Android tablet buying advice: Snatch up a Nexus 7 while you still can

The Nexus 9 delivers an awesome pure Google Android Lollipop experience -- but before you plunk down $400, there's another tablet you might want to consider.

Android Tablet Buying Advice

I wanted to love the Nexus 9. I really did. 

The thing is, though, I like the Nexus 9. It's a fine tablet. A good tablet, even. But not a great one. Not one that makes you say, "Yeah, go drop $400 on that sucker. Do it now and don't think twice."

You can read my in-depth review for the specifics, but in short, the Nexus 9 is okay but unremarkable. It has some issues. As I say in the review, at $300, it'd be a no-brainer -- but at $400, well, it's a slightly tougher sell.

The problem is that it's hard not to compare the Nexus 9 to its predecessor, last year's excellent and absurdly affordable Nexus 7. And aside from being a bit bigger, I'm just not convinced that the Nexus 9 brings anything meaningfully better to the table -- anything that makes it easy to justify its $170 higher price tag.

In fact, based on my time with the two devices, I'd say the Nexus 7 actually has the overall edge. It delivers snappier and more consistent performance, a more impressive display, and support for wireless charging. And it doesn't have the sorts of build quality issues we're seeing with the Nexus 9 (again, check the review for details). The Nexus 9 does pull ahead in the realm of audio with its front-facing speakers, but even those fall short of being spectacular.

Nexus 9 vs Nexus 7

A tale of two tablets: The Asus-made Nexus 7 and the HTC-made Nexus 9

Without a doubt, the Nexus 9's greatest strength is its software -- that pure, unmodified Android 5.0 Lollipop goodness, straight from Google and without any manufacturer meddling. And you know what? The Nexus 7 will have that same software within a matter of weeks. There's a strong chance it'll get at least a couple more updates after that, too (for perspective, the old first-gen Nexus 7 is slated to get Lollipop, and it came out in June of 2012).

I certainly wouldn't steer anyone away from buying the Nexus 9 if they had their heart set on it. It's a reasonably nice tablet, and if you like the idea of a larger slate form, it's arguably the best all-around user experience you can get in that size today. With Lollipop more than ever, once you see how great of an experience Android in its default state can provide, it's hard to accept the hideous messes most manufacturers make of the software (not to mention their molasses-like approaches to delivering OS updates).

But within the realm of Nexus tablets, you can get that same experience for less than half the price -- and without a lot of the asterisks that accompany the Nexus 9. While Google itself no longer appears to be selling the Nexus 7, third-party retailers like Amazon and Best Buy are now offering it for as low as $175. $175. That's insane.

No one knows how much longer the Nexus 7 will be around, but for now, at least, it remains the best value available for a outstanding overall Android tablet experience. The arrival of the Nexus 9 only serves to reinforce that.

If I were looking to buy an Android tablet today, I'd snatch up a Nexus 7 while I still could. I'd do it now, and I wouldn't think twice.

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