Monday, November 17, 2014

Nexus 9 review

In 2012, the Nexus 7 shook up the (tablet) world. A year later, the second model did the same. The 2013 model would still be a great deal today, so it’s somewhat unfortunate that Google stops selling it. The Google/HTC made Nexus 9 comes in its place, but this tablet, as the name suggests, has a 9 inch (8.9) inch display. Pre-2014 Nexus devices were always relatively cheap compared to other products. But that changes this year. Both the Nexus 6 and 9 are just as expensive as the competitors’ offerings. Google is trying to take the Nexus program to a more premium level, but how does it work out?

I won’t compare the Nexus 9 to the iPad, simply because I can’t: I have never owned or even used an iPad. I have been using a Nexus 7 however and I love it for its portability. It’s easy to hold in one hand and I really like to use it for reading a book or articles I saved to Pocket. I was wondering if the 2 inch larger display of the Nexus 9 would make a difference, but what I found the most important is that the Nexus 9 has an aspect ratio of 4:3


Yes, the 16:10 aspect ratio on the N7 is great for watching video, but I didn’t really like web browsing. I’m still missing my old 4:3 display, although my laptop display has a much higher resolution. On a 16:10 display websites are a little narrow in portrait mode, and you have to scroll a lot when in landscape mode. A lot of websites are optimized for 4:3 displays, because it’s a popular aspect ratio on the iPad. Sites that have a responsive design were often shown in an awkward blown-up phone version on the N7. On the N9 you can just see more and read small text without zooming in.
The N7 is known for its great display with a resolution of 1200x1920 with a pixel density of 323 pixels per inch. The N9 also has a beautiful display. It’s an LCD display with a resolution of 1536x2048. This results in a pixel density of 281, but that’s definitely enough. A lot of reviews report the display has backlight bleed. My unit has little in the top right corner, but I didn’t notice this with normal use. I mostly use my tablet in the comfort of my own home, so I haven’t really used it outside. The display can be really bright, but I mainly used it with the slider just a little up.
What I really like about the Nexus devices is the minimalistic design. Some may find it boring, but I think it really emphasizes the most important thing: the content on the screen. What you will find on the front are dual BoomSound speakers. This is one of the features HTC brought to the device.(an other one being double tap to wake the screen which I absolutely love). I don’t think they are as good as the ones on the HTC One (M7), but in general speakers on the front make so much more sense to me. You find the 1.6 MP camera above the speaker.

Nesus 9 and Nexus 7 (2013)

Build quality

The Nexus 5 came in two colors. Black and white. I have the white Nexus 5 because I liked the black front and white back. I knew the white back panel was made of a different material than the black one, but I really liked it. That’s also the reason why I picked up a Lunar White Nexus 9. If you have read other reviews, you know that a lot of people have issues whit their back panel. There is a gap on some devices. The review units Google sent out have black back panels. My white unit doesn’t have a gap and although the back isn’t the same soft touch material as the black one, it does not feel plasticky. The device does have an aluminum frame however, which feels premium. The device feels cold in the morning when you pick it up. Something I really like about the HTC One. It just feels sturdy.
It seems HTC had some quality control issues, I don’t think these are design flaws.

Nexus 9 in Lunar White


The Nexus 9 is the first device that came pre-installed with Android 5.0 Lollipop. The star of the show is Material Design. Apps now use much more bold colors and there are a lot of new animations. Animations are always dangerous, because you don’t want to have the feeling that you are waiting for an animation to finish. I don’t have that feeling while using Android Lollipop. Although I don’t think Android KitKat was ugly, the general experience is just a lot more pleasing. If you have used Android before there aren’t that many drastic changes, but there are a few new things.


Notifications now appear on the lockscreen. This way you can do a lot without opening up your phone. Obviously you can decide what kind of notifications show up, so that text chats for example are hidden. When using an app, notifications briefly pop up so you can read them or even swipe them away.

Quick settings menu

The quick settings menu now is above the notifications tray, although the two-finger-swipe is still supported. A welcome addition to the menu is the flashlight toggle, so no more third party app is needed for that.

“Do not disturb mode”

There are three new sound profiles. None, priority and all. When you set your phone to none, you won’t be interrupted by any notifications, but alarms are also silent. With priority mode, you decide what notifications may interrupt you, for example calls from specific persons. And with all you will be interrupted by all notifications.


If you have an Android Wear watch, you can enable smartlock so that you can skip the lockscreen pin or pattern, because your phone sees your watch, which is a trusted device. The face unlock also works better now. It’s faster and you won’t notice it opens the camera. You can train face unlock to recognize you in different types of lighting.
There are lots of other small new things that you will discover while using the new operating system, that is simply put just the best version of Android there is.


The Nexus 9 is the first device that comes with a 64-bit processor: the NVIDIA Tegra K1. This is a dual-core processor, but an absolute powerhouse. It also has a 192-core Kepler GPU. Graphic performance is great. I am able to play GTA: San Andreas on max settings without any lag. However, in normal usage the device isn’t completely lag-free. But those moments were so rare that I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker.


Battery life on the Nexus 9 is decent. I get about 2,5/3 days out of a single charge. However, the device takes a long time to recharge and isn’t that power-efficient in stand-by mode. This seems to be an Android problem in general however. When I turn off wifi overnight, it only uses 1 or 2%.


Please don’t take pictures with your tablet… But if you really have to, the device’s 8 megapixel camera does the job, but don’t expect great quality.

Design detail


Most apps look great on the larger display. Most Google apps have tablet versions, although I think Hangouts and the just released Inbox could be improved. When it comes to third party apps, most have a nice tablet version. Twitter is one that doesn’t and Instagram also is a blown-up phone app. In my experience, the tablet app situation on Android isn’t as bad as others say.


I absolutely love the Nexus 9. It’s a shame it suffers from lacking quality control, but if you have a flawless device, it’s great. Beautiful minimalistic design, good performance, nice display and great sound. However, this device costs $400, which is a lot more than the Nexus 7. What you get is a 16GB model, which isn’t a lot. I really feel they should have gone with 32 and 64. Where are you going to store all those perfectly running games? I do think the Nexus 9 is worth the money.