That said, the Nexus 9 is a compelling tablet in its own right. The 8.9-inch screen is a bit of an odd size, but it works. It feels much more portable than you'd expect, while still feeling big enough to be more expansive and less cramped than the Nexus 7. Previous Android tablets have felt like gigantic phones, but there are enough of those around these days, so the Nexus 9 feels like a tablet, full stop. It's a weird in-betweener kind of tablet, but even after just a few minutes of use it makes smaller tablets feel too small and bigger tablets feel too big. On a first impression, at least, it's pretty much Goldilocks.
I was impressed with the screen quality, too. It's "only" 2048 × 1536 pixels, but they sit close to the surface of the glass and their color fidelity seems fine. The hardware overall feels "classic" Nexus, which is to say it's unassuming in the extreme with virtually no hardware flourishes. That's fine — the point of a tablet is to be a screen — though I should note that the front-facing dual speakers are a nice touch.
Like the Nexus 10 before it, the Nexus 9 probably isn't going to put a dent in iPad sales. Instead, it's going the way of other Nexus devices: more figurehead than flagship, designed to show users and developers what's possible rather than dominate the sales charts. And that sums up the Android big tablet story pretty nicely: there's a lot that's possible (maybe more than on iOS), but the reality seems to fall a little short. Maybe this Nexus tablet will be different — we'll obviously spend more time with it to find out.