HTC Nexus 9 hands-on: First look

The Nexus 9 by HTC was a hotly anticipated device on several fronts – it’s the first tablet with Android 5.0 Lollipop, it brings HTC back into the tablet game, it’s the first big Nexus tablet in two years and it’s the first Nexus tablet that goes after a more premium market.

Google Nexus 9 by HTC official photos

HTC hasn’t made a tablet since 2011’s Jetstream and we have to say we’ve missed it. The company’s well-known premium touch has been carried over to the Nexus lineup, which in recent years focused solely on mass market affordability. The new Nexus 6 (by Motorola) smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet (by HTC) show Google has enough confidence in its home brand to push for the higher segments of the market.

The Nexus 9 has a metal rim around the device, both for rigidity and a more premium feel. It’s a 4:3 tablet similar to the iPads and is the first tablet to feature HTC’s BoomSound front-facing stereo speakers. Pre-orders will ship soon – currently available in 16GB and 32GB – and an LTE version is expected shortly after that.

HTC Nexus 9 at a glance:

  • Dimensions: 228.2 x 153.7 x 7.9mm; 425g (Wi-Fi) / 436g (LTE)
  • Display: 8.9″ IPS LCD touchscreen, 2,048 x 1,536 resolution; Gorilla Glass 3
  • Chipset: Nvidia Tegra K1: dual-core Denver @ 2.3GHz; Kepler DX1 GPU; 2GB RAM
  • OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Camera: 8MP main camera with 1080p@30fps video capture
  • Front camera: 1.6MP front-facing camera with 720p video capture
  • Storage: 16GB / 32GB built-in
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX, A-GPS + GLONASS; microUSB 2.0
  • Battery: 6,700mAh Li Po
  • Misc: BoomSound stereo speakers

Nvidia is regaining its foothold as an Android chipset manufacturer, mostly among tablets. The Nexus 9 is the first device to sport the 64-bit Tegra K1 chipset with Nvidia’s own Denver processor. The GPU, Kepler, is also of Nvidia design and from what we’ve seen in the other K1 chipset version it’s a portable beast – it tops Adreno, Mali and PowerVR handedly.

Google Nexus 9 by HTCGoogle Nexus 9 by HTCGoogle Nexus 9 by HTC
Google Nexus 9 live shots

Google made an interesting decision to move to a 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s better for web pages and documents, but not as good for video playback (which would have gone great with the front-facing speakers). As the first Lollipop tablet and one of two launch Lollipop devices, part of its job is to make sure apps are ready when other devices get the update. Will developers find app UX better on a 4:3 screen rather than the wide 16:9/16:10 tablets that are popular today? Devs have months to find the answer.

This is an early preview from HTC so we won’t be able to run our usual tests but we did spend enough time to build an early opinion of the tablet. We expect to get more of it soon, but what we have so far is on the next page.

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