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The Nexus 6 wasn’t the only new Google device we got to play with today. We also got to toy around with the Nexus 9, the company’s new HTC-designed tablet running Android 5.0 Lollipop. Is the Nexus 9 a giant leap forward or should you just keep your Nexus 7 or Nexus 10? Our first thoughts after the break.

Specifications

  • Processor: 2.3GHz 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 Dual Denver
  • Graphics: 192-core Kepler GPU
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Internal storage: 16/32GB
  • Operating System: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Dimensions: 153.68mm x 228.25mm x 7.95mm
  • Weight: 425 grams

Design

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The Nexus 9 is a huge departure from the plastic ASUS-made Nexus 7 and Samsung-made Nexus 10. Whereas the Nexus 7 was aimed at being an extremely affordable tablet, the Nexus 9 is a premium device. Its brushed metal frame looks and feels great — not cheap at all.

While it isn’t the thinnest (Hello iPad Air 2), its 153.68mm x 228.25mm x 7.95mm dimensions and 425 gram weight (W-Fi model) make it one portable little slate that’s easy to hold in one hand for long extended periods.

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The rear is a soft matte plastic with the Nexus logo emblazoned across it, just like on the Nexus 6. The 8-megapixel-rear camera protrudes from the body a bit, but it’s not a deal breaker by any means.

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Frankly, I think the size is great. It’s not too small like 7-inch tablets and not too big like 10-inch ones. It’s the perfect mid-sized tablet.

In addition to the premium design, since this is an HTC-designed tablet, you’ll find two front-facing BoomSound speakers; easily one of the best speakers on a tablet I’ve ever experienced.

And, if you’re into choices, the Nexus 9 comes in three colors: Indigo Black, Lunar White, and Sand (a gold/champagne color).

Display

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If you liked the 16:9 aspect ratio screens of the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, you’re going to be in for a shock. The Nexus 9 has a 4:3 aspect ratio and the resolution is 2048 x 1536, just like on the iPad. Personally, I like the 4:3 aspect ratio more because it makes it easier to browse and consume content in landscape mode, but that’s just my preference.

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The pixels per inch (PPI), however, is pretty darn crisp at 281 — sharper than the iPad Air 2’s 264 PPI. I can’t express my delight at the screen enough. Colors pop and blacks look great.

Watching HD movies is always less pleasing on a 4:3 display, since you will get letter boxing, but it’s something I’ve gotten used to for many years.

The screen itself is made from Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which means it’s super scratch resistant. All of the demo units were pretty soiled with fingerprints, so take that for what you will.

Software: Android 5.0

Like the Nexus 6, the Nexus 9 ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop right out of the box. You’re getting all the benefits of Google’s new “Material” design language. Icons are nice and flat, notifications are smarter and the entire device is more secure.

One of the best things about Android 5.0 is seamless integration between smartphones, tablets, TVs and wearables.

Subtle things like shadows and the breaking out of Chrome tabs in the multitasker also go a long way to making Android 5.0 fast and intuitive.

You can see a more detailed change log of what’s in Android 5.0 here.

Performance

I wasn’t able to put the Nexus 9 through a proper benchmarking, but the fact that it has a 2.3GHz 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 Dual Denver and 192-core Kepler GPU is telling enough. Generally speaking, this is the same power you’ll find in the NVIDIA Shield Tablet.

Flicking around the OS was fast and fluid and apps opened really fast. Coupled with 2GB of RAM, I didn’t notice any slow-down at all, which is a great sign.

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The Nexus 9 isn’t being positioned as strictly a media consumption device; Google wants you to do work on it as well. A $129 keyboard case will essentially turn the Nexus 9 into a pseudo-Chromebook, allowing you to work on all of your Google Docs and then sync them back to the cloud.

Battery

The Nexus 9 is equipped with a 6700 mAh battery, which Google claims is good for up to 9.5 hours on Wi-Fi browsing, 8.5 hours on LTE browsing and 30 days of standby.

First impressions

While the Nexus 6 is really just a giant Moto X (2014) running Android 5.0 Lollipop, the Nexus 9 is a completely new Nexus tablet with a premium design that just oozes of quality. If you ask me, handing the keys over to HTC this time around really paid off.

The screen looks amazing and Android 5.0 Lollipop makes 4.4.4 KitKat feel so dated. I didn’t get to test the Nexus 9’s 8-megapixel camera with LED flash (pretty rare on a tablet), but the sample pics I saw looked decent. Battery life looks to be in line with what you’d get from other tablets.

Perhaps, the most exciting thing about the Nexus 9 is the power under the hood. I can’t wait to see what the NVIDIA K1 processor and 192-core Kepler graphics are capable of for gaming.

You can pre-order the Nexus 9 direct from the Google Play store or purchase it from Best Buy, Amazon or GameStop when it launches on November 3. A 16GB Nexus 9 will run you $399 for the Wi-Fi only model and a 32GB will cost $479. If you want a 4G LTE model, you’ll only be able to get it in Indigo Black (as opposed to in Lunar White and Sand), and that will cost you $599.

Origami covers will will cost $39 in come in Black, Lime Stone, Coral Amethyst, and Mint Indigo. Leather covers will cost $69 and come in Black and Natural.

Filed in Tablets. Read more about Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google, nexus 9.

Display
8.9"
2048x1536 IPS LCD
Price (approximative)
~$399.99 - Amazon
Camera
8 MP
Weight
425 g
Battery
6700 mAh
Launched in
2014-10
System
2GB RAM
Nvidia Tegra K1 + None
Storage (GB)
16,32
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