nexus 9 05

As someone who no longer personally owns an iPad, it was great to finally get back into the tablet game with the adoption of a Nexus 9 from Google. I know some of you probably think I’ve lost it as of late, or I’m simply pulling a classic Jeff move, but hear me out.

After adopting the iPhone 6 Plus, I felt that there was simply too much overlap between it and my 7.9” iPad mini. The difference in screen size between those two devices, while still technically large, just wasn’t enough for me to justify carrying both of them around. I was, and still am convinced that my next tablet will have to be larger than 7.9 inches.

With the recent release of Android M, I wanted a tablet that I could use to test out Google’s latest OS update. Unfortunately, due to the massive fragmentation present in the Android universe, the hardware options were quite limited. Basically, I needed to get a Nexus device, and since I already own enough Android phones, I decided to go with a tablet—enter the Nexus 9.

I’ve been using the Nexus 9 for about a week, and I’ve been using it a lot. In this post, I want to talk about five things I like about the Nexus 9, versus five things I don’t like. I shot this video a few days ago, and my opinion is still evolving about the hardware and the software experience, but this is a good starting point for this discussion. Watch the full video walkthrough and tell me what you think.

Good: Front facing speakers

The Nexus 9 is made by HTC, so it’s not surprising that this device has great-sounding front-facing speakers like another HTC made device, the HTC One M9. I’ll reiterate what I said in my review of the M9, the speakers immerse you in the experience, and I do wish that Apple would at least consider stepping up the iPad’s speaker quality.

Bad: Buttons

Just like the HTC One M9 that I just reviewed, I have beef with the Nexus 9’s buttons. The buttons are extremely thin and flimsy. It’s also really easy to confuse the power button with the volume buttons, because they are so close together.

nexus 9 04

Good: OK Google

Having awesome voice recognition is arguably more valuable on a tablet—a device that you’re using to discover and consume lots of content—than it is on a smartphone. But all Android devices feature Google’s awesome voice recognition, which is basically second to none. I love being able to simply say “OK Google” and have the tablet accurately dictate and search for whatever I say. The accuracy is stunning, and one of the best features of the Android experience no matter the device.

Bad: Responsiveness

The Nexus 9 is an odd character when it comes to responsiveness. It’s pure Google, so you can’t blame its deficiencies in this area to unneeded bloatware or skins. It can play games without hiccups, and it’s very smooth, but sometimes it stumbles when launching apps, and at other times becomes downright unresponsive to taps on the screen.

When you have a lot of apps running simultaneously, the sluggishness is easy to pick up on. I also found that switching between landscape mode to portrait mode incurred undesirable lag at times.

Good: Form-factor

Since I carry around a 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus, I feel as if the iPad mini’s 7.9” screen isn’t enough of a size jump to justify carrying both around. That said, the full sized iPad seems a little excessive for travel. The 8.9” screen on the Nexus 9 feels like the sweet spot.

Bad: Plastic back

The rear of the Nexus 9 is plastic and seems like it would be easy to mar and damage. It feels good to the touch, but like the buttons, it has a flimsy feel that takes away from the device’s otherwise premium build.

Good: Screen resolution and quality

The Nexus 9 features a 2048×1536, which coincidently, is the same resolution of the iPad Air 2. Given the fact that the Nexus 9 has a smaller screen than Apple’s latest tablet iteration, and you have an even higher pixel density on Google’s flagship tablet.

But pixels don’t tell the whole story. The screen is bright, vivid, and has good viewing angles. I did notice that my particular Nexus 9 suffers from backlight bleed on dark screens, so that’s unfortunate, but it’s something lots of tablets suffer from.

nexus 9 02

Bad: Density

The Nexus 9 will cause some hand and wrist fatigue when holding it for long periods of time with one hand. It’s thicker than the iPad Air 2, and although it weighs less than the Air, it’s in a more compact body, which could heighten the feeling of fatigue.

Good: No Bloatware

The great thing about Nexus devices is that they are pure Google, and come with no bloatware like other devices from Android OEM’s. If you’re interested in Android, then this is hands-down the best way to experience the platform.

Bad: Camera

Again, the subpar camera quality is of no surprise, being that this is HTC hardware we’re dealing with. Historically speaking, HTC has whiffed on camera quality, and it’s the same deal here. Low light photography is basically not an option, but seeing as though you probably already own a phone that features a decent shooter, it isn’t as big of a shortcoming as it was on the HTC One M9.

nexus 9 03

Conclusion

The Nexus 9 is a solid tablet that I think I might use for a while. As I’ve grown accustom to it and Android Lollipop, I’ve found even more things that I love about this device. I’ll be back with a follow up that focuses on more of the software side of things, and pull some features that I’d like to see make it over to the next iPad.

The Nexus 9 is definitely not perfect, but it features a great form-factor, and is strong in many core competencies. This particular build is the 16GB Wi-Fi version with the white back cover. It can be had for $399 on Amazon.

What do you think about the Nexus 9? Sound off down below.

  • Ali

    Recently, Jeff is getting a lot of android goodies to review! (and the reviews are pretty good, too!)

    • john diaz

      About time.

    • Thank you.

      • hey jeff can you get a Nexus 6 review soon cause iam selling my Z3 and I need stock android so I wanna know how good it is

  • Kurt

    I’d like to see 5 pros, 5 cons of an iPad Air or another iDevice by Jeff. I’d pay to see how crazy some people would get on here. Won’t happen but would be funny.

    I’m glad this is an Apple dominated site that talks about important topics/news from its competitors. I wish Windows Phone was more relevant. I’m still so intrigued by that platform.

    • I’ll consider that.

    • N&LH

      Hopefully, competitors do that same.

  • Arsanny Lintang

    Can you imagine after Jeff is reviewing all the Android devices and he fell in love with it and quits iDownloadblog. Oh please, no…

  • I own an iphone 5s and ipad mini 2. I skipped the iphone 5 before for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Big phone meant bigger battery and better battery life. But android, I learned to my own experience, is not really that polished like iOS or stable like iOS. And in the long run, I wanted a phone that’s light, fits my pockets, good & fast camera, and stable OS. BTW, I do heavy Web browsing and gaming on the ipad not on my phone.

  • Blip dude

    Here’s my question though, why did you even downgrade from iPad Air to iPad mini?? Personally (and I speak on experience), it is not a smart move to make. I made it and quickly regretted it!! Luckily I was within the return Window but I’m sure as hell never doing that again. Hell, I’m waiting to see what the future holds for Google Voice before I get rid of my iPhone and go all iPad only. Maybe settle with a dumb phone at best but that’s it.

    • That_Fruitarian

      He constantly griped about the weight if I remember correctly. I listened to an hour long podcast of nothing but complaining about the weight.

      • Blip dude

        Wait, what?? Really?? As someone who owned an iPad 3 (so glad I got rid of that thing), the Air series so far in terms of weight has been paperweight compared to the iPad to iPad 4 days. There is nothing heavy nor any fatigueness carrying around the iPad Air or iPad Air 2.

      • That_Fruitarian

        Agreed!!!

  • Blip dude

    Yup, I’m bored of iOS right now, but at least WWDC bring the excitement back. I think in my case what doesn’t help is the fact that I’m still on 8.1 (iPad Air 2) and iOS 8.1.2 (iPhone 6 plus). I’m still (impatiently) waiting for and 8.2-8.4 Jailbreak.

  • Daryl Tang

    don’t forget the app eco system sucks

    • Dan

      actually the Google app eco system is great

    • Benedict

      Hope Jeff will cover this claim in his upcomming software review…

    • Elias Chao

      Said every Apple Fan who’ve never used an Android device.

    • Daryl Tang

      I am talking about the tablet apps for google play store.
      Blind hate for Apple or Blind support for Google?

      • Mr. Right

        Actually android apps are better because 3rd party people make some too. For example you have apps that you can watch live basketball games, new movies, tv shows, and other stuff. This is all done without rooting.

      • Daryl Tang

        Are you saying iOS doesn’t has 3rd party apps or you mean Piracy?

      • Mr. Right

        Its has 3rd party apps but its limited to what apple wants to let in the app store. For android you can go online download and install some apps made by developers that aren’t in the app store.

      • Daryl Tang

        Thats possible for iOS only if you still don’t understand how they work i am sorry for you.

  • You might want to revise your first paragraph. You didn’t adopt a Nexus 9 from Google. HTC made it. Why do people constantly give Google credit for making Nexus devices, when they make no devices?

    • I think it’s because when you buy the Nexus 9, you buy it from Google. It’s not an inaccurate description, as Google contracted HTC to build the hardware. I did acknowledge HTC throughout the review though.

  • Ryan Imgrund

    Lack of responsiveness alone is a feature that makes the Nexus unbuyable.

    And this has been an issue with Android tablets for years, and still no fix.

    • s0me

      The iPad 3 wich came with ios 5 out of the box was unresponsive at times. It never got fixed, they ruined it even more with every ios update wich didnt bring anything new. Ios 8 is the worst on the iPad 3.
      I checked the iPad Air 2 in a retail store after it came out, still some lag while changing apps with the multitasking gestures.
      Cant talk about android tables because I never owned one…

      • Kr00

        Let me guess, you didn’t master spelling and grammar at school, did you? At least turn on autocorrect. It’ll make you seem smarter.

    • chrisz5z

      While I understand it doesn’t apply to everyone, if you have an Android device and don’t get into custom ROMs then your missing a huge part of what makes Android great. With custom ROMs lag isn’t an issue

      • Kr00

        Nobody should have to use custom ROMs just to get basic functionality out of an OS. If you had to do this with Apple devices, the fandroids would rightly have a field day making fun of it. Fandroids are just too blind when it comes this point, and its the main reason why average users switch from android to iOS. If they stopped being apologists for subpar experiences thanks to OEMs, then nothing will ever change.

      • Alberto Espinal

        Right on!!

      • chrisz5z

        while your reply is an exaggeration, iOS is far from perfect itself. Apple has only a few hardware profiles to deal with and somehow it can’t seem to have a perfect OS. The jobs OEMs have done with Android is inexcusable also. It’s inexcusable because devs of custom ROMs fix every issue & make it much faster, all while in their free time. If Apple had an open source platform, the same situation would occur

      • Kr00

        Which is why Apple don’t make their OS’s open source. I really don’t care how android turns out because I will never use it, but unless those very issues I’ve mentioned aren’t sorted out by google then android will always be second rate.

      • chrisz5z

        I think you misunderstood my point about Apple being open source. If iOS were open source there would be a community of custom ROMs that involves fixes/improvements, much like Android. Android has come a long way but still has some work to do. iOS would benefit greatly if it were open source. It was originally based on OSX which has flaws of its own, only difference is (on OSX) many of these flaws can be corrected by the user

      • Kr00

        I totally understood your point, but that is mere supposition, as no-one would know what an open source iOS would churn out, except a magnet for malware and viruses. Open source is not the hero people want to make it out to be, hence my point. Sometimes a benevolent dictator runs the show far better than democratic appeaser.

      • chrisz5z

        Creating malware/viruses for an open source platform is a bit redundant. It would be removed quicker just for the fact of more people having the access to find & remove it. OSX is closed source and has been shown many times that its quite vulnerable, only reason it doesn’t get attacked more often is it only occupies a small percentage of the market

      • Kr00

        Flawed point used by those without real facts. iOS is by far the most used os anywhere (which, as you have stated, is a mini version of OS X), yet no malware, no viruses, and the only way to hack it is to physically have the device in your hands. The vulnerabilities of OS X as opposed to windows or android are minuscule in number not because of volume, but by the mere fact they do not exist. The only real vulnerabilities come through plugins like java and flash, not the OS.

      • Benedict

        You always come up with the same prejudice by hearsay which is preached in pro-Apple enviroments like this: malware, viruses etc. Instead the precentage of infected devices is smaller than exploited iOS devices. Personally never had or heard about any virus or malware. The vulnerbility of iOS is in case of an exploit much higher and needs more time to be fixed. Also the distribution is much wider because all iOS Systems are the same. Also if the OS is that kind of closed that it is not able to do anything, it is not suitable for professional use. To finally sum it up – iOS is more a girly-like OS. Foolproof.. almost. Nothing to get things done fast without excuses or detours.

      • Benedict

        This sounds like there is no “loading-lag” on iOS when you open an app and memory is almost full. Especially youtube is known to be bulky. There is no reason to use a custom ROM. Nexus roms or OEM UIs are very advanced. Also Android has enormous advantages when it comes to multitasking because it leaves all apps in the background open.

      • Benedict

        Nonsense.. especially with Nexus devices which run vanilla (pure) Android. If you want more functionality, just get a LG or Samsung device with their UI ontop. Or does iOS e.g. analyze an audio file for the best part if you set it as a your ringtone? There are hundrets of powerful features like this which are totally unknown in the iOS world.

  • Al

    I’m just shocked you forgo getting an iPad Air 2… The best tablet on the market for a Nexus 9.

    I get you want to mix things up. Heck, it’s best go with a Surface 3 over Nexus 9. Especially with the upcoming Windows 10 on the way…

  • Roger Rowett

    I recently bought the N9 in the UK for a temporary discounted price of £199 from John Lewis (includes 2 year warranty = no brainer). For that price it’s excellent value. My only disappointment is it will not do direct WiFi to a projector from what I can see. Only Chromecast and hence needs a WiFi network. Otherwise very pleased

  • That_Fruitarian

    I remember when Jeff claimed to love his Kindle tablet, too and it was also the ‘perfect size’.

    To be honest, I expected to learn something from this review. But per usual, just a lot space to say what’s already been said at least one hundred dozen times by other reviewers.

  • Benedict

    Very nice review. I just just have some remarks:
    The “lag” of the screen oriantation is an intended delay if you move the device randomly. This should prevent accidently screen rotation. The delay is lnonger than on iOS.
    Since stock Android has very short transitions, opening apps, especially youtube which takes also longer to load than other apps, seem to be lagging when opened. On iOS the transitions are kind of long to give the CPU more time to load the app.

  • This Guy

    “The Nexus 9 will cause some hand and wrist fatigue when holding it for long periods of time with one hand. It’s thicker than the iPad Air 2, and although it weighs less than the Air, it’s in a more compact body, which could heighten the feeling of fatigue.”

    I’m not sure I understand the point of this paragraph. Was this meant to be a joke of some sort? Or are you truly saying that holding an object can cause fatigue if held long enough? The same argument could be made about ANY object…and let’s face it… could also be made about holding NOTHING… if you hold your hands/arms in any position long enough…

    The second half of the second sentence blows me away also. ‘It’s in a more compact body, which could heighten the feeling of fatigue.’

    What does this even mean?

    I am just… at a loss for words.

    • Well, the iPad Air isn’t as fatiguing (in my opinion) due to how the density is spread out among a larger area. I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  • Shams

    I like the pure android Google no bloat ware. I hope Google soon make their own device hardware instead of using HTC or other manufacturers.

  • ic0dex

    No one noticed Jeff wearing a dress in the beginning?