For a few years now, Google has had a generally consistent tablet strategy. Instead of chasing after the ~10 inch tablet segment and focusing upon the high end, we’ve seen tablets closer to the ~7 inch display size at extremely low cost. While this has been an immensely successful strategy in driving hardware adoption, the formfactor made it possible for the tablet to be closer to a large phone than a small tablet. The flexibility of Android’s scaling system meant that an app designed for a phone worked acceptably well for a small tablet, even if the space efficiency was a bit poor. There’s no question that the Nexus 7 (2013) was and still is a great tablet, but even now it’s obvious that there’s a dearth of applications designed specifically for the larger display. The other issue is that of cost. With the Nexus 7 line, Google managed to integrate an incredible amount of hardware into a tablet priced well below the ~500 USD price point that the original iPad established. This is great for the consumer and no doubt great for Google, but the Nexus 7 line was good enough that there wasn’t much in the way of competition.

This brings us to the Nexus 9, Google’s attempt at changing the Android tablet space. From the start, this device seems to be intent on pushing the Android tablet to a more premium segment. Rather than a purely cost-optimized polymer design, we see the addition of an aluminum ring that runs around the side of the device, which definitely helps with in-hand feel. The tablet itself seems to have high-end aspirations as the launch platform for NVIDIA’s Tegra K1-64, which has two Denver CPU cores rather than the traditional 4+1 Cortex A15 setup, along with dual front-facing speakers and a large 9” display with 4:3 aspect ratio. I’ve included the basic specs in a spec sheet below, to avoid spending too much time going over the basics.

  Nexus 9
SoC 2.3GHz 64-bit dual core Tegra K1 Denver SoC
Display 8.9" 2048x1536 IPS LCD
Network WiFi only or 2G / 3G / 4G LTE SKU
Dimensions 153.68 x 228.25 x 7.95mm, 425g WiFi, 436g LTE
Camera 8MP Rear Facing (IMX219) with F/2.4 aperture, 1.6MP FFC (OV9760)
Battery 6700 mAh (25.46 Whr)
OS Android 5.0 Lollipop
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC

Unfortunately, in the case of the Nexus 9 while we can make some early observations the version of firmware that we received dates was built on August 29th, and in the time since it’s quite likely that there have been significant changes in all directions. We still don't have a newer build, so all the tests will be done on older firmware. The full review will have final numbers as it will be done using shipping firmware.

At any rate, the hardware of the Nexus 9 definitely fits the bill of a premium tablet. While for the most part every Nexus device in the past year has shared the same industrial and material design elements, HTC seems to have added a few extra touches to differentiate this product from other Nexus devices. The most obvious and prominent of these touches is the metal ring, which has a brushed texture similar to what we saw on the M8.

There are also dual front-facing speakers that flank the display, which are definitely great for video and music content when compared to a single speaker on the bottom or back of the device. However, for the most part the design is very much a Nexus device with its minimalistic design and soft-touch plastic back cover.

CPU Performance and Battery Life
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  • konondrum - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    I think Google's point is that everyone has a slightly different idea of an ideal size. That's why they didn't make a nexus 7 (2014) this time.

    I bought an LG G2 last year because I wanted a screen big enough do some actual reading on without the size of a Note. But now that I've got a Shield Tablet, I'm seriously thinking about getting a smaller phone. The G2 isn't bulky in my pocket, it's just a hair too big to be used comfortably as a phone.
  • probedb - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    Why do sites like anand insist on publishing pre-reviews like this? dpreview is the same for cameras, several first impressions/almost there but not quite complete/final view type things.

    Why don't you wait until you have release software? No-one is going to be using the pre-release build used in this review so why review it?

    I normally appreciate Anandtech reviews and it's the first place I go to but this sort of thing is just annoying.
  • OrphanageExplosion - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    Joshua, please read Futuremark's comments on Apple's CPU architecture and why 3DMark Physics (which is a CPU test and perhaps should be in the CPU benchmark section?) performs relatively badly on Cyclone CPU cores:

    My guess is that Denver has similar limitations - it's exceptionally good at certain types of task (ie the simple tests found in typical benchmark scenarios) but isn't as capable on other tasks. Or maybe drop Futuremark's a line for further information? Based on the in-depth Cyclone analysis I just linked to, I am sure they will be happy to clarify Denver's disappointing performance in their benchmark.
  • DBissett - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    The text suffers from a great deal of awkward and even contradictory wording to the point that it detracts from the content. Hopefully an editor will work harder on the full review.
  • cjs150 - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    I have a simple rule. No MicroSD slot means no purchase. There is a fixation shared by most tablet designers that everything is in the cloud and therefore there is no need for a decent amount of storage space.

    There is a simple message to the designers - grow up and get out more. There are plenty of parts of the world where internet access is "patchy" even at international hotels or expensive or both. Then there are those parts of the world which have no access - aircraft. I am in the market to replace my 3 year old Nook HD+, Nexus 9 will not be on the shortlist
  • odedia - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    Are there any plans for an iMac 5k review?
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

    I'd have loved to have seen how well this compared to Intel's second gen Atom, had the licensing worked out. Presumably the GPU would be better if nothing else...maybe Nvidia could have shipped a Windows version of their Shield products, which would be awesome!

    Still tempted by this since there's no Windows version of Marvel Unlimited...
  • soccerballtux - Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - link

  • varad - Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - link

  • Pwnstar - Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - link


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