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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What was great about the Nexus 7 is that it was an easy entry into the Android ecosystem. It was an affordable first tablet that you could buy when picking up the inexpensive Chromecast. There wasn't too much thought to it.

That's not the Nexus 9, however. It's a serious tablet with significant internal specs boot and an equally serious price tag. It's $399 (£319, AU$479) for 16GB version that I don't recommend. It's comes down to whether there's enough here for you to look beyond its flaws.

Nexus 9 review

Aspect ratio makes it easier for reading text than watching movies

We liked

If you were to adhere to "it's what's on the inside that counts," the Nexus 9 would be better off. It has Nvidia's 64-bit processor, HTC's BoomSound speakers and an impressive battery.

Google and HTC clearly designed this tablet for productivity more than widescreen movie watching. The 8.9-inch display's 4:3 aspect ratio really does make surfing the web and editing documents easier.

Buying into a stock Android experience is another good reason to check out the Nexus 9.

Nexus 9 review

A real 'fingerprint' sensor

We disliked

It's hard to not like a pure Nexus device, but it's the outside of the Nexus 9 that has the most trouble. Its 2K resolution screen doesn't look as nice as the iPad Air 2 display you can get for a little more money.

Google has issued a software patch to correct some of the performance problems I experienced with the tablet. However, backlight bleeding and a mediocre design that doesn't live up to the standard that HTC is known to deliver on its own products are unfixable flaws. The camera, as expected, is terrible.

And the price - it's hard to know whether to lambast this tablet, as it is cheaper than the competition in some cases. But previous Nexus models have always been vastly cheaper than the rivals, so it's a shame to see the same thing not happening here.

Final verdict

Google's Nexus 9 tablet has display size and price that's indicative of everything you need to know about how it stacks up against the iPad Air 2. It's just a little less.

Nexus 9 review

Still a major upgrade over the Nexus 7

The smaller 8.9-inch screen is good enough until you sit it next to a richer-looking, laminated 9.7-inch iPad display. The LCD backlight bleeding doesn't help either. Among Androids, its 4:3 aspect ratio makes it a great two-handed upgrade over the narrower and slower Nexus 7. But it's not as thin and nowhere near as sub-pencil-thin as Apple's "laser-cut" iPad.

More design cues have been taken from the ASUS-made Nexus 7 than HTC's own all-metal HTC One M8. The soft rubberized back is easy to grip, yet doesn't feel as premium. That's a problem because this Android tablet costs much more than last year's model. It starts at $399 (£319, AU$479) for the 16GB version, and that space fills up rather quickly.

Nexus 9 is a few tenths of an inch shy of matching the iPad Air 2, which wouldn't be so bad if the display and design didn't come up short as well.

If you're looking for a naked Android tablet, the Nexus 9 performs well and comes with some really premium touches to make it one of the best around. However, it's not the winner in any category except battery life, so it will be interesting to see how Google uses this base model to improve the entire tablet ecosystem.

Matt Swider