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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  • 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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