Google Nexus 9 VS Microsoft Surface RT 2 Specs Comparison

Written by B Johnson January 22, 2015
Google Nexus 9 VS Microsoft Surface RT 2 Specs Comparison
Hi guys, welcome back!

Ever since Microsoft struck the tablet market with its Surface series, more and more laptop/PC manufacturers were finally convinced to jump to an entirely new bandwagon – a tablet market.

With the sales of tablets (including the iPad as well) becoming bigger and stronger each quarter, and in fact eating laptop/PC’s market share globally, then there's no other way for laptop/PC manufacturers except to start creating their own devices for tablet market.

(Google Nexus 9 VS Microsoft Surface RT 2 Specs Comparison)

However, despite a massive exodus of laptop/PC manufacturers to tablet market, i think Microsoft with its Surface family is still more prominent until today especially around the productivity tablet category.
Google Nexus 9 VS Microsoft Surface RT 2 benchmarks and gaming performance

And it’s really amazing because even from the first-gen Surface tablets, Microsoft’s slates already looked impressive in the whole aspect.

It has powerful set of hardware, it has solid build quality (as proved by many drop tests on YouTube), it has impressive design, it has full-fledged Windows software, it works seamlessly with Xbox 360 controller and it even has amazing stylus.

And don’t forget about its awesome kickstand along with the Smart Cover (keyboard case) that is so thin you can barely feel it as keyboard case.

But apparently, the competition around the productivity tablet market is about to get really fierce in the next few months.

And that’s shown by how more manufacturers are now focused to make productivity-centric tablets instead of just media-consumption devices.

In fact, rumor has it that Apple is now in the making of its own productivity model of iPad that is about to release next year – allegedly will be called iPad Pro.

And Google – not surprisingly – also wants to get the share of this market. With Google Nexus 9, it’s very obvious that Google has long term plan to build its presence in productivity tablet category for the future ahead.

Just like Microsoft Surface series, Google Nexus 9 also comes with its own keyboard case.

But interestingly, with this tablet, it seems like Google is also aiming on gaming tablet market as well, as shown by its partnership with NVIDIA to bring its latest and greatest Tegra K1 processor inside this device.

And we all know that NVIDIA – with its Tegra series - has been really serious in developing the best gaming processors for tablet market.

This is the reason why today i’m really interested to compare these Google Nexus 9 with Microsoft Surface tablet.

However, i’m not going to pit Google Nexus 9 side-by-side against Microsoft Surface Pro tablet in this comparison review because Surface Pro is running on a full-fledged Windows 8 Pro OS, which is not relevant with the tablet-dedicated Android platform on Google Nexus 9.

So the Surface tablet i’m going to put into the ring with Google’s tablet is of course, the Surface RT variant.

But given that the first-gen Microsoft Surface RT is already considered as old-gen device, plus it’s powered by old-gen Tegra 3 processor, so i decided to pick the sequel Surface RT 2 with Tegra 4 processor as the rival for Google Nexus 9 in this review.

Well, if you want to see these 2 devices get compared in this review, especially in terms of gaming performance, then here you go, my comparison review between Google Nexus 9 and Microsoft Surface RT 2.


Google Nexus 9 is actually the first time Google shows its interest publicly on productivity tablet market.

This company – at least, since the first-gen Nexus 7 tablet – has been really focusing to make an affordable but great media-consumption device and even gaming tablet to consumers.

Google continued its efforts on tablet market by making the second-gen Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, both made by Asus and Samsung respectively.

But that soon changed when this year, Google surprised us with its latest Google Nexus 9, which is intended mainly as a productivity-centric device, as shown on the keyboard case folio that Google releases it for this tablet.

The interesting part about this tablet is, even though its main focus is a productivity tablet, Google Nexus 9 can actually be quite good – even the best – for playing games.

And that can be seen on how Google decides to use NVIDIA’s latest and greatest Tegra K1 processor – the processor that obviously is made for gaming.

On the other hand, Microsoft Surface RT 2 has already been known as a pure productivity tablet.

Even though this device runs on the lighter-version Windows RT – as opposed to the Windows Pro on Surface Pro -, this tablet still has what it takes to be a great productivity device.

Besides, despite being the lighter version of Windows 8 Pro, the Windows RT platform of Surface RT 2 still comes with many important elements, features, customizations and even looks of the full-fledged version.

Just like Google’s tablet, Microsoft Surface RT 2 can also be an impressive device for gaming. And that can be seen directly on its Tegra 4 processor – which again, is also made by NVIDIA specifically for gaming.

It may not be on par with the Tegra K1 processor of Google Nexus 9, but this Microsoft Surface RT 2 still has what it takes to be a great gaming tablet.

But the questions remain. With all of the great things and their powerful gaming performances,

which one between Google Nexus 9 and Microsoft Surface RT 2 that will come out as the best gaming tablet in this review?

Do these 2 tablets deserve to be positioned alongside other flagship rivals on the market today?

Is it worth it to buy Google Nexus 9 instead of Microsoft Surface RT 2 as a productivity tablet?

These questions will get their answers at the end of this review.

So be sure to read the rest of this post if you're interested to find out more about that.


Google Nexus 9 is manufactured by HTC. So it’s not surprising if this tablet is hugely inspired by HTC’s flagship smartphone – HTC One.

And that can be clearly on the dual-speaker-grilles on the front side of this device, similar just like the one found on HTC One.

And this is actually the strongest point of its design.

With this dual-speaker grilles on the front, the sound quality of Google Nexus 9 is really loud and clear, making the experience of playing games or watching movies more realistic for users.

Google Nexus 9
Google Nexus 9
Microsoft Surface RT 2
Microsoft Surface RT 2
Microsoft Surface RT 2 (2)
Microsoft Surface RT 2
On the other hand, Microsoft Surface RT 2 has its own characteristic compared to any other tablets out there. It looks very well-made and its kickstand is now more improved than on the predecessor.

Not to mention, its Smart Cover also looks attractive with prominent color choice.

And more impressively, this tablet has a really solid build quality. In fact, according to some drop tests of this tablet on YouTube videos, it amazingly survives in many extreme drop tests, with no single crack on the screen.

So i think Microsoft is doing a great job with the entire design of this tablet – probably thanks to its years of experience in building hardware like Xbox console devices.

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Google Nexus 9 (HTC )Microsoft Surface 2 RT
Released November 2014
8.9 inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 1536 x 2048 pixels, (~281 ppi pixel density), 16M colors
Dual-core 2.3 GHz Denver Nvidia Tegra K1 Chipset
Kepler DX1 GPU
Android OS, v5.0 (Lollipop)
No Memory Card slot
16/32 GB Internal storage
8 MP rear-facing camera LED flash
1.6 MP front-facing camera, 720p
Bluetooth v4.1
No Radio
Java MIDP emulator
Indigo Black, Lunar White, Sand Colors
Non-removable Li-Po 6700 mAh battery
Up to 720 h (3G) Stand-by
Up to 9 h 30 min (multimedia) (3G) Talk time
    No SIM
    Released October 2013
    Built-in 2-stage kickstand
    10.6 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen
    1920 x 1080 pixels (~208 ppi pixel density), 16M colors
    Microsoft Windows 8.1 RT
    Quad-core 1.7 GHz Cortex-A15 Nvidia Tegra 4 T40 Chipset
    72 core ULP GeForce GPU
    2 GB RAM
    microSD memory Card slot for up to 64 GB
    Internal 32/64 GB
    No GPRS, No EDGE
    Wi-Fi 802.11
    Bluetooth v4.0
    USB v3.0
    5 MP rear-facing camera LED flash
    3.5 MP front-facing camera (1080p @30fps video recording)
    No Radio, No GPS, No Java
    TV-out with HDMI port
    Microsoft Office 2013 RT
    SkyDrive 200GB free storage for 2-years
    Skype 1 year free international calls and Wi-Fi
    Non-removable Li-Ion battery

    As 2 productivity tablets, both Google Nexus 9 and Microsoft Surface RT 2 are actually well prepared when it comes to specs.

    However, if compared side-by-side – on paper -, it’s very obvious that Google Nexus 9 is far greater and more powerful on that department.

    First of all, it has a much sharper 1536x2048 pixel display (as opposed to the 1920x1200 pixel screen on Surface RT 2), and then its Tegra K1 processor is just way more powerful than the Tegra 4 chipset found on Surface RT 2.

    It goes the same with the 8MP camera of Google Nexus 9 that’s able to take much better and sharper shots than the 5MP shooter of Surface RT 2.

    For the most part, i think Google Nexus 9 has the edge here on the spec sheet compared to Surface RT 2.

    And the fact that it runs on Android platform – which has much bigger app and game ecosystem than Windows RT – really makes it a better offering than Microsoft’s tablet.


    On the sector of display, it’s no brainer that Google Nexus 9 seems more superior than Microsoft Surface RT 2, especially in terms of sharpness.

    And that’s true because the 1536x2048 pixel resolution on the 8.9-inch display of this Google’s tablet looks much sharper and more crisp compared to the full HD 1920x1200 pixel resolution on a much larger 10.1-inch screen of Surface RT 2.

    But interestingly, according to theVerge, even though the display of Google Nexus 9 looks really sharp and crisp, there are still some downsides found on its display – like its colors that often look washed out, there’s a visible air gap between the glass and LCD and the backlight is easily visible on the side of the screen.

    So long story short, despite having the same exact 1536x2048 pixel resolution and the same 4:3 aspect ratio of latest iPads, the screen of Google Nexus 9 is not nearly as nice looking as the Retina Display of iPads.

    User Interface

    The UIs of both devices could be the main important factor to determine people’s decision when choosing between Google Nexus 9 or Microsoft Surface RT 2.

    Even though Windows RT of Microsoft’s tablet is not the full-fledged version of Windows 8 Pro, this platform still shares some of the prominent productivity features found on the ‘Pro’ version.

    In fact, it looks and works similarly especially with its UI customizations and design layout of Metro UI with Live Tiles.

    This is really different with Google Nexus 9 that comes pre-installed with pure stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, which is not designed as a productivity platform.

    Despite having the same keyboard case, i think the UI and the overall experience of this stock Android OS will not be as great as the Windows RT of Microsoft’s tablet, of course as a productivity device.

    But even so, it’s still great to see this stock vanilla Android UI on this Google-branded tablet.

    It makes the performance run much faster and smoother, plus more efficient with the use of battery life.

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    When it comes to gaming performance, there’s no doubt that Google Nexus 9 is more superior than Microsoft Surface RT 2. And that can be seen clearly by its Tegra K1 processor, which is insanely powerful more than the Tegra 4 processor found inside the Microsoft’s tablet.

    Not to mention, with a staggering 192-core Kepler GPU found on the Tegra K1, it’s just no brainer if the 72-core GeForce ULP GPU on Tegra 4 processor will be blown out of the water by Tegra K1’s GPU.

    However, despite using a last-year Tegra 4 processor, Microsoft Surface RT 2 is still a powerful device, even for gaming.

    But Surface RT 2 is mainly intended as a productivity device, so its gaming performance is probably not the main focus of Microsoft when developing this tablet in the first place.

    Besides, as a Windows RT tablet, i think it’s not a great idea if you buy this device for playing games.

    It may be able to handle latest graphics intense titles like Asphalt 8: Airborne or GTA San Andreas, even in full highest graphics.

    However, Windows RT has been scrutinized over its lack of app/game catalog, especially compared to Android and iOS.

    This really contradicts with Google Nexus 9. Thanks to the Tegra K1 processor found inside this tablet – which is made specifically for gaming -, then it really opens up the door for this tablet to be a pure gaming tablet, besides as a productivity device.

    The great thing about this tablet is, Google Nexus 9 is running on Android platform. And that means, there will be a huge catalog of games – much much bigger than on Windows RT platform.

    In fact, with this insanely powerful Tegra K1 processor, any Android games that you see today on the market, can all be played on this tablet perfectly.

    Even the most graphically demanding titles like GTA San Andreas, Modern Combat 5 or Asphalt 8: Airborne, all can be executed perfectly on this Google-branded tablet, even in full highest graphics.

    But more impressively about this tablet is, thanks to its Tegra K1 processor, this tablet is also adequate to handle some console-quality games like Trine 2 (PS 3), Half Life 2 (PC) and many future titles that are ported specifically for Tegra K1 tablets like Google Nexus 9.

    This is not very surprising given that most of console/PC game developers even believe that Tegra K1 devices are capable to deliver the same graphical performance as today’s desktops/PCs.

    So with that being said, then you can expect more and more next-gen games from console developers to arrive in the next few months for this tablet.

    The other great reason why Google Nexus 9 is a much better gaming tablet than Microsoft Surface RT 2 is definitely its great sound quality.

    And this thanks to HTC’s brilliant decision to design the dual-speaker grilles on the front side of the device, making its experience of playing games more realistic because the sound comes out so strong and clear in front of users.

    So when it comes to gaming performance, there’s no single doubt that Google Nexus 9 is just too powerful than Microsoft Surface RT.

    It has a far more powerful graphical performance and Tegra K1 processor is fully supported by many popular console/PC game developers.

    However - despite not being a great gaming tablet - there is still one great thing that makes Microsoft Surface RT 2 probably a better gaming tablet than Google Nexus 9.

    And that is its capability to work seamlessly with Xbox 360 controller, even without any hacking or rooting process. And i’ve already seen it on some reviews of this tablet on YouTube.

    So if you have Xbox 360 gaming controller at your disposal, all you need to do is just plug in the controller and voila, you just turned your boring productivity tablet into a pure gaming tablet.

    But of course, its game catalog will not be as huge and complete as on Android platform or iOS.

    The good news is, you can still play many retro games like Super Mario on SNES and any other titles on this device by using some specific emulators, which can be found on Windows Marketplace.


    I think camera will be the sector that Google Nexus 9 really excels at compared to Microsoft Surface RT 2.

    And that’s not because this Google-branded tablet comes with a higher 8MP camera on its back, as opposed to the 5MP rear-facing shooter on Microsoft’s tablet.

    But it’s more because HTC has been really good at delivering great quality cameras for its devices – especially as shown on its ‘Ultra Pixel’ technology.

    So when it comes to quality, it’s just no brainer that Google Nexus 9’s rear-facing camera takes better pictures than the 5MP camera of Microsoft Surface RT 2.

    Even theVerge is also impressed with the camera of Google Nexus 9, which takes decent quality photos pretty consistently, although it’s not as great as the iSight camera of iPads.

    But even so, the 5MP rear-facing camera of Microsoft Surface RT 2 is still capable to take some pretty good pictures or videos.

    Besides, this tablet is developed by Microsoft itself. So i believe this company has put a lot of thoughts on its rear-facing camera, making sure that its overall quality will be at least good for most of the users.

    Battery Life

    Google Nexus 9 is powered by a pretty huge 6700mAh battery inside. And according to GSMarena, this tablet is able to deliver a promised 720 hours in standby mode and 9 hours 30 minutes in talk time (multimedia).

    Unfortunately, there’s no information regarding the battery life of Microsoft Surface RT 2.

    But i believe both of these devices are more than capable to survive in one solid day on a single charge – of course in moderate use.

    Besides, both Google Nexus 9 and Microsoft Surface RT 2 come with light-weight UIs – stock Android UI and Windows RT UI, which are not going to squeeze a lot of power from their battery.

    However, if you are a power user and you’re gonna use any of these tablets to do some heavy intense tasks without resting the screen at all – like for watching HD movies in marathon or playing games in the row -, then of course its battery life could drop quickly to just probably around 4 to 6 hours, maybe less than that.

    My Personal Opinions

    So in my final conclusion of these 2 tablets, i’ve gotta say that Google Nexus 9 is just far better than Microsoft Surface RT 2.

    And there are many reasons to back up that argument. First of all, in terms of spec sheet, this Google’s tablet is just more superior compared to Microsoft’s device.

    It has a much sharper 1536x2048 pixel display, better 8MP rear-facing camera, more powerful Tegra K1 dual-core Denver 64-bit processor, more powerful gaming performance with 192-core Kepler GPU, much bigger game catalog on Android ecosystem, greater sound quality, better gaming design and pretty much everything about this tablet is just better – far far better – than Microsoft Surface RT 2.

    However, there are still some great things to be loved from this Microsoft’s tablet – like its compatibility to work seamlessly with Xbox 360 gaming controller, its productivity-related features, its solid build quality (as seen on some drop tests on YouTube) and of course, its great gaming performance thanks to Tegra 4 processor.

    But for me personally, as i mentioned above, i think i have to go with Google Nexus 9 instead of this Microsoft’s tablet because it offers a lot more benefits than Surface RT 2.

    And the fact that Windows RT platform on Surface RT 2 really lacks in game catalog – compared to Android platform – really makes Google Nexus 9 a definite choice of gaming tablet than than Microsoft’s tablet.

    Besides, Microsoft Surface RT 2 only runs on the lighter-version of Windows 8 Pro, not the real full-fledged version.

    And that puts this device on the same page with Google Nexus 9 that also runs on tablet-dedicated platform (Android OS).

    So at the end of the day, i think Google Nexus 9 is just far better tablet in the whole aspect than Microsoft Surface RT 2.

    It’s great in gaming performance, it has great sound speaker quality (thanks to its dual-speaker grilles on the front), it has a much sharper display, it has keyboard cover as well, it has better quality cameras and everything about this tablet is just far better than Microsoft Surface RT 2.

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