NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Nexus 9 is a tablet computer co-developed by Google (GOOG) and HTC that runs the next-generation of Android operating system software and is thin, lightweight, fast and gorgeous.
The new Nexus 9 measures 9 by 6 by 0.31 inches and weighs less than a pound. It has an 8.9-inch touchscreen - the size made popular by Apple (AAPL) iPads. The Nexus 9's display is a IPS liquid crystal display design with a 4:3 aspect ratio, 2048 by 1536 pixels (281 pixels-per-inch) and is protected by the latest generation of Corning (GLW) Gorilla Glass. Great-sounding, forward-facing stereo speakers grace the touchscreen top and bottom.
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Inside there's a 2.3 GHz, 64-bit NVIDIA (NVDA) Tegra K1 (Dual Denver) processor mated to 2 GB of RAM, a 192-core (NVIDIA) Keplar graphics processor, and either 16GB or 32 GB of internal storage. There's an 8MP, autofocus camera with LED flash on the back and a fast 1.6 MP camera facing forward.
The Nexus 9 comes with high-speed 802.11ac Wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and GPS radios inside, standard now for most tablets. In addition, the 4G version of the Nexus 9 (like its cousin the upcoming Nexus 6 phablet) can also connect to any U.S. GSM/CDMA/HSPA/LTE network which means it'll work on any of the major carriers -- AT&T (T) , Sprint (S) , T-Mobile (TMUS) and Verizon (VZ) -- with the proper SIM card. Google says the big 6,700 mAh rechargeable battery is good for as much as 8.5 hours of LTE browsing and 9.5 hours using Wi-fi or watching videos and standby time is estimated to last 30 days.
Aside from the hardware, it's really the new software that will be the big draw for this device. It's the first of three new Google Nexus models to run Android 5.0 Lillipop - what Google calls the "L-release." The new Nexus 6 smartphone and the hockey-puck shaped TV streaming box called Nexus Player are the other two. Android 5.0 is large-scale rewrite of the operating system software mainly to start the migration to a 64-bit OS. A 64-bit systems can address increasingly larger amount of operating memory which, in turn, will allow for more apps that use more computing power. Apple's iOS 7 and 8 are also 64-bit operating systems.
Google describes the new software by boasting, "You'll have more control over your device with the ability to adjust your settings so that only certain people and notifications can get through or respond to messages directly from your lockscreen." There's also a new battery saving mode, support for multiple users and guest log-in, the new Android Smart Lock security feature and "much more."
Based on two days of living with the Nexus 9, I can report that Lollipop is fast and quite attractive but many functions operate slightly differently from previous versions of the OS. Gestures like swiping down on the lock screen gives you access to your notification cards or swiping down brings you to your home screen. Double tapping on notifications to open them is another new feature. There are more little differences that I'm still in the process of committing to memory, meaning there is a learning curve for this device.
While most third-party apps seem to work flawlessly with the new OS, I have found one or two that aren't quite Lollipop ready. Time-Warner Cable's (TWC) streaming video app. installs and opens in Android 5.0 but won't allow you to watch live TV. It does offer a explanation that an update to fix things in on the way. Also, a Nuxus 9 home screen can display 30 icons (6 across and 5 down) while Android smartphones handle 25 (five by five rows). Not a big deal but odd looking if you set-up your tablet to mimic your smartphone screens.
Over the weekend, Google released an Nexus 9 update meant to address some performance issues encountered by some testers. We suffered no glitches in our tests, ut, it's still very early in the Lollipop OS learning process. I'll have a lot more to say about the software in the very near future.
At this point, I like Android 5.0's new look and feel. It's cleaner and more polished than any previous version of the software, making it a winner. As with all Nexus products, third-party software add-ons are thankfully kept to a minimum (are you listening Samsung, LG and HTC?). That always makes for a faster, more responsive smartphone and tablet experience.
As for the hardware, it's thin, lightweight and quite slick. It looks great, sounds great (thanks to HTC's Boom Sound feature) and is a pleasure to use. The only slight annoyance I could find is that the on-off switch (on the right-hand edge just above the volume rocker) is sometimes difficult to locate by touch. And, black switches and rockers on an all-black bezel were difficult to find in low-light situations (such as watching videos in bed.) I know it would ruin the overall all-black look of this Nexus 9 but this is one of the few times when different colored buttons would be appreciated. For the record, some photos of the Nexus 9 on Google's Website show the Black version with silver-colored bezel.
The new tablet comes in two other colors Polar White and Sand. There are 16GB and 32 GB versions as well as LTE and Wi-fi only models. Prices range from $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version up to $599 for the 32GB LTE edition. Not all configurations are currently available via Google's site http://www.google.com/nexus/9/. Pre-orders are also being accepted at Best Buy (BBY) , Amazon.com (AMZN) and coming soon to GameStop (GME) stores.