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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 Nexus tablets also come with guarantees of fast and frequent OS upgrades directly from Google, which is a valuable assurance to have for the future.

Bottom line
The Nexus 9 is a strange tablet to try to wrap your head around. It's being positioned as a premium product, with a premium price -- but in the real world, it doesn't quite live up to that standard.

When I ask myself if the Nexus 9 is meaningfully better than the Nexus 7 that came before it -- better enough to justify its $170 higher price tag -- I have a hard time coming up with a way to answer "yes." It's bigger, sure, but the Nexus 7 has snappier and more consistent performance along with a more impressive display and support for wireless charging. And it doesn't have build quality issues like the flexible back and awkwardly recessed buttons.

(Incidentally, Google no longer appears to be selling the Nexus 7, which is a shame -- but for the moment, at least, you can still find the tablet in stock and on sale at third-party retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.)

I think my struggle ultimately comes down to the price: If the Nexus 9 were being sold for $300, it'd be a lot easier to forgive its shortcomings and recommend it for the software setup alone, as that makes a tremendous difference in what the tablet is like to use. (Curiously enough, HTC ran a sale just one day after the Nexus 9's launch in which it offered the device for $200 and then for $350, but it was a very short-term deal.)

At $300, the Nexus 9 would be a no-brainer. At $400, it's a slightly tougher sell. If you're willing to pay that price, though, you'll get an unmatched user experience in a decent but unexceptional package.

 

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