PROS / The Google Nexus 9's speedy processor can handle work or games easily.
CONS / The tablet has average battery life.
VERDICT / The Nexus 9 is a reliable high-end tablet, but its solid design is hampered by some build-quality hiccups.
Google's flagship Android tablet computer has an impressive combination of performance and design. Benchmark testing from our colleagues at Laptop Mag found that the Nexus 9's 2.3GHz NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor provided respectable performance. In processing test Geekbench 3 and graphics test 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the Nexus 9 produces respective scores of 2,890 and 25,387 points. Notably, the Nexus 9's high graphics score places it in the upper tier of our reviewed tablets, although its processing mark is a step behind comparably priced tablets. In our hands-on testing, the Nexus easily multitasked and handled the graphically intensive game "Injustice: Gods Among Us.”
With dimensions of 9 x 6 x 0.31 inches and a weight of 0.93 pounds, the Nexus 9 sports a relatively lightweight body for a 9-inch tablet. The Nexus' lightly rubberized back adds extra support when you hold on to it. It is cleanly designed, featuring sleek edges and minimal clutter on its body. The tablet's dual front-facing speakers have decent volume, though we found their abilities to be lacking when playing bass-heavy songs.
The tablet runs Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system. While many of the operating system's upgrades are under-the-hood improvements, Lollipop is as sharply laid out as past versions of Android. However, the availability of applications built for the Nexus remains mixed. Popular services such as Twitter, ESPN Fantasy Football and Facebook simply resize their smartphone applications on the tablet. While some third-party application developers offer tablet-optimized alternatives, the lackluster design of these resized smartphone applications is a difficult compromise given the Nexus 9's premium price.
In addition, the tablet suffers from some build quality hiccups. We could feel the screen's edges flex when applying light pressure with a finger, and the tablet produced unimpressive numbers in Laptop's battery test. During its evaluation, in which a tablet loops through webpages at a constant brightness until the battery dies, the Nexus 9 only lasted for seven hours and 42 minutes; battery life under eight hours is usually only seen on budget tablets.
During our hands-on testing, the Nexus 9's 2048 x 1536 display handled tasks like displaying text and playing high-definition videos exceptionally well. In Laptop's benchmarking, the display's brightness rating of 371 nits was more than Top Ten Reviews' average of 347 nits. The tablet's 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera and 8-megapixel rear-facing camera also performed as expected, producing videos and images with decent fidelity. Google offers a one-year warranty on the Nexus 9 and provides additional support via phone, live chat and a dedicated online troubleshooting hub.
The Google Nexus 9 remains in the running with the best tablets thanks to its superb performance ceiling. Still, its build quality issues keep it a step behind premium tablets. The Nexus 9's position as Google's definitive tablet is an upside, but these gains are offset by mixed battery life and operating system issues.