The life of the Nexus tablets haven’t been all too glamorous. What they have been is decently powered, up to date on the latest software and affordable. To make it more understandable, you didn’t hear the phrase up to Nexus 7. So when Google teamed up with HTC to make the Nexus 9, have they made a much more substantial device to justify the extra expense?
To start out, let’s look at the design and the physical hardware. Unlike the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, the Nexus 9 comes in the form of a 4:3 aspect ratio tablet. Its design is not very inspiring either. The front is a black slab with the only hint of HTC build coming from the dual front-facing speakers. The sides show a little bit more inspiration but when you flip it to the back, you’ll find the same material found on the Nexus 5. It’s fine but it just doesn’t have any type of inspiration. And I kind of wish that HTC had a little more design input on this. Perhaps, bring over some more high quality materials that they implement on their own hardware.
Now looking at the specs in more detail in front, we have an 8.9-inch IPS LCD panel with a resolution of 2048 x 1536 with two front-facing speakers on the front and bottom. We also have a 1.6MP front-facing camera. On the left side, it’s completely clean. On the right side, we’ll find a power lock switch and a volume rocker. Now these don’t offer the greatest feedback at all and I often push the power button when I try to adjust the volume. On the top, we’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack and on the bottom, you’ll find a microUSB port for charging. Now flip this guy to the back and we’ll find the 8MP rear-facing camera and the LED flash. Internally, we have the Tegra K1 dual-core processor with two Denver cores, a 192-core Kepler GPU and 2GB of RAM. And for the battery, it’s packed with a 6700 mAh battery.
The feel on the hand is nothing too special. It just feels like some kind of 4:3 aspect ratio tablet. But the build quality, on the other hand, is very good. It feels very solid, it’s just not as nice as other tablets around this price range.
Next up is the display of the Nexus 9. While the resolution is nothing groundbreaking, the IPS LCD provides very good color accuracy and very good viewing angles. The display is not as vibrant as a Super AMOLED from Samsung or even Apple’s new iPad Air 2 display with their laminated IPS LCD. But it’ll do the job for the Nexus 9 with crisp looking text and images and a slightly higher PPI than the iPad Air 2.
Now the real star of the Nexus 9 is in the software. This is Google’s showcase of Android 5.0 Lollipop for tablets and what that means is that this is the tab with no add-ons, no skins, and no fluff. Apart from the Nexus 7, the Nexus 9 is the only new tablet that runs 5.0. The story of Android 5.0 Lollipop is simplicity, refinement, and overall performance boosts. On the Nexus 9, Android 5.0 runs ever so smoothly. Right from the lock screen, things look a little different and also run a little differently. Notifications are, for once, interaction-friendly. To see a notification, you just double tap to edit them or swipe away to dismiss.
With the software, things are familiar but different. The new color scheme is more flat but also, in my opinion, much more pleasing to the eyes and very user-friendly. The only critic I have about Android 5.0 Lollipop is the single finger versus double finger swipe on the notification tray. I don’t think it’s very intuitive and this could be confusing for someone who isn’t familiar with Android 5.0 Lollipop.
But with Lollipop comes great performance skins. Honestly, my experience with the Nexus 9 has been great. The tablet really chugs along through all the applications and processes with no sweat. I think I’ve only had a few problems with some Google services but that’s always to be expected when a new software is rolled out. Performance-wise, multi-tasking, web browsing, high frame rate games, benchmarks and all the rest run and perform just really well for a dual-core tablet or really any type of tablet.
The battery life on the Nexus 9 is also pretty standard. The 6700 mAh battery provides enough juice for a full day of browsing and use with an average on-screen time of around 9 hours. Standby is also pretty good. It’s just not as rock solid as the iPad Air. I would say an average of 5-10 percent loss per day of standby.
The Nexus 9 does have an 8MP rear-facing camera. And as tablet cameras goes, this is pretty terrible. The images could be passed when you only look at them on the Nexus 9 but blow it up on a larger, much more higher resolution display and you’ll likely cringe. Or maybe not. I’m not exactly sure what camera experience you have but in my opinion, it’s pretty terrible. But just to be safe here, you probably shouldn’t use the Nexus 9 for taking your wedding photos. And it also makes you look just a little weird or really, a lot weird.
So the Nexus 9. To wrap it up in a few words, it’s probably the best Android tablet around. Probably. And that’s not from the hardware or design. It’s all from that software. So if you’re still holding on to your Nexus 7, trust me. You’re not missing out on all too much. But if you want the best Android tablet you can currently buy on the market, you’re going to have to shell out some money than your usual Nexus device. This will cost you a full $400 for the base 16GB Wi-Fi model; more for high storage capacity and optional cellular connectivity. And honestly, I don’t see where the actual money is going towards but I’ll say it again, it’s probably the best Android tablet you can currently buy.
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