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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.

Tablets are not point-and-shoots
The Nexus 9 comes with Lollipop's new stock camera interface. I'm not too crazy about it--I couldn't figure which way to swipe in and out at first.

I'm still shocked at the number of people who use a tablet to shoot candid family moments. I'm of the belief that the only reason these particular devices have cameras in the first place is for easily connecting with others through video chat. That said, both the Nexus 9's rear-facing 8-megapixel camera and front-facing 1.6-megapixel camera aren't too bad at taking photos or streaming video through Google Hangouts. In fact, the biggest caveat of the rear-facing camera is the fact that the lens physically sticks out. That seems out of place on a tablet that, may I remind you, isn't meant to replace your point and shoot.

Don't forget your charger
I was not particularly impressed with the Nexus 9's battery life, but I also didn't expect much from a 6,700mAh battery pack powering a 9-inch 2048x1536 resolution display. Compare that to the Nexus 10, which has a 9,000mAh battery pack.

On standby, the tablet was fine. It was on Wi-Fi all night, receiving notifications and such, and only burned through about 30 percent of its power. Other top tablets have far longer standby time. I had to charge the tablet every single day that I was actively using it, however, and I'm pretty used to going three days without having to plug in either of my smaller tablets.

I'll have the results of our official battery test up soon.

A delicious Lollipop
Android 5.0 is almost an entirely different Android than what you're used to. It's not only sporting the bolder-colored, simpler, more cohesive Material Design, but every other part--from the keyboard to the Settings menu--feels like Android has finally grown up. It's the most professional version of Google's operating system I've ever used, and I'm particularly impressed with the new animations and the way they make the interface feel more interactive.

I still feel like Google could do more with Android's tablet interface, however. It still just feels like a big wasteland of wallpaper with a few icons scattered here and there--that's about it.

This is completely stock Android, so it's devoid of the same bells and whistles you'd get with a Samsung or LG tablet. It does come with some of Google's new apps, like Google Fit and the revamped Gmail and Calendar apps, but even the wallpaper choices are slim pickings. We'll have a thorough review of Lollipop and its new features and apps in the coming weeks.

Android's new future
Although it's manufactured by HTC, the Nexus 9 is all Google. The plain black chassis, stock Android, and powerful processor will be fun for developers and diehard Android fans to tinker with, but I wouldn't suggest the Nexus 9 to a not-so-techie family member. I'd much rather steer them towards a second-generation Nexus 7 if they're looking for a reading device running stock Android, or the 8.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S for its bigger screen and stylish outfitting.

 

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