Google Nexus 9: their finest tablet entry?

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Though it hasn’t scaled the heights of Samsung’s Android success, Google’s Nexus line has been doing a good trade with your “purists” and those who enjoy a less restricted experience, and that’s in short down to the fact that its phones and tablets are, on the whole, damn good devices.

With Lollipop on the way Google’s celebrating with the new Nexus 9, the latest in a line that includes some of the best Android tablets money can buy. It’s shaping up to be every bit as good as its predecessor but this time Google has asked HTC to work the design, who despite mixed success have certainly shown they know how to build a phone. It’s a mix of brushed metal and soft plastic housing an 8.9” (2048xx1536) display alongside HTC’s BoomSound speaker design. It has a 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor at 2.3GHz, 8MP rear and 1.6MP front camera and a choice of 16 or 32GB of memory. It also claims up to 9.5 hours of video playback and up to 30 days on Wi-Fi Standby, so looks to deliver that all important battery life. There certainly seems to be plenty of potential here, so let’s see how it fares with some hands-on trials.

PCAdvisor is a fan of the design, even though it does note that the tightly built, slim device doesn’t leave any room for a removable battery or microSD expansion.

I like the soft-touch back, which reminded me of Amazon’s new Fire HDX 8.9; this tablet will be easy to hang on to and won’t slide off tables.”

On the downside it has a 4:3 aspect ratio which isn’t as suited to movies, and it does seem a shame that HTC hasn’t worked harder to make the bezel a bit thinner – “The design isn’t bleeding-edge.”

TechRadar is impressed by the Nexus 9 but stops short of getting truly excited about its potential. For example, in terms of the screen there’s plenty to like but it’s far from the best on the market.

“It’s a decent effort indeed without being mind-blowing. It’s certainly high-res enough to match the iPad Air 2 in terms of pixel count, which means by having a 0.8-inch smaller display increases the sharpness.”

That said, it was impressed by the deep blacks and overall contrast, with video content faring very well.

TechRadar also goes into some detail on the new OS – Android 5 / Lollipop. It’s fairly early days, but:

“it’s a really nifty upgrade and it combines well with the larger and wider screen size on offer. Loading TechRadar on the Chrome browser wasn’t the fastest experience, with a few lags with swiping, but that’s very possibly down to not being final build.”

Elsewhere most aspects of the tablet are praised, but one area that did draw some criticism was the camera, which can still struggle to focus and in terms of general usability the overall quality isn’t quite there.

Finally Pocket Lint has a lot of love for the Nexus 9 design in general, which compared to the Samsung-designed Nexus 10, is just a better quality of device. First impressions of the display are good with decent viewing angles, but it’s a shame it doesn’t have the anti-reflective layer of the new iPad Air 2. It also explains a few of the nice details found on Lollipop:

“There’s also some touches of detail that we really like, such as enhanced volume options. Tap volume down and you can opt to silence the tablet for an hour, or to only allow priority notifications through”

before concluding:

“the Nexus 9 is a lovely device. HTC has brought some of its skill to the device with the front-facing BoomSound speakers, but we’ve yet to put them through their paces. We’re hoping they match the performance of the HTC One M8.”

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The general consensus seems to be that there’s plenty to like in another solid entry from Google, but like its predecessor it’s not exactly cheap. £319 for the 16GB version in fact, which will be available from the 3rd November in a choice of three colours – white, black and a kind of beige. We’re interested to see how it fares under a full review.