Google's latest tablet moves away from the 7-inch screen of its predecessor. This is likely due to the growth of phablets that compete with small tablets.
The new Nexus tablet, built by HTC for Google, sports an 8.9-inch display. But its most significant departure from earlier Nexus slates is the aspect ratio of the screen.
Nexus tablets have always had 16:9 screens. The newcomer's is a 4:3 display with the same (2,048 x 1,536 pixels) resolution as Apple's latest iPad, and better than 16:9 for reading Web pages and e-books.
In landscape orientation, it requires less scrolling. The 16:9 aspect ratio works better for videos as it eliminates the black bars above or below the image.
The Nexus 9 has the same design language as previous efforts. Like the Nexus 5 smartphone, it has a soft-touch back that is smooth but not slippery.
The back is plastic, while the sides are brushed metal.
It is not as sturdy as the all-metal iPad, as the plastic back can be depressed slightly. But I have always found the iPad too cold to the touch when idle.
HTC's influence on the Nexus 9 is apparent from its front-facing stereo BoomSound speakers, which are also found in HTC's smartphones. As they are not in the back, like the iPad's are, the sound will not be muffled by your grip.
A new tap-to-wake feature offers an alternative to using the power button. You can wake the Nexus 9 with a double tap on the screen.
To my surprise, this useful feature is found only in the Nexus 9, and is not part of the new Android 5.0 Lollipop OS. This OS update introduces a host of changes, from a new design language to a battery-saving mode and a revamped notification shade.
Having used Android 5.0 on both a Nexus 5 and now the Nexus 9, I would say there are still some software bugs. At times, the tablet felt sluggish and it occasionally froze, as had the Nexus 5.
The hardware is probably not at fault. After all, the Nexus 9 uses the 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 chip.
In Geekbench 3, it scored 1,792 (single-core) and 3,125 (multi-core). This is slower than Apple's latest A8x chip (iPad Air 2) but faster than the A7 (iPad Air).
Games ran smoothly and without issues. But mind the apps you download. The tablet has just 32GB of storage and does not support a microSD card.
Battery life topped out at 8hr 20min, about the same as the iPad Air 2. It should last slightly longer if you turn on its power-saving mode.
Unfortunately, HTC informed us that the Nexus 9 will not be available in Singapore. Your best option is probably Amazon, which ships the Wi-Fi models here. In the United States, the Nexus 9 LTE is going for US$599 (S$795).
A solid tablet with a powerful processor and good audio.
Price: US$599 (S$795) for the Nexus 9 LTE in the US
Processor: Nvidia Tegra K1
Display: 8.9 inches, 2,048 x 1,536 pixels
Camera: 8 megapixels (rear), 1.6 megapixels (front)
Battery: 6,700 mAh
Value for money 3/5
Battery life 4/5
This article was first published on Jan 21 2015.
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.