Google Nexus 9 review

The Nexus 9 is a premium Android tablet, and it clearly has the iPad in its sights. This means it's much more the successor to the Nexus 10 than the 'budget' Nexus 7. Here's our hands-on first look at the HTC designed Google Nexus 9.

Nexus 9 hands-on first look

Google Nexus 9 hands-on: Design

One of the reasons the Nexus 9 is taking the fight to the iPad is the screen. At 8.9in it's almost exactly half way between the 7.9in iPad mini and 9.7in iPad Air. More than that, it has a 4:3 aspect ratio, which deviates from the 16:9 form factor of previous Nexus tablets. The resolution might sound familiar too: 2048x1536 pixels equates to a decent 287ppi (that's less than the Nexus 7's 323ppi, though). Here's the Nexus 9 dwarfing the Nexus 7:

Nexus 9 hands-on first look vs Nexus 7

So the image is sharp, and the IPS panel means viewing angles are as good as an iPad's. Colours are ever so slightly muted, but contrast was good in our brief test.

The Nexus 9 therefore sits between the two iPads in terms of size. It's marginally thicker than we'd expected at 8mm, but the tapered edges make it feel thinner. In terms of weight, it's light enough to hold comfortably in one hand, but probably not if you add a case. At 425g it's lighter than an iPad Air at 478g, but only just lighter than an Air 2.  

Nexus 9 hands-on first look

The back has a soft feel, with the nexus logo inlaid just like on the Nexus 5. The back is where you've a choice of colours: black, white or sand currently. On the Black model, the band around the edge is also black, but the white and sand models have a silver band.

The power button and volume rocker are on the right-hand side (in portrait mode), with a headphone port on top, microUSB on the bottom. A nice touch is front-facing stereo speakers - just as you'd expect from HTC, and they're surprisingly loud and clear. Obviously there's a lack of bass, but for catch-up TV and YouTube, they're excellent.

There's a new origami-style cover which has no hinge and is held in place by magnets. You fold two corners in, and then fold the cover back on itself to form a stand which is held to the back of the tablet by more magnets. We found the two positions gave reasonable angles for watching videos and table-top use, but there's no low angle for typing. For that, you're better off with the new magic keyboard (see far below), which is a folio-style case with a mechanical keyboard. We tried this out and the keys have very little travel, but they were just about big enough to type on comfortably. Whether it's much better than the on-screen keyboard, Swype or voice input is debatable.

Nexus 9 hands-on first look

Next section: Google Nexus 9 hands-on: Performance