GPU Performance

Following along the same lines, we can also take a look at the GPU performance of Tegra13x in the Nexus 9. This really shouldn’t change too much though as the same GPU is used at the same maximum clock speed of 852 MHz. For those that are unfamiliar with the GPU in the Tegra K1, this is effectively a scaled-down version of their desktop Kepler GPUs.

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Overall

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Graphics

3DMark 1.2 Unlimited - Physics

BaseMark X 1.1 - Overall (High Quality)

BaseMark X 1.1 - Dunes (High Quality, Offscreen)

BaseMark X 1.1 - Hangar (High Quality, Offscreen)

BaseMark X 1.1 - Dunes (High Quality, Onscreen)

BaseMark X 1.1 - Hangar (High Quality, Onscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Onscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan (Offscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD (Onscreen)

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD (Offscreen)

As one can see, the Nexus 9 is effectively equivalent to the SHIELD Tablet in GPU performance. The one anomaly here is 3DMark, which seems to be mostly due to differences in CPU. It's likely that this isn't representative of performance though, as 3DMark's physics test seems to perform better on CPU configurations that rely on larger numbers of cores and higher clock speeds. In the purer GPU tests like Basemark X and GFXBench performance across the board is effectively identical to the Cortex A15 variant of the Tegra K1.

Initial Conclusions

For the most part, the Nexus 9 shows some level of promise as a tablet. While Denver in NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 is a bit bimodal in performance, with sufficient optimization it has immense promise from a sheer performance aspect. While the SoC alone makes the Nexus 9 a fascinating device to look at, the rest of the package has a great deal of potential. The minimalistic design of the device, combined with good material design and stereo front-facing speakers really shows the high-end aspirations of this tablet. While we haven't received anything in the way of accessories, the keyboard folio case seems to be a way of pushing the tablet formfactor in a new direction. This is especially evident when seeing the focus on previous Nexus tablets which seemed to assume touch-only input.

While only a first look, there’s definitely a lot to be impressed by here. However, it will take a full review to really determine whether the Nexus 9 can compete with the iPad Air 2 as a tablet is more than just a function of battery life and SoC performance. In addition, it's hard to draw any real conclusions about this tablet quite yet as the software we received in no way represents a shipping build. Even if inactive, loggers and debug tools generally reduce performance, and it's likely that a great deal of optimization has occurred in the two months since this software build was completed. Once again, we haven't been able to get a newer build, but the full review should be done with shipping firmware.

CPU Performance and Battery Life
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  • andrewaggb - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    Personally, I thought it looked like the ipad air 2 was the clear all around winner. Hopefully the final build will do better.
  • darwinosx - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    Plus the Nexus 9 screen is crap.
  • icebox - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    As always Google hopes to push cloud storage to everybody with a max. of 32GB and no expansion.
  • jjj - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    Funny how you don't include TK1 results in phone reviews graphs but you include the iphone in tablet reviews. Intentional or not it's still unethical.
  • melgross - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    That's a very discordant statement. How could it be unethical if it's done unintentionally?
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    We don't have a TK1-equipped phone. Right now the only devices it appears in are tablets.
  • ruggia - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    think he's upset about 5s being in the benchmark
  • Barilla - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    I'm hoping the full review will dive deeply into the cpu design, I'm really interested what Nvidia has actually cooked up with their project Denver.
  • toyotabedzrock - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    When did the benchmarks get run? Shouldn't the final build be available today? Or will it be over the air when the first tablets reach people in the mail?
  • Liveartonline - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    Wow, the GPU perfomance of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S is utter trash. I didn't know the GPU performance of the Mali-T628 would be THAT bad compared to the K1 and A8X. Thank god I didn't buy one.

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