The new Nexus 9 marks HTC’s return to the tablet market, and the first time Google has partnered with the company since the Nexus One. Rumors about the device circulated for many months prior to its announcement, with the tablet often disguised behind cryptic codenames. We’ve put together all the Nexus 9 gossip, plus detailed information on its cost and release dates revealed after the launch, in one handy guide to the latest, and most powerful Nexus tablet yet.
It’s called the Nexus 9
HTC was linked to the Nexus 9 project for a while. Early on, rumors linked the Volantis tablet with the Nexus 8 project, which may have morphed into the Nexus 9. While the Nexus 7 was built by Asus and the Nexus 10 by Samsung, this is the first HTC device added to the Nexus line since the Nexus One in 2010.
It’s the first larger tablet update from Google since the Nexus 10 in 2012, and may come alongside a refresh of the larger tablet later this year. Rumors at one point suggested the Volantis will be released as an HTC-branded tablet, but that clearly isn’t the case. However, HTC has subsequently spoken out about making a new, own-branded tablet in 2015.
Oh, and for those wondering, Volantis is latin for “flying.”
Thanks to a Wall Street Journal report from September, we knew HTC engineers had been working closely with Google on the Nexus 9 project, with teams routinely flying from Taiwan to Google’s San Francisco headquarters for several months. Neither firms commented on the rumors, but the news fitted in with existing rumors at the time.
Before the reports, a set of court documents revealed in an ongoing legal battle between Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Samsung unofficially confirmed the Nexus 9 tablet’s existence. The documentation stated the tablet would be built by HTC, and should use Nvidia’s Tegra K1 processor. It was also suggested the slate would launch before the end of September, but the wording did suggest the date wasn’t final. According to an anonymous tip received by tech site MoDaCo.com’s founder, the Nexus 9 was set to launch on October 16.
Announced by Google on October 15, the reports didn’t miss the mark by much.
Tegra K1 Processor
The Nexus 9 uses Nvidia’s Tegra K1 chipset, a 2.3GHz 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 processor. It’s the first of the Nexus devices to utilize the 64-bit architecture. The powerful CPU tops the popular Snapdragon in most benchmarking tests.
An 8.9-inch screen
While most sources agreed the Nexus 9 would have an 8.9-inch screen, there were differing reports about the resolution. An Android Police report said the display would have a 2048 x 1440 pixel resolution, resulting in 281 pixels per inch (ppi). A second Volantis leak said the tablet was being tested with a 1680 x 1050 pixel resolution, but would hit retail stores with an impressive 2560 x 1600 pixel count. That is the same as Samsung’s Galaxy S range, some of the Galaxy Pro models, and coincidentally, the Samsung-built Nexus 10 tablet. However, the source was eventually outed as a fake, leaving us to take these specs as fantasy.
Once announced, the screen size turned out to be 8.9-inches. As for the resolution, the Nexus 9’s screen has 2048 x 1536 pixels. That puts the pixel density at 287ppi — plenty rich enough to compete with most tablets in its range.
Design and construction
Rumors surrounding the body of the Nexus 9 were some of the most diverse, but with the official release of information and images by Google, we shouldn’t be surprised with how the HTC-made tablet appears. It has the trademark build of an HTC device, with a premium metal body in a similar vein to the sleek looking HTC One M8. It’s “built with a thin bezel, brushed metal sides, clean lines and unique colors” and offers “soft grip back and subtle curves” according to Google.
The first batch of Nexus 9 devices will come in two colors: Black and white. A gold-like “sand” model will also be made available later this year.
An early mockup based on a product concept image was leaked early in 2014. However, an @evleaks report, subsequently retracted, said these early renders were “fake.” A close-up shot of the tablet came with another codename, the less-than complimentary Flounder – which has also been spotted in relation to future Nexus hardware, just to confuse us even more – but the image’s authenticity has since also been questioned.
At the beginning of October, another picture supposedly showing the Nexus 9 – under HTC’s T1 codename – was leaked on Twitter by @upleaks. The picture shows a tablet-sized device with HTC and Nexus branding, a camera lens with a flash, and a matte-style finish similar to the Nexus 5 smartphone. A second tweet says the body will be plastic, rather than metal. We now know that to be false, as with several other pieces of information that had leaked about the device.
Android 5.0 Lollipop
As expected, the Nexus 9 runs the latest version of Android, 5.0 — otherwise known as “L” or Lollipop. With a new, powerful processor on board, the device should be built to show off the capabilities of the operating system, which includes a plethora of new features and tweaks.
The OS offers continuity between Android devices — including new functionality for devices running Android Wear – improved interface functionality, changes to notifications, better security measures, improved performance and power usage, and more. As with all Nexus devices, the Nexus 9 will receive updates to Android quicker than any other Android products.
The device is powered by the 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 processor and 2GB of RAM. Accompanying the 2.3GHz processor is the Kepler DX1 GPU. A 6700mAh battery provides up to 9 hours of use. The 8.9-inch display will feature a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels. The Nexus 9 comes equipped with an 8-megapixel camera lens on the back and 1.6-megapixel camera on the front. Models with 16GB and 32GB of internal storage are available.
One benefit of working with HTC is the Nexus 9 includes the company’s BoomSound technology. The front-facing speakers promise distortion-free sound and more immersive audio. The BoomSound speakers are generally well-received in HTC devices.
The leaker referred to the tablet as the HTC Nexus 9, but said that it is also known as HTC T1. The tablet supposedly would feature a MDM9x25 modem on the LTE version, 4GB of RAM, NFC, GPS, and Android L, plus an 8-megapixel back camera and a 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera. However, arguably the most impressive spec listed was the 64-bit Tegra K1 processor, a feature subsequently confirmed by Nvidia. The 64-bit chip made its debut inside the Xiaomi MiPad tablet back in May, and early benchmark figures show it trumping the most recent Snapdragon chips in almost every category.
The Nexus 9 will come with a variety of different covers, but perhaps the most interesting is the one Google featured prominently on the Nexus 9 information page. It’s the keyboard cover, a protective cover with a magnetically attached keyboard that is designed to be used at a variety of angles. The five row QWERTY keyboard features a dedicated “Home” button, as well as what appears to be a key for emojis. It will be sold separately, though no price was provided, and is designed to make the tablet a more viable work device.
Price and availability
As was thought, because of the new processor, the Nexus 9 carries a larger price tag than previous models. The new tablet starts at $400 for a 16GB model, $480 for the 32GB version, and the LTE-enabled 32GB device will retail for $600. There is no option to expand memory via MicroSD. The Nexus 9 became available for pre-order on October 17, 2014, and deliveries started on November 3, 2014.
T-Mobile became the first retailer to sell the LTE version of the Nexus 9 through its online store in mid-December. The LTE version costs $0 down on the Uncarrier’s network, but you’ll have to pay $25 a month for 24 months to own it. The final retail price works out to almost $600 — $599.76, to be exact. It costs just $10 to add the tablet and match your data on T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan. You’ll get up to 5 GB of data a month for your tablet alone and T-Mobile also offers Free Data for Life, which gives you 200 MB of free data a month for the entirety of the time you have the tablet on T-Mobile’s network.
Google added the 32GB Indigo-colored Nexus 9 with LTE to its store for $600. The tablet is slated to ship on December 19, if you get in a pre-order. No other color options or 16GB versions of the tablet are available with LTE included. You can get it now at the Play Store.
Although the Nexus 9 has yet to officially hit AT&T stores, the carrier is offering a $100 discount when customers activate the new tablet on AT&T’s network with a two-year contract. The discount will come in the form of a bill credit, but you’ll have to pay the full $600 price on the Google Play Store for the Nexus 9 before you get your $100 back, reports Android Authority.
Eventually, the new HTC-built Google tablet will be made available in 29 countries. Retailers in the United States that carry the device include Best Buy, Amazon, GameStop, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, Walmart, and Radio Shack.
Updated on 12-15-2014 by Malarie Gokey: Added news that AT&T is selling the LTE Nexus 9 for $100 off with a two-year contract.