nexus9This holiday season, there are tablets for almost every price range and size. The newest entrant, the Nexus 9, offers users a pure tablet experience with no gimmicks.

The screen measures in just a tick short of the nine inches implied in its name (it is 8.9” to be exact). For the most part, the screen displays colours well and the brightness is good for most reading situations. The sharpness was quite good.

I found a bit of LED backlight ‘bleed’ when viewing particularly dark images, which can be distracting during gaming or when watching dark video. It’s possible this was due to my review unit being an early model.

Size-wise, the Nexus 9 is smaller than the iPad Air but is convenient enough to easily toss in a small bag for commuting or travelling.

Audiophiles, take note here. Front-facing stereo speakers means you hear the best of whatever sound is playing – not the people behind you.

HTC actually builds the Nexus 9 – and you can tell with the tablet’s quality feel. It has a smooth plastic backing and overall solid construction. Like HTC phones, the Nexus 9 is one of the best-designed tablets out there, and it’s a shame the company’s products don’t get more attention for sharp styling.

The camera 8 MP rear-facing and 1.3 MP front-facing cameras proved adequate for regular photography, but struggle in situations with dark lighting or fast motion. This isn’t the tablet to get for impressive photos, but really, few tablets excel in this area.

Inside sits a Tegra K1 2.3 Ghz dual-core 64-bit processor. True, on paper it’s no quad-core behemoth. But I found the Nexus 9 fluid and responsive for a variety of tasks, including gaming and just basic web browsing.

This likely helps battery life, as the tablet appeared to last for about three days with average use.

Another area where the Nexus 9 really stood out was in the connectivity department. The tablet has 802.11ac WiFi transmitters, which let it take full advantage of my equally fast router for quicker file transfers and great streaming performance. It’s a huge and noticeable step up from most tablets.

A lot of what makes the Nexus 9 unique is the operating system, Android 5.0 Lollipop. Compared to previous versions of Android, this one is faster than ever, streamlined and more efficient on a device’s hardware.

There are still some apps, however, that are not perfectly optimized for tablets and/or this device, and the scaled-up versions of phone apps don’t look great. At the time of testing, the BBC News app was one example.It’s likely this will improve as more app developers adapt.

Pricing starts at $429 for the 16 GB model. It’s not a bargain, but it provides users with a pure Google Android experience and fast hardware in a solid package.

Rating: 8/10