Google Nexus 9 review:

A premium, pure Android powerhouse

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 9 user reviews

The Good The Google Nexus 9 is the first tablet to run Android Lollipop 5.0, which should receive timely updates. It performs steadily with many apps open, and switching between them is fluid. Its streamlined construction has a deluxe, comfortable feel.

The Bad Not all apps work smoothly with Android 5.0 yet. Firm contact is necessary for efficient touchscreen response and it's slow to charge. The largest capacity model offered is 32GB and there's no microSD card slot.

The Bottom Line The Google Nexus 9's premium build, speedy performance and consistent updates render it one of the best high-end Android tablets.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0

Editors' note (May 25, 2016): Google no longer lists the Nexus 9 for sale in its online store, and HTC has confirmed that it is no longer manufacturing the tablet, though remaining inventory may still be available. Alternatives can be found on our best Android tablets list.

The Google Nexus 9 succeeds in checking the necessary boxes to be one of the best tablets of 2014. An HD display? Check. A premium build? Check. Trailblazing performance and the latest, purest version of Android. Check and check.

All of those points come together to make the 8.9-inch slate an appealing adversary to the Apple iPad Air 2 and Amazon's Fire HDX 8.9 . It has everything it needs to be a high-end tablet, even if the high caliber of competition means that the Nexus 9 doesn't quite run away with the gold medal. But what matters most is that it concentrates on the essentials, rather than padding itself with the trendy and flashy features that can trip up rivals.

Fingerprint sensors, 3D cameras and item-recognition software are a few of the fancy bells and whistles that you can find on premium tablets today, but the new Nexus tablet offers nothing of the sort. It confidently settles on packing one of the most powerful mobile processors on the market and debuting the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system. Forgoing high-end gimmicks, the slate's supreme specs speak for themselves -- it prevails as the preeminent premium, pure Android tablet to date.

The Nexus 9 is available direct from Google and starts at $399, £319 or AU$479 for the 16GB model. The 32GB version will run you $479, £399 or AU$589. Later this year a 32GB 4G LTE capable model will be released -- according to Google, it'll cost $599, £459 or AU$719.


The Nexus 9 completes Google's tablet trifecta, fittingly ensconced between the 7-inch and 10-inch Nexus models. Like its counterparts, its aesthetic is subtle and pleasingly comfortable. The HTC-manufactured device has a clean and streamlined look, complete with sturdy, quality construction.

Its minimalist design is en vogue, but nothing about it particularly stands out. It falls short of matching the skinny iPad Air 2 or featherweight Fire HDX 8.9 -- though its weight and width are in the wheelhouse of both.

Dimensions compared

Tested spec Google Nexus 9 Apple iPad Air 2 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
Weight 0.94 pound (425g) 0.96 pound (437g) 0.82 pound (372g) 0.73 pound (331g)
Width (landscape) 8.9 inches (226mm) 9.4 inches (240mm) 9.1 inches (231mm) 8.6 inches (219mm)
Height 6.05 inches (154mm) 6.6 inches (169.5mm) 6.2 inches (158mm) 5 inches (128mm)
Depth 0.31 inch (7.8mm) 0.24 inch (6.1mm) 0.31 inch (7.8mm) 0.28 inch (7.1mm)
Side bezel width (landscape) 0.8 inch (22mm) 0.8 inch (22mm) 0.7 inch (18mm) 0.7 inch (19mm)

The 8.9-inch tablet, available in black, white and gold, dons a smooth matte back with a soft grip and rounded corners. The brushed metal frame that wraps around its body provides a wide enough edge to rest fingers on, minimizing inevitable smudges on the bezel.

Almost flush to the tablet's right edge, the power button and volume rocker are stealthy details. They're virtually camouflaged and understatedly contribute to the Nexus 9's clean design -- though they're a little difficult to find without looking. You'll also find a pair of speakers that slyly blend into the tablet's front facade, bookending the screen next to the bezels.

The Nexus 9 is comfortable to hold; the rounded corners pleasantly fit inside of your palms when holding it in landscape orientation and the smooth texture of the back panel feels pleasing on your fingertips. Individuals with larger hands should be able to easily hold the tablet in one hand, but for smaller-handed folks like me, it's a literal stretch and difficult to securely grasp when positioned upright.

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The Nexus 9 is relatively thin and light. Josh Miller/CNET

In the competitive race to be the slimmest and trimmest tablet, the Nexus 9 is a happy medium between the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 and the iPad Air 2, on par with their thickness and weight, respectively. The slight differences in dimensions can be forgivingly written off as splitting hairs. The Nexus 9's understated looks should only dissuade the most aesthetically inclined shoppers.

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Android 5.0 Lollipop makes its tablet debut on the Nexus 9. Josh Miller/CNET

Launching Lollipop

The Nexus 9 is the first tablet to run Google's latest operating system, Android 5.0 Lollipop. The revamped OS features a contemporary flat aesthetic, dubbed "Material Design." It's a refreshing development, and visually pleasing on the latest Google tablet.

Notable new features of Android 5.0 Lollipop include interactive lock screen notifications, a modified quick settings menu and a revamped recent apps function. Notifications are now prominently displayed on the lock screen, like they would in the pull-down menu, and you can clear them or launch corresponding apps without swiping to unlock. You can control and edit which apps you get notifications for, but Google tries to do this for you off the bat.

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A widget-heavy home screen (left); a glimpse of the Overview menu (right). Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

The quick settings pull-down menu, accessible by swiping down from the top of the screen, displays notifications that now look similar to cards you'd see on your Google Now homepage. Swipe from top to bottom once and you'll see your notifications. If you swipe down again, the menu expands and reveals a few useful settings shortcuts, including brightness level, Wi-Fi, and flashlight.

The Android navigation bar stapled to the bottom of the screen also gets a minimalist facelift and the square on the far right, previously known as the recent apps key is now known as the Overview menu. Instead of a small bar on the side of the screen displaying medium-sized tile-like thumbnails, the open apps are front and center. The Overview menu takes up the entire screen and apps are displayed like a large stack of cards that look like whatever screen you left them on. I like the new look, but it lacks the handy "close all" function.

For a more thorough look at the OS, check out our impressions of Android 5.0 Lollipop here .

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A closer look at the spiffy new notifications. Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

While not directly aimed at the traveling multi-tasker, Google offers a keyboard case for taking your work on the Nexus 9 to go. Paired with Android's printing ability and NFC capabilities, the tablet can act double as a low-key option for productivity purposes.


The Google Nexus 9's solid list of up-to-date specs is one of its best attributes. It's the first to house the 64-bit version of the Nvidia Tegra K1 system-on-a-chip, with a 2.3GHz dual-core Denver CPU and a 192-core Kepler DX1 GPU. It also features the speedy 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC.

The Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets don't include microSD card expansion slots, so it's no surprise that this model doesn't either. Google's cloud-based services are meant to replace the need for a memory card and the Nexus 9 enforces that shift with models limited to 16GB and 32GB of internal storage. According to Google, a 32GB, 4G LTE model will be available soon.

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