Linux-preinstalled computers. In random stores, I've played around with 7" tablets. There always seemed to be something sluggish or off about them. When I read reviews of the Nexus 7, I thought it might all be hype. For some reason, I bought one anyway.
I tried to get it at Staples. They had a display copy that was clamped down with a security clamp that obscured part of the screen and also pressed on the screen so you couldn't actually use the thing without it interpreting everything as a second finger touch. They also didn't have any in stock. So I ordered it off Google's site on faith (okay—so I saw it in person, but I didn't really get a chance to use it properly).
When it arrived, I tried to open it. Whoever did the packaging needs to take some lessons from Apple. This was the most difficult box to open. It's a smaller box inside of a box sleeve that slides off, but the fit is so tight that the sliding off requires a lot of force. Then the box itself has some heavy tape keeping it shut. This was not fun to open.
Of course, once I did open the box and get to the Nexus 7 inside, the fun really began. First of all, since I ordered it through Google using my Gmail account, it had already been set up with my Gmail username with a message saying "Hi, [my real name]!" I still had to enter my password, of course, but the personalization was a nice touch from a customer service perspective.
I can't believe it's Project Butter
I've been using Jelly Bean for a few weeks now on my Galaxy Nexus phone, and Jelly Bean works way smoother on the Nexus 7. Everything is quick—no lag. Even some of the buggy UI stuff is gone in the Nexus 7 version of Jelly Bean (for example, in the Google Play settings if you add in a PIN, the Galaxy Nexus Jelly Bean will just pop up the dialogue without the virtual keyboard, but the Nexus 7 Jelly Bean will pop up the virtual keyboard as well).
No screen lift problems
I'd read some reviews talking about some kind of screen lift issue on the left side of the Nexus 7. Didn't see it on mine. Don't know if that means I got a special rare working unit... or maybe those were just the bum early ones that were rushed to order when the Nexus 7 first came out.
One nice thing Android has is a lot of paid-for apps working the same on the phone as on the tablet. For the iPad and iPhone I know you sometimes have to repurchase iPad apps that you'd already bought for the iPhone.
Party in the front, speakers in the back?
Unfortunately, like the iPad and like pretty much every iPhone or Android smartphone I've seen, the Nexus 7 has its speakers in the back, which means to get the absolute best sound, you have to cup your hand a bit to redirect the sound... or just use headphones. The speaker sound itself is decent. I'm not an audiophile, but I also know tinny when I hear it. It's not tinny. It's also not award-winningly clear. Just decent.
Storage and money
I was debating at first whether to get the 16 GB or the 8 GB model. My wife convinced me to get the 16 GB. With a few movies, pictures, Android apps, and iTunes playlists, it fills up decently and would be overflowing with only 8 GB. Plus, US$249 with $25 of Google Play money included isn't bad at all. It also comes with some Transformers sequel that was not that great when I saw it the first time.
Overall, if you're not obsessed with expandable storage, and if you use your camera or phone (instead of a tablet) to take pictures, this is a very good purchase to go with.