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Nexus 9 hands-on review: The iPad challenger

It teased us long enough before it finally made its way to Indian shores. The Nexus 9 is not just aiming to be the premier tablet on planet Android, but would like us to believe that it’s the finest tablet out there. It lands exactly in between the iPad Mini and the iPad Air 2, with its 8.9-inch screen, and is the slightly overdue Google flagship tablet that eclipses the somewhat dated Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. The HTC Nexus 9 is also the tablet that was probably designed to show off Android’s latest iteration – Android 5.0, a.k.a. Lollipop.

dnaTechReview- Android- Nexus 9- tablet- Lollipop- review

The Google design stamp is unmistakable; the Nexus 9’s design language is more Nexus 5 than the current Nexus 6. The Nexus logo is emblazoned in the centre of the device while the rear camera and the LED flash sit on the top left corner. Look a little closer and you will find HTC’s subtle yet distinct design elements, like the metal frame and the front facing speakers. This duo almost keeps up with the impressive sound boxes of HTC flagships, like the HTC One M8, with incredible sound. They are probably the best on any tablet and we wish more tablets and smartphones could take the cue from HTC. Build-wise, the Nexus 9 is probably one of the finest Android tablets out there – clean lines, solid construction and, at 436g, easy enough to hold for long periods of time. Yet, there’s nothing earth-shattering or radical about the design. The metallic frame doesn’t extend around the back of the device – the Nexus 9 opts for a smooth rubberised back that has a fetish for fingerprints and smudges. The Nano SIM card slot is on the top left corner.

The device’s power key and volume rocker on the right spine of the device take some finding, especially in the dark. Thankfully, you can activate the screen with two knocks, just like the HTC One M8. The 8.9-inch IPS LCD display is above par – 1536 x 2048 pixels (288 PPI), but is not in the same league as the iPad Air 2 or the Super AMOLED display on the Samsung Tab S8.4. However, the combination of the screen and the high quality boom box make for a fairly immersive movie watching or gaming experience. The device opts for a 4:3 aspect ratio (unlike the Nexus 7) that can result in occasional ‘letterboxing’ on some videos. The device packs 2GB of RAM with a dual-core 2.3GHz processor; clearly good enough for almost any task. The device heats up occasionally (not alarmingly) during intensive gaming or while watching videos.

The Nexus 9 comes with 16GB or 32GB on board storage. Unlike the Samsung Tab S8.4 there’s no Micro SD slot, but you are more than covered, courtesy the USB OTG option, one feature that iPad users sorely miss. The 6700 mAh battery under the hood, however, is a tad disappointing. While it’s better than most comparable Android tabs, it’s certainly not in the same league as the iPad Air 2. If you are a moderate user, the 6-7 hours of battery life should more than do the trick for you. If you don’t mind looking silly snapping images on an 8.9-inch tablet, you will find the results on the 8MP shooter more than acceptable, especially in ambient light. Don’t look for any of HTC’s cool new camera menus though; this is a bare-bones Android camera with a minimal interface. The 1.6MP front shooter works for candid selfies and Skype.

Ultimately, the Nexus 9 is a showcase for the all-new Android Lollipop with Google’s ‘Material design’ – a cleaner UI with more visual appeal. It’s clearly Android’s biggest leap in a while and it hits the right notes. We like the new and improved lock screen that sports notifications, and a host of tweaks that guarantee more privacy and restricted access to your device. If you are a compulsive gamer or YouTube addict you will find the new notification system quite handy – you can choose to ignore text messages (or calls) and other alerts while you stay in your ‘game zone’.

The Nexus 9 is a brilliant blend of a much improved Google (Lollipop) UI and top notch hardware. It’s this mix that allows Google to raise its game against the all-pervasive iPad. It’s almost the perfect slate, let down only slightly by its battery. But, given its price point (the iPad Air 2 retails at Rs 35,900 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only and 45,900 for Wi-Fi plus Cellular), the Nexus 9 has its task cut out.

What we liked:
Solid build
Front facing speakers
Great integration of hardware
Cool new Android (5.0) Lollipop UI

What we didn’t like:
Fingerprint magnet
Average battery life

Display: 8.9-inch Super LCD, 1536 x 2048 pixels / 281 PPI
Memory: 2GB RAM, 16 GB or 32GB storage
Processor: Nvidia Tegra K1. Dual-core 2.3GHz
Camera: 8MP main cam with LED, 1.6MP front facing

Rs 28,900 (16GB/Wi-Fi only)
Rs 44,900 (32 GB / Wi-Fi + LTE)

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