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Google Nexus 9 review: A powerful tablet made for everyone

Florence Ion | Nov. 4, 2014
If you’re drawn to the Nexus 9, buy it because you want to see what the future’s like, not because you’re looking for the absolutely perfect tablet device.

There are many wonderful things about Google's Nexus 9. Its 64-bit Tegra K1 processor is extremely powerful, its big hi-res display and front-facing speakers make it a mini entertainment theater, and its preloaded stock Android 5.0 is the most handsome version of the operating system to ever come out of Mountain View.

But unlike beefy gaming PCs and muti-core Mac Pros, which are only meant for a niche of computer users, the Nexus 9 is made for everybody.  It doesn't matter if you have no plans to take advantage of its power--all you have to do is drop $400. 

Boring, but not ugly
The Nexus 9 is a simple, well-designed tablet, though it reminds me of something out of a J.Crew catalogue: nice to look at in photos, but when you bring it home, it's kind of boring and needs an accessory to spruce it up. That seems to be the point of the Nexus devices. They exist for developers to tinker with, not to enter the Android fashion show. The masculine black-on-black aesthetic of the Nexus 9 falls in line with what I've deemed to be the new "Google look," and thankfully the device also comes in "lunar white" and "sand."

The Nexus 9 is dense. It only weighs about as much as Apple's new iPad Air 2, but because it's smaller and thicker, the Nexus 9 feels heavier than it actually is. It's narrow enough that you can hold it vertically to type with your thumbs, but it isn't wide enough to touch-type comfortably on Home Row. That's what the sold-separately keyboard is for. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to use yet.

The Nexus 9's rubbery backside feels similar to the Nexus 5's. It gives it a no-slip grip, but it's a magnet for grease and makeup. I had a hard time using the tablet without wanting to obsessively wipe it clean.

Overall, the Nexus 9 looks like your standard, run-of-the-mill tablet. What's inside is more exciting.

A pretty display with a different ratio
I remember when I first took the second-generation Nexus 7 out of the box and couldn't help gushing over its 1080p display--it was such a vast improvement over its predecessor!

That's how I feel about the Nexus 9's QXGA (2048x1536) IPS LCD display: Everything just looks good on it. I've been using an 8.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S lately as my daily tablet, so when I turned on the Nexus 9 I immediately remembered why I don't always prefer Super AMOLED displays. Android Lollipop's bold new color palette certainly helps, too. The viewing angles are also fine for watching videos with a friend, though I am concerned about the thin sliver of backlight that peaks through on the edges.

 

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