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First Impressions: Google Nexus 9 in Review

Daniel Schmidt (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 11/13/2014

Two become one. This time the latest Google tablet is produced by HTC, replacing the models Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. It is the first product with the new Android 5.0 Lollipop, and looks pretty good. The new operating system now also supports 64-bit processors, and the Nexus 9 obviously uses one.

For the original German article, see here.

We want to give you our first impressions and benchmark results before the in-depth review of the Google Nexus 9 follows in a couple of days. With the new tablet, which is now produced by HTC, the seven and ten-inch tablets disappear from the Internet giant’s portfolio. As the new device is right in between, with an 8.9-inch display, this step is not unreasonable. Nvidia's Tegra K1 SoC, which uses a 64-bit architecture for the first time, suggests high performance, and the brand-new operating system Android 5.0 Lollipop finally delivers the corresponding environment.

Google has raised the price significantly. While the Nexus 7 had a starting price of 229 Euros ~$285), the Nexus 9 costs at least 389 Euros (~$485; Wi-Fi, 16 GB) and is therefore on par with the iPad Mini 3 (Wi-Fi, 16 GB). The RRP of Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Wi-Fi, 16 GB) is even more expensive with another 10 Euros (~$12) extra, but the retail price is actually lower by now.

Initial Impressions

The Google Nexus 9 is available in three colors.
The Google Nexus 9 is available in three colors.

At almost eight millimeters (~0.3 inches), the Google Nexus 9 is slightly thicker than the other premium devices. The weight of 422 grams (~14.8 ounces) is not too high, but it is noticeably heavier than the iPad Mini 3 (331 g; ~11.67 ounces) and the Tab S 8.4 (301 g; ~10.6 ounces). It is much wider and therefore harder to hold with one hand. Even though the choice of materials is limited to plastic, the tablet does not leave a cheap impression and is actually comfortable to hold. However, the torsion resistance does not seem to be very good, even gentle attempts to twist the device result in loud creaking sounds and part of the back cover is lifted. 

The stereo speakers with Boom Sound surround the display in landscape mode and leave a pretty good initial impression. The connectivity specifications are very convenient as well, with support for the fast ac WLAN, Bluetooth 4.1 as well as NFC. Our review unit is Wi-Fi only, LTE is an option. The manufacturer does not integrate a fingerprint scanner. 

Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop leaves a very good impression right away, and its modern design is very appealing. Only the keyboard layout is rather unusual at a first glance since there is no visual separation between the virtual keys. The system runs very smoothly, and we could not notice any stutters so far.

263.9 mm / 10.4 inch 177.6 mm / 6.99 inch 8.9 mm / 0.3504 inch 603 g1.329 lbs228.3 mm / 8.99 inch 153.7 mm / 6.05 inch 7.95 mm / 0.313 inch 422 g0.93 lbs221 mm / 8.7 inch 126 mm / 4.96 inch 9.2 mm / 0.3622 inch 371 g0.818 lbs224 mm / 8.82 inch 154 mm / 6.06 inch 3 mm / 0.1181 inch 401 g0.884 lbs216.8 mm / 8.54 inch 126.5 mm / 4.98 inch 8.3 mm / 0.3268 inch 338 g0.745 lbs212.8 mm / 8.38 inch 125.6 mm / 4.94 inch 6.6 mm / 0.2598 inch 301 g0.664 lbs200 mm / 7.87 inch 114 mm / 4.49 inch 8.65 mm / 0.3406 inch 290 g0.639 lbs200 mm / 7.87 inch 134.7 mm / 5.3 inch 7.5 mm / 0.2953 inch 331 g0.73 lbs192 mm / 7.56 inch 118 mm / 4.65 inch 9 mm / 0.3543 inch 295 g0.65 lbs

Cameras

The Google Nexus 9 has an 8 megapixels camera at the back, which is supported by an LED flash. The first sample pictures showed a big problem with back light. An HDR feature that could compensate for this issue does not seem to be available. In general, features are limited to the essentials. An auto focus is available, but you have to live without any kind of image stabilization.

The panorama mode is very versatile and can be used in landscape as well as portrait mode. It is also possible to create panoramas from multiple pictures.

Videos on the Nexus 9 are recorded in Full HD (1920x1080 pixels, 16:9, 30 fps). There is no slow-motion or time lapse function. It is also not possible to record Ultra HD movies, which is rather surprising.

Panorama with the Nexus 9
Panorama with the Nexus 9
Nexus 9 (f/2.4, ISO 112, 1/30 sec)
Nexus 9 (f/2.4, ISO 112, 1/30 sec)
Nexus 9 (f/2.4, ISO 100, 1/164 sec)
Nexus 9 (f/2.4, ISO 100, 1/164 sec)
Nexus 9 (f/2.4, ISO 351, 1/24 sec)
Nexus 9 (f/2.4, ISO 351, 1/24 sec)

Display

Decent pixel density of 288 PPI
Decent pixel density of 288 PPI

The Google Nexus 9 has an 8.9-inch display, which is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The resolution of 2048x1536 pixels is identical to the rival from Apple. A higher resolution, and therefore a higher pixel density is provided by the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (2560x1600 pixels).

Brightness and brightness distribution are at a very good level, but the black value is slightly raised, which results in a pretty average contrast ratio. There were also many users of Google tablets that complained about visible screen bleeding. We can also confirm this problem at the edges with a completely black picture.

413
cd/m²
405
cd/m²
411
cd/m²
409
cd/m²
430
cd/m²
411
cd/m²
413
cd/m²
410
cd/m²
394
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 430 cd/m² Average: 410.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 92 %
Center on Battery: 430 cd/m²
Contrast: 558:1 (Black: 0.77 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 3.17 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.2
ΔE Greyscale 3.29 | 0.64-98 Ø6.4
62% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.39
Google Nexus 9
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1 (Denver), 32 GB eMMC Flash
Google Nexus 7 2013
Adreno 320, S4 Pro APQ8064A, 16 GB SSD
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
Mali-T628 MP6, 5420 Octa, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Apple iPad Mini 3
PowerVR G6430, A7, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 inch
Adreno 330, 800 MSM8974, 16 GB SSD
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
GeForce ULP K1 (Tegra K1 Kepler GPU), K1, 16 GB iNAND Flash
Screen
6%
-1%
1%
-33%
4%
Brightness middle
430
548.7
28%
258
-40%
357
-17%
446.9
4%
455
6%
Brightness
411
513
25%
261
-36%
344
-16%
426
4%
469
14%
Brightness Distribution
92
87
-5%
91
-1%
86
-7%
91
-1%
92
0%
Black Level *
0.77
1.07
-39%
0.61
21%
0.669
13%
0.68
12%
Contrast
558
513
-8%
585
5%
668
20%
669
20%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
3.17
2.64
17%
3.66
-15%
3.35
-6%
6.73
-112%
3.88
-22%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
3.29
2.61
21%
2.51
24%
2.09
36%
8.52
-159%
3.38
-3%
Gamma
2.39 92%
2.35 94%
2.22 99%
2.4 92%
2.39 92%
2.74 80%
CCT
6746 96%
6701 97%
6450 101%
6851 95%
5710 114%
6537 99%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
62
100
61%
55
-11%

* ... smaller is better

Performance

The dual-core processor Nvidia Tegra K1 (Denver) has comparatively few cores for an Android device. However, they clock at 2.5 GHz, and support 64-bit, which result in a noticeably higher per-MHz performance. SoCs with four or more cores have an advantage when multiple cores are utilized. 2 GB of memory is not insufficient, and we expected more, considering the high-end claim and the 64-bit operating system.

The graphics solution is similar to the 32-bit version of the Tegra K1, is used in the Shield Tablet, for example. GFXBench 2.7 still shows a slightly worse result in the Offscreen test compared to the Nvidia tablet. We will check if this is caused by throttling in our in-depth review; the tablet was pretty warm at the back during the first GPU benchmarks.

The performance itself is great, and is among the best you can currently get. The storage in particular is the fastest module we have found in an Android device so far. HTC really shows what is possible with eMMC 4.51.

Geekbench 3
32 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
2892 Points ∼9%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
2797 Points ∼9% -3%
Apple iPad Mini 3
2479 Points ∼8% -14%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
3239 Points ∼10% +12%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
3495 Points ∼11% +21%
32 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
1719 Points ∼36%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
935 Points ∼19% -46%
Apple iPad Mini 3
1373 Points ∼28% -20%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
1112 Points ∼23% -35%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
1127 Points ∼23% -34%
3DMark
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Physics (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
12420 Points ∼14%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
14318 Points ∼17% +15%
Apple iPad Mini 3
7798 Points ∼9% -37%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
18913 Points ∼22% +52%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
21086 Points ∼24% +70%
Apple iPad Air 2
10379 Points ∼12% -16%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics Score (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
39070 Points ∼7%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
13781 Points ∼3% -65%
Apple iPad Mini 3
19674 Points ∼4% -50%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
20733 Points ∼4% -47%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
39590 Points ∼7% +1%
Apple iPad Air 2
31542 Points ∼6% -19%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Score (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
26455 Points ∼11%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
13897 Points ∼6% -47%
Apple iPad Mini 3
14699 Points ∼6% -44%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
20299 Points ∼9% -23%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
33129 Points ∼14% +25%
Apple iPad Air 2
21707 Points ∼9% -18%
GFXBench 3.0
off screen Manhattan Offscreen OGL (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
31 fps ∼6%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
5.5 fps ∼1% -82%
Apple iPad Mini 3
13.2 fps ∼2% -57%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
17.7 fps ∼3% -43%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
31.2 fps ∼6% +1%
Apple iPad Air 2
37.6 fps ∼7% +21%
on screen Manhattan Onscreen OGL (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
22.5 fps ∼6%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
2.8 fps ∼1% -88%
Apple iPad Mini 3
8.8 fps ∼2% -61%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
11 fps ∼3% -51%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
29.8 fps ∼8% +32%
Apple iPad Air 2
27 fps ∼7% +20%
GFXBench (DX / GLBenchmark) 2.7
1920x1080 T-Rex HD Offscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
57.8 fps ∼0%
Google Nexus 7 2013
16 fps ∼0% -72%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
22.8 fps ∼0% -61%
Apple iPad Mini 3
22.7 fps ∼0% -61%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
42.4 fps ∼0% -27%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
66 fps ∼1% +14%
Apple iPad Air 2
70.4 fps ∼1% +22%
T-Rex HD Onscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
43.4 fps ∼1%
Google Nexus 7 2013
16 fps ∼0% -63%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
14.1 fps ∼0% -68%
Apple iPad Mini 3
28.6 fps ∼1% -34%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
27.7 fps ∼1% -36%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
57 fps ∼2% +31%
Apple iPad Air 2
52.1 fps ∼2% +20%
AndroBench 3-5
Random Write 4KB (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
14.49 MB/s ∼6%
Google Nexus 7 2013
0.82 MB/s ∼0% -94%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
1.46 MB/s ∼1% -90%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
3.14 MB/s ∼1% -78%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
0.9 MB/s ∼0% -94%
Random Read 4KB (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
36.22 MB/s ∼21%
Google Nexus 7 2013
11.99 MB/s ∼7% -67%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
11.68 MB/s ∼7% -68%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
19.87 MB/s ∼11% -45%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
11 MB/s ∼6% -70%
Sequential Write 256KB (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
75.49 MB/s ∼19%
Google Nexus 7 2013
13.97 MB/s ∼4% -81%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
18.02 MB/s ∼5% -76%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
38.91 MB/s ∼10% -48%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
15.5 MB/s ∼4% -79%
Sequential Read 256KB (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
279.16 MB/s ∼31%
Google Nexus 7 2013
59.73 MB/s ∼7% -79%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
89.07 MB/s ∼10% -68%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
178.77 MB/s ∼20% -36%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
83 MB/s ∼9% -70%
Peacekeeper - --- (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
2387 Points ∼39%
Google Nexus 7 2013
611 Points ∼10% -74%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
859 Points ∼14% -64%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
852 Points ∼14% -64%
Apple iPad Air 2
2750 Points ∼44% +15%
Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Google Nexus 9
8210 Points ∼16%
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
4376 Points ∼9% -47%
Apple iPad Mini 3
5722 Points ∼11% -30%
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
5379 Points ∼11% -34%
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W
6777 Points ∼14% -17%
Apple iPad Air 2
10512 Points ∼21% +28%

Legend

 
Google Nexus 9 Nvidia Tegra K1 (Denver), NVIDIA Tegra K1 Kepler GPU, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
Google Nexus 7 2013 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064A, Qualcomm Adreno 320, 16 GB SSD
 
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Samsung Exynos 5420 Octa, ARM Mali-T628 MP6, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Apple iPad Mini 3 Apple A7, PowerVR G6430, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 APQ8084, Qualcomm Adreno 420, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
NVIDIA Shield Tablet P1761W Nvidia Tegra K1, NVIDIA Tegra K1 Kepler GPU, 16 GB iNAND Flash
 
Apple iPad Air 2 Apple A8X, PowerVR GXA6850, 128 GB eMMC Flash

Energy and Battery Runtime

The idle consumption is comparatively high, which suggests a pretty high consumption of the display. However, HTC compensates this with a big 6900 mAh battery, so the high consumption should not be a problem. The battery runtimes should be on a good, or even very good level.

According to the manufacturer, the Nexus 9 is supposed to last for 9.5 hours during web browsing via WLAN, which is just slightly behind the iPad Mini 3 (10 hours). Android 5.0 Lollipop now finally has its own energy-saving mode that can be activated at a battery capacity of five or fifteen percent.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0 / 0.1 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 2.6 / 4.9 / 5.2 Watt
Load midlight 7.5 / 9.2 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Preliminary Verdict

The Nexus 9 reveals some small drawbacks.
The Nexus 9 reveals some small drawbacks.

Google presents a strong tablet in cooperation with HTC, which creates high expectations because of the excellent predecessors. However, the pricing is the first small drawback. 

The Nexus 9 is slightly bulkier than its rivals, but the design is still quite nice. However, the first hands-on has already revealed some build quality issues. The display has a very high resolution and is very bright, but the contrast could be better. The camera only offers the basic functions, but the resolution at least exceeds other tablets, and there is an LED flash.

Nvidia's Tegra K1 (Denver) leaves a great first impression with its excellent performance. We have to check a possible throttling of the GPU in our final review. We also really liked Google’s Android 5.0 Lollipop, which so far runs without any noticeable delays.

We also miss a storage extension via microSD card, especially since the Nexus 9 is only available with 16 GB or 32 GB internal storage. The tablet will have a hard time to get a very good rating. It is also a bit unfortunate that good devices like the Nexus 7 have been completely removed from the portfolio of the American manufacturer.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > First Impressions: Google Nexus 9 in Review
Daniel Schmidt, 2014-11-13 (Update: 2018-05-15)
Andreas Osthoff
Andreas Osthoff - Senior Editor Business
I grew up with computers and modern consumer electronics. I am interested in the technology since I had my first computer, a Commodore C64, and started building my own PCs after that. My focus here at Notebookcheck is the business segment including mobile workstations, but I also like to test new mobile devices. It is always a great experience to review and compare new products. My free time is filled with a lot of sports, in the summer mainly on my bike.