Nexus 9 review

Google's Nexus tablet is bigger in size and price

Nexus 9 review
A great tablet, but not the cheap Nexus we're used to

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Nexus 9 is a new 8.9-inch display size for Google's Nexus range. It's a few tenths of an inch smaller than the iPad Air 2, but happens to be the same resolution as Apple's 9.7-inch tablet.

Nexus 9 review

It looks great until you see it next to the iPad Air 2

In fact, it's Google's QXGA-level slate that actually has a few more pixels per inch packed into its 2048 x 1536 IPS LCD screen.

That's why it's surprising that there's no comparison: the new iPad has a richer display in a side-by-side test. Apple's thinner, gap-free screen improves everything for better results.

The Nexus 9 is, frankly, uninspiring. The display quality watching HD movies isn't impressive and nothing gave me that 'wow' factor like the first time I saw a QHD screen on a phone. It's high res, but the color reproduction and contrast ratios were distinctly average.

nexus 9 review

Display duel: iPad Air 2 vs Nexus 9

I also found minor, but noticeable backlight bleeding around the bezel, which made the Nexus 9 picture quality less uniform when watching full-screen videos - or as full-screen as videos could get. Nexus 9 has a 4:3 aspect ratio that makes it more useful for productivity, or so Google says. The video-friendly 16:9 Nexus 7 now seems very narrow, but it's a better fit for movie watching.

Nexus 9 review

Backlight bleeding is hard to miss

With more height in landscape mode, it's a two-handed device with additional headroom to read text. That's great for surfing the web or editing a document. The screen size makes sense for work, even if the technology behind it doesn't shine as much.

BoomSound speakers

Even though the all-metal design wasn't carried over from the HTC One M8, at least the powerful BoomSound speakers point the audio in the right direction and sound just as good as on the phone.

Nexus 9 review

Powerful Nexus 9 moves the sound to the front

Unlike the Nexus 7 and iPad Air 2, these speakers aren't facing the back or at the bottom of the tablet. YouTube videos at least sound better than they look on the 4:3 Nexus 9 display.

This makes audio from movies, games and music clearer on this tablet than anything else I've tested. For once, I wasn't reaching for my Astro A38 Bluetooth headphones right away.

Magnetic keyboard attachment

This Keyboard Folio accessory wasn't available for me to test with the Nexus 9 review unit and the Google Play Store only recently put it up for sale, so you couldn't try it either, at least up until a few days ago. However, it's a sold-separately productivity perk that may factor into your tablet-buying decision.

Nexus 9 review

Enough to take on the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at a fraction of the price?

The keyboard case folds at two angles and never needs to be plugged into the USB port. It connects wirelessly through Bluetooth and uses NFC to easily pair up. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the mechanical keys, which have 1.4mm of travel and include a Google search key - no surprise there.

Now that it's out, I'll test out hundreds of keystrokes for a future update to determine whether or not this business-focused add-on mounts a real challenge to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 keyboard attachment. Or if it's better than the run-of-the-mill cheap alternatives sold on Amazon. Google's version is $129 (£110, about AU$151), which means its targeted at serious on-the-go typists.

Matt Swider