Nexus 9 Review
The Nexus 9 has been billed as a "best premium tablet on the market".IBTimes UK

HTC was last seen in the tablet market when it launched the Flyer in February 2011. Since then it has been absent, but in the background it has been working away on devices without ever bringing anything to market.

That is until now, with the launch next Monday (3 November) of the Nexus 9: an 8.9in tablet which features the premium build and design of HTC's One smartphones.

However, it is the presence of the Nexus branding and collaboration with Google which is the most interesting aspect of the device. Entering a market saturated with tablets from Apple, Samsung and Sony, does the Nexus really stand a chance of succeeding?


Nexus 9: Design


The first thing that struck me about the Nexus 9 was how unremarkable it is.

HTC has used a combination of aluminium and soft-touch plastic to create a tablet that is both attractive and rather dull. It lacks the wow-factor which HTC's original One phone generated and having just reviewed the iPad Air 2, is certainly a step down in terms of design and quality.

The tablet is 7.9mm thin and while that is very slim, compared to the 6.1mm iPad Air 2, the Nexus 9 feels bulky. At 425g however, it is lightweight but never felt insubstantial with HTC's build quality shining through.

Nexus 9 Hands-On Review
The Nexus 9's plastic and metal shell are at once good-looking and boring.IBTimes UK

The tablet is available in a three colours (black, white and gold), though I was only shown the first two.

Of the two, the black is the slicker looking device, with the jarring chrome finish on the metallic edge of the white version not very appealing.


Nexus 9: Screen


The 8.9in screen has a resolution of 2048 x 1546 pixels, which is identical to the Retina display on the iPad Air. However as the Nexus 9 screen is 0.8in smaller than Apple's full-size tablet, the pixel density of 281 pixels per inch is slightly higher.

Nexus 9 Hands-On Review
Nexus 9's display has the same pixel count as an iPad Air Retina, but they are slightly denser.IBTimes UK

Figures and stats aside, the screen on the Nexus 9, as you would expect, is great. It looks sharp, crisp and bright and colour reproduction looks natural while contrast is good.

The screen is very reflective though and the anti-glare coating Apple has introduced on its latest iPad is something other manufacturers could look at copying.


Nexus 9: Performance and Battery Life


The Nexus 9 is the first Android tablet to use the 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 chipset, putting it on a par with the iPad which has been using 64-bit processor architecture for two years now.

With 2GB of RAM what this means in real-world terms is that it should be possible to carry out photo and video editing on the tablet, although there were no apps on display to showcase this power.

Nexus 9 Hands-On Review
At 7.9mm the Nexus 9 feels bulking compared to the new iPad's slimline 6.1mm profile.IBTimes UK

Connectivity wise, there will be 4G models available and you get the usual combination of Wi-Fi AC and Bluetooth 4.0.

HTC and Google say the 6700mAh battery in the device will give you up to 10 hours of browsing time, but that is yet to be confirmed.


Nexus 9: BoomSound Speakers


One of the main features HTC is playing up for the Nexus 9 is the addition of the company's BoomSound speakers on the front of the tablet, transferring the technology from its HTC One smartphones.

Compared to most (if not all) tablets, the sound quality from the Nexus 9 is excellent. For the times you want to watch a film or play a game without your headphones in, then this is a great benefit. It also means Skype calls, Google Hangouts or presentations will also sound as good as they look.

The only question I would have is I can't remember the last time I used the external speakers on a tablet.


Nexus 9: Android 5.0


HTC smartphones are distinct for their design, but also the HTC Sense software skin the company ships on top of Android.

However, this is a Nexus device and that means you get Android and nothing but Android. In this case you get Android 5.0, which means it's had a relatively big redesign using the company's new Material Design language.

There are also a number of additional features including improved multitasking, interactive notifications, better battery life and improved security measures.

The fact this is a Nexus-branded device means you will also be among the first to revive any subsequent Android updates.


Nexus 9: Price and release date


The Nexus 9 will go on sale from 3 November and will cost £319 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version, which is £80 less than the same iPad Air 2 will cost you.

The price rises to £399 for the 32GB version. If you want 4G connectivity, then only the 32GB model is available at the moment for a cost of £459.


Nexus 9: First impressions


HTC says this is the "best premium tablet in the market" but on first impressions, that is not the case. It is not event the best Android tablet on the market.

With Samsung Galaxy Tab devices and Sony's Xperia tablets the Android tablet market has improved radically in the last six months, and the Nexus 9 will have a battle on its hands to remain relevant.

The biggest attraction here is Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and only when I get a chance to really try the new interface in-depth will I be able to give an opinion on if the new software alone is enough to justify getting HTC's first tablet in almost four years.