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Google Nexus 9 Tablet Review

Lollipop, lollipop, oh, lolly-lollypop.

November 21, 2014

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Science Introduction

So we've just laid some pretty hefty claims at your feet, and now it's time to substantiate them. By the numbers, this is one of the best all-around tablets ever made, but there are definitely some minor sore spots. The battery is great, and the screen? Well, let's say it's imperfect and leave it at that. Where the tablet truly shines is in processing power.

Screen Performance

If you're worried about how the screen of the Nexus 9 stacks up to the venerable iPad, don't. With the exception of gamma, the Nexus 9 beats the pants off the Apple slate when it comes to pixel density, color performance, and contrast.

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It doesn't have the low black levels of the Surface Pro 3, but the competition doesn't touch the peak brightness of the Nexus 9.

Speaking of, the Nexus 9 has a black level of 0.35 cd/m2 , with a peak brightness of 431.11 cd/m2 —giving the tablet an impressive 1232:1 contrast ratio. While that's narrow compared to OLED screens and televisions, for a tablet that's none too shabby.

Color performance is similarly good—the gamut holds close to the Rec. 709 standard—the internationally agreed-upon standard for color space for HDTVs—very well. Outside of some shifted blues, the white point is great, and the rest of the gamut is about where it should be.

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Blues are wonky, but this color performance is decent.

The transition from black to white—what we call gamma—is a bit of a mystery, however. In our labs, we measured a gamma of 1.86—a positively baffling result. Normally we look for the slope of the line to be around 2.1 to 2.4, and many OLED screens have shot for 2.4, but we haven't seen a screen with gamma this bizarre since... Apple's OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard. It's definitely a strange philosophy shift, but it's not out of left field. A shallower gamma means midtones and shadows are a little brighter than they would be on a screen with a gamma of 2.2. Nothing huge, or glaring. Just a philosophy shift.

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Battery Life

Like every other nexus before it, this tablet has rock solid battery life. Chock it up to having zero cruft, the new way Android 5 handles its memory, or maybe its battery is just that good. Any way you slice it, the cell in the Nexus 9 is more than adequate for just about anything you throw at it.

In our video rundown test, the slate was able to play Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on repeat for 7 hours, 54 minutes straight. That's pretty impressive, if existentially horrifying. Similarly good was our eBook battery test—the Nexus was able to keep it together for 8 hours and 46 minutes straight even with a backlight on full.

Your mileage will definitely vary if you do things like turn the backlight down, flip on WiFi, etc. Some users reported a WiFi bug, but Google was quick to squash that problem through a rather speedy update to their hardware. We haven't subjected the tablet to our punishing web browser test yet, but don't you worry—that's coming soon.

Processing power

Lots to discuss here, so I won't mince words. The NVIDIA Tegra K1 is an awesome chip that keeps pace with Apple's latest A8x, but it's geared to do very different things. Because this is a graphics-geared piece of silicon, it's no surprise to me that it does very well with rendering 3d graphics.

However, it does tend to fall behind in regular ol' data processing. Nobody's going to use a Nexus as a complete workstation, so this problem is overblown. The fact of the matter is, Apple very recently set an enormously high bar here, and it's going to be quite a while before mobile devices catch up. However, you could always go the Windows 8.1 route and snag a Surface Pro 3 if processing power is your chief concern.

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Overall Apple's A8x chip is tough to top.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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