Google Nexus 9 (HTC) review: a strong machine for gaming and heavy stuff

Written by B Johnson January 20, 2015
Google Nexus 9 Specs

In 2014, Google is back again with its usual tradition – releasing the next-gen Nexus devices. This year, Google introduced 2 Nexus devices - Google Nexus 6 and Google Nexus 9.
(Google Nexus 9 Specs)
Google Nexus 9 benchmarks and gaming performance

However, unlike the previous-gen models, this time Google gives the job to HTC instead of Asus and Samsung to produce the next-gen Nexus 9.

Compared to the previous-gen Nexus tablets, Google Nexus 9 is clearly a huge – a really huge – departure from its predecessors.

It has a way more powerful beast processor and GPU, a much even sharper display, greater faster performance, bigger RAM, better cameras, Android 5 Lollipop and its pre-loaded features, and the most importantly, a more elegant design.

Google Nexus 9 is mainly intended by Google as a productivity-centric device - given its keyboard case. And that’s pretty clear.

However, thanks to the dual-core Tegra K1 processor, 2GB of RAM and 192-core Kepler GPU, this tablet is also a perfect machine for playing games.

But the questions remain, with all of these improvements on the hardware, software and design, plus on gaming performance, does Google Nexus 9 have what it takes to be an iPad Air killer?

Does this tablet deserve the crown as the best gaming tablet on the market to date?

Is it worth it to buy this tablet, especially compared to other options like iPad Air 2 or Samsung GALAXY Tab S tablets?

Well, hopefully, we’re about to find out more about the answers of these questions at the end of this review. So be sure to stick around!


Google Nexus 9 Review
Google Nexus 9
In terms of design, the influence of HTC on the design of this tablet is really noticeable, even at the glance. Unlike other previous-gen Nexus tablets (Nexus 7 and Nexus 10), i think HTC holds an integral part when designing this tablet, not Google entirely.

This is similar just like what Samsung did on Google Nexus 10, which bears a striking resemblance with the ‘chubby’ design approach of Samsung GALAXY tablets.

But i think this is good because it shows how Google is not very strict when giving the Nexus project to its partners.

Google may be in charge with the entire software build, but the design and the internals are composed by HTC itself.

I think the design of this tablet looks really premium and has its own characteristic compared to other tablets on the market right now.

Google Nexus 9 Review
Google Nexus 9
This tablet is intended by Google as a productivity tablet given that Google Nexus 9 also comes with its own keyboard cover (similar just like Smart Cover of Microsoft Surface), which officially made by HTC.

The overall design of Google Nexus 9 actually kind of reminds me with the design of HTC’s own flagship smartphone – HTC One M8 -, which has that dual-speaker grilles on the front.

However, this tablet somehow also resembles Apple’s iPad mini, especially with its 4:3 aspect ratio.

But there is one downside on the design of this tablet. And that’s its rear-cover.

According to many reviews – including TheVerge and PhoneArena – the rear case of Google Nexus 9 apparently is really prone to catch finger prints and human grease.

So this can be a bit annoying especially if you’re a type of user who always wants to have a perfectly looking device every morning.

That’s probably not gonna happen because the rear cover of this tablet will always have the tracks of your fingerprints spread out all over the place.

So you might want to buy an external case cover if you want to keep it clean from your fingerprints.

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  • 4G Network LTE
  • Released 2014, November
  • 8.9 inchIPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 1536 x 2048 pixels, (~281 ppi pixel density) 16M colors
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Dual-core 2.3 GHz Denver Nvidia Tegra K1 Chipset
  • Kepler DX1 GPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • Android OS 5.0 Lollipop
  • No Memory Card slot
  • 16/32 GB Internal storage
  • 8 MP rear-facing camera LED flash
  • 1.6 MP front-facing camera, 720p
  • LTE
  • Bluetooth v4.1
  • NFC
  • No Radio
  • Java MIDP emulator
  • Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass Sensors
  • Indigo Black, Lunar White, Sand Colors
  • Non-removable Li-Po 6700 mAh battery
  • Stand-by: Up to 720 hours
  • Talk time: Up to 9 hours (multimedia)
It’s really obvious that Google Nexus 9 is just a flagship quality tablet.

It has some high-class hardware specs, it has insanely powerful performance and last but not least, it has the premium feel and design all over it.

The good news is, Google doesn’t price this tablet insanely high just like it did with Google Nexus 6.

So i believe this tablet can still be a great alternative for other more expensive tablets on the market, especially iPad Air.

As a matter of fact, i think this tablet has what it takes to be an iPad killer, especially with more superior performance and great design.

On the hardware standpoint, Google Nexus 9 comes with a dual-core Tegra K1 Denver processor with 64-bit architecture, coupled with 2GB of RAM and 192-core Kepler GPU.

So this tablet is no doubt blazing fast compared to other rivals on the market right now.

Meanwhile, on the screen department, there is an 8.9-inch IPS LCD display sporting the 1536x2048 pixels with -281 ppi, providing a sharp looking display to this tablet.

And then, if you’re into tablet photography, you’ll be glad to hear that this tablet comes with an 8MP camera with LED flash and 1.6MP shooter on the front, which might come in handy in case you forgot to bring your smartphone at your disposal.

Google Nexus 9 is powered by a pretty huge 6700mAh battery, promising for up to 720 hours of stand by and 9 hours 30 minutes of talk time (multimedia).

So it surely can provide you an all-day-long battery life, of course on the full charge and in moderate use.

Overall, i think Google Nexus 9 is just a great offering around the tablet market today.

It may not have the super high resolution 2.5K display just like on Google Nexus 10, however, for an 8.9-inch tablet, i think this won’t really bother that much especially on the sharpness of this tablet’s display.

It’s still a decent quality tablet that you can purchase on the market today.

In fact, thanks to its beast processor and the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop experience, plus HTC’s experience with making a solid built smartphones, i think Google Nexus 9 is probably the best gaming tablet you can buy right now – alongside NVIDIA Shield Tablet and Xiaomi Mi Pad, given their Tegra K1 processor.


On the sector of screen, Google Nexus 9 is sporting the same exact screen resolution that Apple adopts on its iPads. It’s got the 1536x2048 pixels on its 8.9-inch IPS LCD display.

The interesting part is, this Google-branded tablet also uses the same 4:3 aspect ratio just like on the new iPads.

So it’s wider horizontally and probably is not very comfortable to use with one hand.

This tablet actually kind of reminds me with Xiaomi Mi Pad which also shares the same Tegra K1 processor, 4:3 aspect ratio and the same exact 1536x2048 pixel resolution.

However, given that Xioami’s tablet comes pre-installed with MIUI – which is a really heavy UI compared to the stock Android UI -, so the performance of this tablet might not be as great as Google Nexus 9.

Overall, the display of Google Nexus 9 can be considered as great in today’s standards.

It may not be as sharp and clear as the 2.5K display on Samsung GALAXY Tab Pro/S or even its own sibling - Google Nexus 10 -, but it still looks gorgeous and sharp for most of the users.

It’s great for watching movies, reading books/magazines, browsing the web or playing games. The screen is just perfect for this tablet.

However, there is one downside on the display of this device.

According to theVerge and Marques Brownlee, the screen of Nexus 9 apparently has this visible backlight around the side of the screen, especially when it's turned off or the screen is locked.

TheVerge also said that this screen has the visible gap between the glass and LCD, not to mention, its colors often look washed out. So despite borrowing the same "Retina" resolution of iPads, the display of Nexus 9 is still not nearly as nice looking as on the iPads.

User Interface

As mentioned above, Google Nexus 9 comes pre-installed with the stock Android UI.

So basically, it’s gonna perform fast and smooth compared to other rivals that do a lot of customizations with Android OS (*cough* Samsung GALAXY Tablets *cough*).

However, despite being a stock UI, Android 5.0 Lollipop is really rich in terms of features and visual presentations.

The good thing is, this tablet is armed with some monster specs – like Tegra K1 dual-core Denver processor, 2GB of RAM and 192-core Kepler GPU.

So the heavier UI of Android 5.0 Lollipop probably won’t give such a huge impact to the overall performance of this tablet.

It still runs really fast and its experience is just very smooth compared to other Android tablets out there.

I even think that this tablet will perform much even smoother than Xiaomi Mi Pad – which shares the same 1536x2048 pixels, 2GB of RAM, 192-core Kepler GPU, Tegra K1 processor -.

And that’s because MIUI on Xiaomi Mi Pad is a really heavy UI, carrying a lot of features and more advanced looking visual presentations than on stock Android UI.

So it's not going to be really efficient with the use of RAM and battery.

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As far as the performance is concerned, it’s no doubt that this tablet will be insanely fast and smooth thanks to beefy monster specs.

Google Nexus 9 is equipped with a dual-core Tegra K1 Denver processor clocked at 2.3GHz per core, coupled with 2GB of RAM and 192-core Kepler GPU.

With this type of specs, any tasks that you throw on this tablet can all be executed perfectly in smooth buttery performance.

Even when multitasking many apps at once, this tablet is still able to deliver consistent smooth performance to the users.

And the great thing is - given the new multitasking window on Android 5.0 Lollipop – on this tablet, you can open a lot of apps at once and all of your running apps on multitasking window can be accessed easily and smoothly even without removing the cache of each task, which is really important for a media-consumption tablet.

So you can pick what you've left off everytime you switch to other running app.

Meanwhile, as a gaming tablet, Google Nexus 9 is also a perfect machine for that matter.

Thanks to its powerful specs, this tablet is more than capable to handle any kind of games that you see today on Google Play Store.

Even the latest titles like Modern Combat 5, Asphalt 8: Airborne or GTA San Andreas, can all be executed perfectly and smoothly, plus in full highest graphics on this device.

Not to mention, as a Tegra K1 tablet, you’ll also gain the access to play PS3-ported game Trine 2, Half Life 2, a couple of Unreal Engine demos and future impressive titles from PC or console that will likely arrive in the near months, especially if Tegra K1 tablets become popular this year.

Overall, Google Nexus 9 is no doubt a great gaming tablet. In fact, it is the best gaming tablet on the market today – alongside NVIDIA Shield Tablet and Xiaomi MI Pad.

It’s just better than any of its rivals, even the iPad Air.

iPad may have Bioshock game ported on this tablet. However, in the future, we’re gonna see how Tegra K1 tablets like Google Nexus 9, Xiaomi MI Pad and NVIDIA Shield will show how capable these guys are in handling console and even PC quality games in the near future.

Besides, according to many benchmarks, Tegra K1 manages to top all the flagship processors on the market right now and it even delivers 3 times of graphical performance as iPads’ A7 SoC.

And we all already know how Tegra K1 is also able to bring the same graphics power of today’s desktops.

So it’s really obvious that Tegra K1 tablets are just way ahead of their competition.

Battery Life

Google Nexus 9 is powered by a pretty huge 6700mAh power battery. This battery capacity may not be as huge as Google Nexus 10 or Lenovo Yoga 10 Tablet with their 9000mAh power battery.

But i believe with stock Android 5.0 UI, plus some battery saving mode that Google puts on the software, this tablet has no problem at all to survive in one solid day, of course on a full charge.

According to GSMarena, this tablet could survive in 720 hours in stand-by and 9 hours 30 minutes for talk time (multimedia).

However, the battery life of this tablet could just drop drastically if you’re using it for doing some heavy tasks intensively – like for watching HD movies in marathon or playing games in the row, without resting the screen at all -.

It probably stays around 3 to 5 hours, especially given its power hungry Tegra K1 processor and high-resolution display.

My Personal Opinions

So to sum this up, i think it’s extremely easy to recommend this tablet to you, even if you’re looking for a decent productivity tablet (with its keyboard dock sold separately on Google Play Store).

It has a sharp display, fast processor, powerful GPU, huge RAM, great quality cameras (especially thanks to HTC’s years of experience on camera departments of its devices), smooth experience, awesome gaming performance, long lasting battery life and pretty much everything about this tablet is just perfect.

In fact, i think Google Nexus 9 is probably the best gaming tablet you can buy today, especially in this holiday season – alongside NVIDIA Shield Tablet or Xiaomi Mi Pad.

The great thing about this device is, given that it’s made by Google, this tablet will always come first in Google’s priority in terms of new software updates and even the latest Android version in the future.

So if you decide to buy this tablet, you’re gonna gain the fastest updates from Google.

And this is really important because according to reviews, despite having the monster Tegra K1 processor, there are still some lags here and there on the software (but not significantly though), especially when opening too many apps at once.

So i believe Google will fix this issue as soon as possible.

To end this review, i’ll try to answer some of the questions i’ve asked previously above:

Does Google Nexus 9 have what it takes to be an iPad Air killer?

Yes, definitely – given that this tablet is also packing the same screen resolution as iPads, plus it has more powerful processor than Apple’s tablet, it’s really obvious that Google Nexus 9 will crush the iPad on many sectors.

Besides, according to many benchmarks, it’s already proved that Tegra K1 manages to top the Apple’s A7 SoC and it’s able to deliver 3 times graphical performance as Apple’s in-house processor. So it’s an easy guess that Google Nexus 9 will blow iPad Air out of the water.

Does this tablet deserve the crown as the best gaming tablet on the market to date?

Yes, absolutely – NVIDIA actually already showcased some of the console-quality games like Trine 2, Half Life 2 and a couple of Unreal Engine 4 demos when it announced Tegra K1 to the public.

So besides great in handling some latest games like Asphalt 8: Airborne, Modern Combat 5 and GTA San Andreas, Google Nexus 9 will also be more than adequate to execute other next-gen console-quality games that will likely arrive near time soon.

Is it worth it to buy this tablet, especially compared to other options like iPad Air 2 or Samsung GALAXY Tab S tablets?

Yes – despite not having the same super high-resolution 2.5K display just like Samsung GALAXY Tab S, i still think that Google Nexus 9 is a worth buying tablet than its rivals out there.

The most obvious reason is, it has a way more powerful processor and gaming performance than the competition out there. Tegra K1 is simply beast. In fact, it’s currently the most powerful chipset on the tablet market to date.

Well, that’s all for now guys. What do you think about this review? I know that this is not some in-depth review of the tablet. But if you feel that this review is helpful and informative to you, don’t forget to share it guys. I would totally appreciate it a lot.

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