Review: Google’s Nexus 9 a high-performing android tablet

This HTC-made tablet is pricier than the Nexus 7 but it’s a great all-rounder

Google seems determined to offer a device for every purpose. The Nexus 7 was a fairly priced yet decent seven-inch effort from the Android firm; the Nexus 6 covers the "in between" market, while the Nexus 5 will suit those who simply want a mobile device. The latest tablet from the tech giant is the Nexus 9, a (you've guessed it) device with a nine-inch display. Made by HTC, the Nexus 9 is, as you'd expect, a solid, serviceable device. That makes it sound a bit middle-of-the-road, but it's a little more than that. The tablet is based on the Nvidia Tegra K1 2.3Ghz 64-bit processor, with 2GB of RAM and it doesn't disappoint. Multitasking is simple; apps run fast. But it faces tough competition, taking on the likes of the Galaxy Tab S and the iPad Air 2, in a tough premium tablet market.

The good

On the performance front, the Nexus 9 puts on a decent show. The device tackled everything from games to productivity apps with barely a stutter. Web surfing was snappy. It’s a good all-rounder and stands up to most tasks well.

Designwise, it's a nice build, with a curved back and a rubberised rear surface that's easy to get a grip on. The Nexus 9 feels sturdy and certainly not cheap. It may not be quite as thin as Apple's iPad Air 2, but it's not a weighty proposition either; in fact it's slightly lighter than its Apple rival. However, that has to be balanced against the smaller screen on the Nexus.

The Nexus 9 gets Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, which is a cleaner, flatter interface than previous versions of Google’s software. And because it’s Google’s tablet, there’s none of the messing about that comes with other manufacturers – it’s pure Android, without customised interfaces. Lollipop brings new features such as the ability to add multiple users, a useful addition for a tablet that could be passed around a family.

Speakers are front-facing, which gives better sound when watching video than rear speakers.

The not so good

The camera isn’t the highest quality we’ve seen on a tablet. The 8 megapixel number looks good on paper but it’s not all about the numbers. Even with the flash turned on, the images were a little grainy and the colours a bit off. On the front, the tablet offers 1.6 megapixel resolution, a respectable figure but again, the images weren’t the best quality we’ve seen from a front-facing camera in a mobile device. While it’s less likely that people will be dragging the Nexus 9 around to use as their main on-the-go camera, the front facing camera will more than likely be put to use for video chatting at some point, which makes its poor performance a little more frustrating.

There was a noticeable lag in shutter speed, a problem that plagued many mobile devices but one manufacturers have been working on. There’s no ability to expand the memory either. While that’s something that isn’t new for the Nexus tablets, it’s a bit disappointing to see it continued. With only 16GB and 32GB on offer – and a chunk of that taken up by Android’s own software – you’ll need cloud storage if things get a little packed on there. The switch to a 4:3 aspect ratio on the 8.9 inch display makes for a slightly different viewing experience: not so good for movies, taking away the widescreen element, but better for web browsing.

The rest

The Nexus 9 is available in two varieties – wifi only or LTE. However, only the black version offers LTE; the sand and lunar white options are wifi only, and the sand colour only comes in 32GB capacity, rather than the cheaper 16GB. There are a few neat accessories for the tablet too, including the cover, which attaches magnetically and has a few interesting features such as the keyboard folio, which connects to the tablet via bluetooth.

The Nexus 9 has NFC, in addition to the usual wireless technologies, while battery life is respectable, lasting most of a day’s usage before it needed a recharge.

The verdict

Not exactly as budget-friendly as the Nexus 7, but more of a premium Android tablet than its predecessor.