October 15, 2014
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Nexus 9 official press (2)

At 8.9 inches, the Nexus 9 sits right in-between the portable 8 inch form factor and the larger 10 inch varieties. Compared with the previous Nexus tablets, the Nexus 9 features a lot of cutting edge hardware, which we’ll delve right on into.

By the numbers

Just like the newly announced Nexus smartphone, the Nexus 9 tablet comes with some top of the line hardware and easily competes with the biggest brands in the business. The 2048×1536 display keeps the larger tablet looking as crisp as its 1080p 8-inch rivals, but Samsung’s tablet range still retains a healthy lead when it comes to display clarity and quality.

 Nexus 9Galaxy TabPRO 8.4Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
Screen8.9"8.4"8"
Resolution2048x1536 (281ppi)2560x1600 (359ppi)1920x1200 (283ppi)
SoCTegra K1 (64-bit)Snapdragon 800Snapdragon 801
CPU2x Nvidia Denver Cores4x 2.3GHz Krait 4004x 2.5GHz Krait 400
GPUKepler 1 SMX GPUAdreno 330Adreno 330
RAM2GB2GB3GB
Storage16GB / 32GB16GB / 32GB16GB
MicroSDno64GB128GB
Rear Camera8MP 8MP8.1MP
Front Camera1.6MP2MP2.2MP
Battery6700mAh4800mAh4500mAh

On the inside, the inclusion of NVidia’s new 64-bit Denver CPU cores sets the Nexus 9 apart from the pack. As well as being the first to 64-bit support, the Denver design goes back to a dual-core setup rather than the common quad-core arrangement. But don’t let that fool you, the new Nvidia design apparently packs a lot of punch per CPU core. The real concern is how well the tablet will manage in multi-tasking scenarios and if NVidia’s ARMv8 translation approach proves efficient enough to reach its performance potential.

The 64-bit Tegra K1 chip keeps the same Kepler GPU architecture found in the Nvidia Shield tablet, which packs in plenty of power for all your tablet gaming needs. The extra display resolution might hinder performance somewhat compared with the Shield tablet, but performance should compete with Samsung’s high-end tablets.

 Galaxy Tab SNvidia ShieldG Pad 8.3
Screen8.4"8"8.3"
Resolution2560x1600 (359ppi)1920x1200 (283ppi)1920x1200 (273ppi)
SoCSnapdragon 800 / Exynos 5420Tegra K1 (32-bit)Snapdragon 600
CPU4x 2.3GHz Krait 400 / 4x 1.9GHz Cortex-A15 & 4x 1.3GHz Cortex-A74x 2.2GHz Cortex-A154x 1.7GHz Krait 300
GPUAdreno 330 / Mali-T628MP6Kepler 1 SMX GPUAdreno 320
RAM3GB2GB2GB
Storage16GB / 32GB16GB16GB / 32GB
MicroSD128GByes64GB
Rear Camera8MP5MP5MP
Front Camera2.1MP5MP1.3MP
Battery4900mAh5197mAh4600mAh

However, in our review of the Nvidia tablet we found battery life to be rather lacking, so we’ll have to wait for a hands-on to see if this remains an issue with Nvidia’s latest SoC. Although the massive 6700mAh battery should go some way to avoid this issue. The LG G Pad is the weakest of the selection, performance wise, but the rest should all perform exceptionally well in most scenarios you can throw at it.

Other than the new SoC, the Nexus 9 fits in nicely with the current selection of high-end tablets. Camera options, on paper, seem like a step up from the Nexus 7, and the 2GB of RAM is as much as you’ll likely ever need, although doesn’t quite match some other tablets. The tablet’s storage options are also in line with expectations, although again the lack of a microSD card slot will disappoint those of you who like to keep a selection of movies with you to watch on the go.

Extra features

High end tablets these days tend to ship with 3G/LTE variants for those who want mobile data access, and all of the above tablets are available with LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, and some with NFC connectivity too.

Dual front facing speakers are becoming increasingly popular, and the Nexus 9’s HTC BoomSound speakers match Samsung’s TabPro series and the new Xperia Z3 tablet in this regard. Sound buffs will definitely want to keeps these tablets in mind. Water and dust resistance is another growing trend, and Sony is currently leading this field with its IP68 rating.

 Nexus 9Galaxy TabPRO 8.4Galaxy Tab SG Pad 8.3Nvidia ShieldXperia Z3 Tablet Compact
NetworkLTELTELTELTELTE
InfraredYesYesYes
TV outMHL
(unconfirmed)
MHLMHLHDMIMHL
IP ratingIP68
Front SpeakersYesYesYesYesYes

As far as software features goes, the Nexus 9 will be the first tablet to ship with Android Lollipop, so it might be worth waiting for if you’re eager to try out the latest Google features. Gamers should be able to install many of the Nvidia Shield’s Tegra specific software offerings, such as the Shield Hub, from the Play Store. Other than that, the Nexus 9’s stock-Android experience isn’t as feature packed as Samsung’s tablets, but some prefer it that way.

Serious gamers have a tough choice between NVidia’s and Sony’s latest tablet offerings. The Shield enables Nvidia graphics card owners to stream PC games to their tablet, while the Xperia Z3 tablet can be connected up to a PS4 to play games with the company’s DualShock controller. The Nexus 9 doesn’t come with any of these features out of the box, but the Tegra SoC might allow for some third-party software to emulate the experience at a later date.

Wrap up

The latest Nexus is full-fledged premium tablet, with hardware that competes, and in some cases exceeds, some of the tablet markets other high-end offerings.

As with most Nexus products, the slightly cheaper price tag comes with its share of compromises on some non-essential features. But overall, the Nexus 9 is an excellent tablet for the price.

Robert Triggs
Lead Technical Writer at Android Authority, covering the latest trends in consumer electronics and hardware. In his spare moments, you'll probably find him tinkering with audio electronics and programming.
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