Google Nexus 9 first impressions: Hands on with HTC's first tablet

Is it worth its $479 asking price?

Born from Google and HTC is the Nexus 9, a tablet that borrows strengths from both sides of its family. A high resolution screen flanked by loud speakers is inherited from HTC’s genealogy, while its sweet operating system and its design come from Google.

There are large phones. There are small tablets. There are large tablets. The size of the Nexus 9 is a sweet spot between the three; it has found the Goldilocks size.

The screen spans 8.9-inches. Purchase the slate in black and its discrete front will naturally guide eyes its way. The resolution is a high 2048x1536, which gives it a 4:3 aspect ratio best suited to web browsing and reading.

Note: The Nexus 9 reviewed by Good Gear Guide is on loan from UniqueMobiles, which is currently stocking the tablet for $499.

Multimedia is served well too. Boarding the display is HTC’s BoomSound technology, amplified stereo speakers revered on the One (M7) and One (M8). Different grille styling provides an insight into the design language of the next-generation flagship, the One (M9). The only other design trait is a centered 2-megapixel front camera, and it tries hard to blend in with the black facade.

Turn the tablet over and the design introduced by the Nexus 7 comes to mind. Embossed in black rubber is the Nexus branding. An 8-megapixel camera – joined by a single LED flash, a rarity for a tablet – subtly protrudes in true Nexus fashion. Rubber is warm to the touch, and although it is no metal, the solid construction of the Nexus 9 backs its asking price.

‘Nexus’ is synonymous with stock Android. The Lollipop operating system here has no third-party tinkering and no inefficient overlay. Running vanilla software ensures updates are made available quickly, often months in advance.

Google’s involvement in the Nexus 9 project shines through. The software and hardware feel purpose built for one another. Double tapping the inactive screen awakens the slate. The vibrant colours of the OS stand out all the more against the Nexus’ inanimate black design.

Screenshots taken on the Nexus 9
Screenshots taken on the Nexus 9

Other tablets have flashy, show-stealing styles. The Nexus 9’s hardware tries to hide in plain sight so that the software can dance in the limelight. The two play different and yet equally important roles.

Working behind-the-scenes is NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 CPU, which has two cores clocked at 2.3GHz. Graphics is handled by a 192-core Kepler GPU, there’s 2GB of RAM and the available internal storage options are 16GB or 32GB. There’s no support for expandable memory, and that’s a sore point for anyone reluctant to use cloud storage.

Built into the enclosure is a 6700 milliamp-hour battery, which Google claims is enough to loop a video for 9.5 hours. We’ll report more on battery life following our testing.

Cursory testing inspires confidence, though we’re not yet sure if the Nexus 9 is good enough to be priced in the iPad’s ball park. We’ll offer a commentary on this and more in our upcoming full review

Would you pay $479 for the 16GB variant of the Nexus 9? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Tags LollipopGooglehtcBoomSoungAndroidNexus 9

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Tony Ibrahim

Tony Ibrahim

Good Gear Guide

@slicktonyi

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