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Nexus 9 vs the competition

The new Google Nexus 9 offers up high-end hardware in a compact tablet. We look at how it stacks up against the best tablets on the market right now?
Features
By
October 15, 2014
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
Screen
Nexus 9:
8.9"
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
8.4"
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
8"
Resolution
Nexus 9:
2048x1536 (281ppi)
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
2560x1600 (359ppi)
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
1920x1200 (283ppi)
SoC
Nexus 9:
Tegra K1 (64-bit)
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
Snapdragon 800
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
Snapdragon 801
CPU
Nexus 9:
2x Nvidia Denver Cores
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
4x 2.3GHz Krait 400
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
4x 2.5GHz Krait 400
GPU
Nexus 9:
Kepler 1 SMX GPU
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
Adreno 330
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
Adreno 330
RAM
Nexus 9:
2GB
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
2GB
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
3GB
Storage
Nexus 9:
16GB / 32GB
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
16GB / 32GB
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
16GB
MicroSD
Nexus 9:
no
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
64GB
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
128GB
Rear Camera
Nexus 9:
8MP
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
8MP
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
8.1MP
Front Camera
Nexus 9:
1.6MP
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
2MP
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
2.2MP
Battery
Nexus 9:
6700mAh
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
4800mAh
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
4500mAh

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
Screen
Galaxy Tab S:
8.4"
Nvidia Shield:
8"
G Pad 8.3:
8.3"
Resolution
Galaxy Tab S:
2560x1600 (359ppi)
Nvidia Shield:
1920x1200 (283ppi)
G Pad 8.3:
1920x1200 (273ppi)
SoC
Galaxy Tab S:
Snapdragon 800 / Exynos 5420
Nvidia Shield:
Tegra K1 (32-bit)
G Pad 8.3:
Snapdragon 600
CPU
Galaxy Tab S:
4x 2.3GHz Krait 400 / 4x 1.9GHz Cortex-A15 & 4x 1.3GHz Cortex-A7
Nvidia Shield:
4x 2.2GHz Cortex-A15
G Pad 8.3:
4x 1.7GHz Krait 300
GPU
Galaxy Tab S:
Adreno 330 / Mali-T628MP6
Nvidia Shield:
Kepler 1 SMX GPU
G Pad 8.3:
Adreno 320
RAM
Galaxy Tab S:
3GB
Nvidia Shield:
2GB
G Pad 8.3:
2GB
Storage
Galaxy Tab S:
16GB / 32GB
Nvidia Shield:
16GB
G Pad 8.3:
16GB / 32GB
MicroSD
Galaxy Tab S:
128GB
Nvidia Shield:
yes
G Pad 8.3:
64GB
Rear Camera
Galaxy Tab S:
8MP
Nvidia Shield:
5MP
G Pad 8.3:
5MP
Front Camera
Galaxy Tab S:
2.1MP
Nvidia Shield:
5MP
G Pad 8.3:
1.3MP
Battery
Galaxy Tab S:
4900mAh
Nvidia Shield:
5197mAh
G Pad 8.3:
4600mAh

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
Network
Nexus 9:
LTE
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
LTE
Galaxy Tab S:
LTE
G Pad 8.3:

Nvidia Shield:
LTE
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
LTE
Infrared
Nexus 9:

Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
Yes
Galaxy Tab S:
Yes
G Pad 8.3:
Yes
Nvidia Shield:

Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:

TV out
Nexus 9:
MHL
(unconfirmed)
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
MHL
Galaxy Tab S:
MHL
G Pad 8.3:

Nvidia Shield:
HDMI
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
MHL
IP rating
Nexus 9:

Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:

Galaxy Tab S:

G Pad 8.3:

Nvidia Shield:

Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
IP68
Front Speakers
Nexus 9:
Yes
Galaxy TabPRO 8.4:
Yes
Galaxy Tab S:
Yes
G Pad 8.3:

Nvidia Shield:
Yes
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact:
Yes

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.