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Google Nexus 9 by HTC Review: Android Tablet Against iPad Air 2

Google latest tablet, Nexus 9 in developed in partnership with HTC has emerged as the replacement for the void left behind by Google’s Nexus 7 tablets that continue to have a huge fan following among Android users. Google Nexus 7 gave touch competition to Apple iPad’s with its affordable pricing, $230 for the 2012 model and $230 for the 2013 model.google-nexus-9-htc

HTC Nexus 9: Quick Look

Launched as a direct competitor to iPads, Google Nexus 9 priced at $399 offers a 9-inch display with 2048×1536 resolution, features the same display aspect ratio with a metal build. The tablet packs the latest 64-bit NVIDIA K1 processor with 2GB of RAM and comes with the Android 5.0 lollipop OS. We find out if these powerful specifications have the ability to take on the 9.7-inch Apple iPad Air 2.

Design & Material

The device is well designed, solid and carries the signature Google Design for the Nexus line. Apart from the black color, the tablet comes in “lunar white” and “sand” options. As the screen is not laminated on the glass as on iPad Air 2, the display of Nexus 9 is prone to glare though it is good-looking with the same display resolution. The back of the tablet carries a similar Nexus 9 design and the metal sides are also influenced by the plastic sides of Nexus 9.

Though Nexus 9 weighs the same as Apple iPad Air 2, the device has a solid look as it is quite thicker and narrower. This tablet slightly uncomfortable while typing and holding it for longer periods of time. HTC could have used a better metal finish on the back as there are loose panels which are flimsy while the power and volume buttons lack the solid feel. The tablet could have offered a better build like the iPad Air as it is also priced at a premium.

Camera & Speakers

The 8MP primary camera and the flash and the 1.6MP camera performs decent functions like photography, video chats and selfies. However the camera lacks fluidity and does not offer the functionalities seen in s smartphone. One of the best feature on the 9 is the front-facing speakers that have been designed in a way that it does not covered by fingers and offers great audio output. Apple could take a cue from Nexus 9 to include front speakers in its future tablets. The auto-EQ on speakers might destroy the clarity and effectiveness of certain media with high audio.


Processor, RAM & Battery

NVIDIA’s K1 processor that comes with dual Denver CPU cores and 2GB of RAM, users can expect flawless performance, but lags were noticeable during loading of apps and crashing of some apps. The device becomes hot while gaming in a short period like iPad that also heats up during gameplay. The device packs a 6,700 mAh battery that will offer 10 hours usage and the battery drain will be quite faster due to the 9-inch display when compared to smaller tablets.

Software & Features

The latest Android 5.0 Lollipop OS remains to be one of the anticipated features with its new material design that comes with good-looking colors and the interactive user interface. The tablet will feature multi-user support for the guest user mode, which Apple iPad Air 2 lacks. The Lollipop will feature a range of revamped apps, animations and is easier to use. However the OS seems to be in need of customization for the 9-inch tablet that seems cluttered and the apps the Play Store provides a less-impressive look.

Another downside is the lack of any multitasking or productivity features as seen in Nexus smartphones. Samsung optimized the Android version for running multiple apps while Windows tablets can run apps side by side. Coming to apps, the Play Store still lacks the apps that are designed to run on 9-inch screens when compared to iOS’s library of games that are tailored to run on iPads.

In accessories, a $129 keyboard folio and official Nexus 9 cases will be offered by the company during the release similar to Microsoft’s keyboard in Surface Pro 3. The double-tap feature of Nexus 9 needs to be improved as most of the time the screen required more than two taps to wake up.


In a GeekBench 3 multi-core test, the tablet scored 3358 which is higher than most of the smartphones and tablets in the market but lower than Nvidia’s Shield. The 3DMark in Nexus 9 fell short by 5000 when compared to the Sheild that was due to Nvidia’s customization with the Android version. However, the 9 is also expected to perform well on a future GeekBench 3 test as Google as promised tweaks.


Though the Nexus 9 priced at $399, $479 and $599 for 16GB, 32GB and 32GB+LTE, is lower than the iPad Air 2 starts at $499, for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model, with 64GB of internal storage setting you back $599, and 128GB costing $699. And it beats the iPad in terms of benchmarks, the tablet does not have the appeal of the Apple device in terms of design, features and performance. However, the lag in camera, multi-tasking is expected to be solved with a few updates in the Lollipop OS. The tablet’s display has been noted for white spillage from the screen top portion though many users have not noticed this in the portrait mode.


The Nexus 9 could have improved itself in terms of build, software, hardware and features if it needed to compete with the iPad Air 2. The tablet is aimed at hardcore Android fans and developers and would not be much of use to daily users. Google has proved that it is capable of competing with a device like the iPad Air 2 and the Android ecosystem is capable of performing in a device with a large screen. With its high-price point,  users are more likely you buy an iPad or buy a Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

Users can rather opt for the 2013 Nexus 7 until Google has certain improvements in place for the latest tablet and the Lollipop OS. Would you prefer the new HTC Nexus 9 or Apple iPad Air 2? Below is the quick comparison of specification comparison.


About Anirudh Madhav

A movie buff, a bookworm, and a compulsive doodler. All posts by Anirudh

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