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Versus: Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9 vs Nexus 10

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Versus: Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9 vs Nexus 10

The rumors are true: Google and HTC have teamed up for the next generation of Nexus tablet, which falls conveniently between the sizes of earlier models, adopting the familiar 8.9-inch form factor that's been a staple of Apple's product line since 2010.

While it may be unfair to compare the Nexus 9 to an iPad Air, that's exactly what Google and HTC will be doing when the new tablet starts racking up pre-orders this Friday - but they'll also have a legion of mobile fans eager to get their hands on the sweet new flavor of Android 5.0 Lollipop as well.

To get a sense of how the forthcoming model fares against Google's earlier tablet offerings, we sat down and compared the Nexus 9 with last year's new Nexus 7 and the search giant's earlier attempt at a big-screen slate, the Nexus 10. Here's what we discovered.

Nexus 9 display


The big news for Nexus 9 buyers is that Google has adopted the more squarish form factor made popular by Apple's iPad, featuring an 8.9-inch QXGA IPS LCD display that packs 2048 x 1536 pixels into a 4:3 aspect ratio.

That's a distinct departure from the 7.02-inch, 1920 x 1200 IPS display found on the 2013 Nexus 7 manufactured by Asus, which made watching 1080p HD movies and TV shows a real pleasure thanks to its taller 16:9 aspect ratio and 323 ppi resolution.

The Nexus 9 also falls short of Samsung's big-screen Nexus 10, which featured a 10.055-inch diagonal WQXGA screen with a lower 300 ppi, despite the increased 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution.

Nexus 9 colors


There aren't a whole lot of ways tablet devices can differentiate themselves from one another, but HTC has come up with a few interesting design choices for the Nexus 9, including a thin bezel with brushed metal sides and a soft grip back offered in a trio of eye-pleasing colors (Indigo Black, Lunar White and Sand).

Last year's Nexus 7 looks quite modest by comparison, with a nearly pocketable 114 x 200 x 8.65 mm frame weighing only 290 grams in black or white; both models feature a thicker bezel at the top and bottom, although the Nexus 7 remains the more unsightly of the duo.

Speaking of bezel, there's plenty to be found on the Nexus 10, a somewhat unsightly beast of a tablet with its 263.9 x 177.6 x 8.9 mm frame that tips the scales at 603 grams versus the Nexus 9's positively svelte 153.68 x 228.25 x 7.95 mm, which weighs a mere 425 grams with Wi-Fi only or 436 grams with LTE cellular radios added.

New Nexus 7 trio


Nexus 9 isn't just making headlines for its good looks: HTC also plans to make a splash with the first 64-bit processor to be found inside a Nexus-branded device (take that, Nexus 6), courtesy of a Nvidia Tegra K1 Dual Denver processor clocked at 2.3GHz with a 192-core Kepler GPU thrown in for good measure.

That kind of onboard power is likely to run circles around last year's Nexus 7, whose quad-core, 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro and 400MHz Adreno 320 GPU seem downright quaint by today's standards.

There's also CPU power to spare when compared to the dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 Exynos 5 Dual that keeps the Nexus 10 humming - which is no match for the raw 64-bit power of the Nexus 9, especially with a decidedly meager Mali-T604 GPU on the larger device.

Nexus 10 in hand


By sheer size alone, the Nexus 10 (shown above) trumps all contenders with an absolutely mammoth 9000 mAh Lithium polymer battery, although the 6700 mAh pack powering the Nexus 9 rises to the challenge anyway.

Google and HTC are touting up to 30 days of Wi-Fi or LTE standby time with the Nexus 9, and up to 9.5 hours of video playback or Wi-Fi web browsing (shave off an hour for browsing over LTE, however).

Still, the Nexus 7 2013 also boasted up to 9 hours of "active use" from a mere 3950 mAh battery, and even managed to include Qi-compatible wireless charging for good measure - a feature neither the 9 or 10 can muster.

Nexus 9 rear camera


Nexus-branded hardware has rarely been known for impressive optical prowess when it comes to taking pictures or shooting video - after all, the Nexus 10 and last year's Nexus 7 featured a marginal 5MP rear-facing camera, with 1.9MP on the former and 1.2MP on the latter around front.

HTC and Google appear committed to ditching that reputation with the Nexus 9, however, courtesy of an 8MP rear camera with auto-focus and LED flash plus a 1.6MP front camera, both capable of f/2.4; we'll remain skeptics until our review goes live, but for now it's a step in the right direction.

Nexus 9 keyboard case


As one might imagine, the Nexus 9 comes packing the latest and greatest technology, including a Gorilla Glass 3 display with a unique double tap to wake feature plus quad-band GSM and CDMA, penta-band HSPA and LTE and 802.11ac 2x2 (MIMO), all of which should produce faster wireless connectivity than earlier Nexus tablets.

By comparison, the dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi found on the Nexus 7 2013 looks positively poky, while the Nexus 10 at least improved things slightly with the addition of MIMO+HT40 wireless; both models feature older variations of Corning's Gorilla Glass, however.

HTC has also infused the Nexus 9 with dual front-facing BoomSound speakers, dual microphones, NFC Bluetooth 4.1 and a magnetometer, all of which make Android 5.0 Lollipop a much tastier treat than older models; Google will also be offering a magnetically attached keyboard case for the Nexus 9.

Some things never change, however: All three Nexus tablets feature 2GB of RAM, with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage with no opportunity to add more, which seems like a lost opportunity in this era of the 128GB iPad.

Nexus 9

Early verdict

We're pretty much declaring the Nexus 9 a winner based on specs alone, although there's one downside for Nexus 7 fans: A larger price to match the bigger display, putting the 9 on equal footing with the Nexus 10 at $399 (about £250, AU$455) for the base model compared to a wallet-friendly $229 (UK£200, AU$299) for the smaller model.

Potential buyers will have to wait about two and half weeks for the Nexus 9 to land in stores starting Monday, November 3, but early adopters can stand in virtual line to pre-order one this Friday, October 17 from the Google Play Store.

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