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Nexus 9 deep-dive review: Bigger, but not necessarily better

JR Raphael | Nov. 7, 2014
Google's new Android Lollipop software is fresh and exciting, but is it enough to make this US$400 tablet worth buying?

The update went a long way in improving the Nexus 9's stamina: While I had poor results during my first days with the device, I'm now consistently able to get a solid eight to nine hours of active use per charge. That's a bit short of Google's 9.5-hour estimate but still quite respectable and within the realm of reason.

The tablet's standby power usage, meanwhile, is top-notch: Leaving it on all night, with background data running and notifications trickling in, the device typically dropped a mere three percentage points over as much as 11 hours. Google says the tablet can last up to 30 days on standby, and with that kind of low idle power consumption, I wouldn't hesitate to believe it.

The Nexus 9 doesn't support wireless charging, nor does it have an SD card slot for storage expansion beyond the 16 or 32GB (depending on which model you purchase) of internal space. The tablet has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, if you absolutely must take photos with it, along with a 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera for all your selfie-snapping and video-chatting needs.

The sweet taste of Android Lollipop
I'll be taking an in-depth look at Android 5.0 and what it's like on both a tablet and a phone soon, so I'm not going to spend much time getting into the specifics of the software here. What I will say is that Lollipop is truly a whole new Android -- and by and large, it's an absolute pleasure to use.

Lollipop gives Android a fresh and modern makeover filled with bright colors and flat, one-dimensional elements. It also introduces slick new animations and transitions all throughout the system that go a long way toward making it feel more polished, cohesive and mature than ever. Nearly every piece of the system has gotten a facelift, and it makes a world of difference in what it's like to use.

The Nexus 9 is especially noteworthy because it runs an unmodified version of Google's Android software -- meaning you get Android exactly the way Google envisions it. The Nexus 9 is the only tablet to offer that setup as of now, though it'll be joined by its Nexus 7 and 10 siblings when those tablets are upgraded in the coming weeks. Other current Android tablets come from manufacturers that modify the operating system considerably, generally resulting in far less intuitive and attractive user experiences.

Visuals aside, Lollipop adds a number of noteworthy new features, some of which are particularly relevant for tablets -- like improved multiuser support, which makes it easy to share the slate with family, friends or guests and keep everyone's apps, settings and data separate. The release supplies a host of security enhancements as well, including a more streamlined system for encryption that protects all of your data from the moment you turn the tablet on.


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