Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9: Does the New Flagship Measure Up?

Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9: Does the New Flagship Measure Up?

By Rich W Woods

When Google announced the Nexus 9, words could not describe how excited I was. Finally, an Android tablet with a 4:3 aspect ratio. For those that don’t know, it’s the same aspect ratio as an iPad as well as a piece of paper, so it fits into portrait mode more easily. The Nexus 9 was the first Android tablet that I seriously considered as a replacement for my iPad.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out so well. The Nexus 9 gets terrible battery life, it’s slow, apps crash, and the apps look distorted, due to the aspect ratio. Because of this, it seemed more reasonable to compare it to the Nexus 7.

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Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9: Specs

Nexus 7 Nexus 9
Processor 1.5 GHz Quad Core Snapdragon S4 Pro 2.3 GHz Dual Core Nvidia Tegra K1
Display 7″, 1200×1920, 323 ppi, LCD 8.9″, 1536×2048, 281 ppi, LCD
Body 200x114x8.7 mm, 290 g 228.2×153.7×8 mm, 425 g
Camera 5 MP, 2592х1944, 1.2 MP Front 8 MP, 3264×2448, 1.6 MP Front
Aperture F/2.4 F/2.4
Storage 16/32 GB 16/32 GB
RAM 2 GB 2 GB
Battery 3950 mAh 6700 mAh
Price $229 $399/$479 Wi-Fi Only, $599 LTE 32 GB

Let’s take a look at the specs. The Nexus 7 has a better display, although the difference is negligible. Surprisingly, the Nexus 9 has a much larger battery and yet gets terrible battery life. This could be because I’m using the LTE model.

One significant improvement in the Nexus 9 is the processor. The Nvidia Tegra K1 processor uses ARM v8, which is the same architecture that Apple uses in their A8 processor in the iPhone 6. This is a significant step for Android in catching up to Apple’s hardware.

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Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9: Benchmarks

People have been requesting benchmarks in my reviews. I’m not a fan of benchmarks as they rarely reflect what the device is like in real life. If you don’t know what they mean, don’t worry. You’re not missing anything.

 

As you can see, the Nexus 9 gets much higher benchmark scores all around. This is not surprising, since it has a much more powerful processor. It is surprising that the Nexus 9 has a higher battery score, since the Nexus 7 gets such better battery life.

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Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9: Camera

I do not like to perpetuate the idea that people should use their tablet as a camera, but people do so I should include some stills.

The Nexus 7 has a 5 MP camera and the Nexus 9 has an 8 MP camera. The Nexus 9 has a single LED flash, which is a very weak flash, but it is still a flash being compared to a camera with no flash. The aperture is the same so we can expect them both to have the same depth of field.

Please note that in order to enlarge the photos, simply click or tap them. To view the full size image, there is a link in the carousel. Also, I realize that some of the photos are not perfect. That is why I provide as many samples as possible. These photos are not edited.

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Nexus 7 Nexus 9

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Obviously, the Nexus 9 has a superior camera to the Nexus 7. The photos are more saturated, the colors are more balanced, and it handles lighting better.

Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9: OS

Of course, the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 9 use Android 5.0.1 Lollipop; however, there is something important to consider here. The 2013 Nexus 7 is about a year and a half old now. Sure, it will receive Android 5.1 in June and maybe even Android 5.2 toward the end of the year, but it’s not going to receive Android 6.0 and the Nexus 9 will.

Most Android OEMs support their devices for two years from the date of release and release the update within 90 days from Google’s release. Of course, Nexus devices typically are supported a bit longer but the Nexus 7 is already a year and a half old.

As with all Nexus devices, Nexus 7 and Nexus 9 users have the benefits of being the first to receive an update. Many Nexus owners were upset that there were some devices that received Lollipop before Nexus devices did; however, to be honest, if you want an update the day it’s released, you have two options: flash it, or buy an iPad.

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Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9: User Experience

So far, we’ve basically covered specs, benchmarks, and the camera; however, specs and benchmarks don’t matter at all when it comes to day to day use and if you’re like most people, you don’t use the camera on your tablet unless you’re taking a picture of a check to deposit it into your bank account. What really matters is user experience. What is it going to be like to use this tablet every day?

The Size

Nexus 7 9First, the size. The Nexus 7 is a very small tablet. The user can easily hold it in one hand and fit it in most pockets. If it wasn’t for the fairly large bezel, it would look like a phone, like some Samsung 7″ tablets do. After all, we’re comparing a mini tablet to a full size tablet and it depends what fits your needs. The Nexus 9 seems to be the perfect size for a full size tablet; however, it feels a bit heavy and bulky.

The better size is going to be whichever is better for you.

Watching Movies and Playing Music

The Nexus 7 has a 8:5 aspect ratio, so a movie is going to fit the entire display. With the 4:3 aspect ratio of the Nexus 9, there is going to be space on the top and bottom of the video; however, despite the shift in aspect ratio, the Nexus 9’s display is still longer than the Nexus 9. Both the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 9 are well in excess of 1080p, so you can expect to watch those movies in HD.

Another important factor in watching movies and listening to music is the speakers. The Nexus 9 uses HTC’s trademark BoomSound front facing speakers. This is going to allow for better audio quality from the Nexus 9.

Reading

I have always found the Nexus 7 to be the perfect size for reading a book. You can hold the device in one hand, making it comfortable to hold anywhere. The Nexus 9 is heavier and requires two hands. Of course, that’s all a matter of preference.

The reading experience on either of these devices is fantastic. Of course, the user has the option between Amazon Kindle, Nook (in case you actually use it), and Google Play Books. If you decide to go with Google Play, your most recent books will be included on your home screen, which can be handy with a book.

Apps

In every category so far, the Nexus 9 has come out on top. It’s not going to here. At the moment, the Nexus 9 does not handle apps well. Up until this point, all Android phones have been 16:9 and all Android tablets have been 8:5. I generalize, but most have been that. Because of this, apps tend to come out looking distorted, stretched. It doesn’t happen in all cases, perhaps not even most, but many.

Aside from them looking stretched, there is also a problem with apps not being optimized for tablets. After all, 81.6% of Android devices are between 3.5″ and 5″, 8.3% are between 5″ and 7″, and 4.7% of Android devices are over 7″. With flagship devices getting bigger and bigger and having a 16:9 aspect ratio, the Nexus 7 doesn’t really need any tablet optimized apps. The Nexus 9 does.

Overall UX

I got the LTE Nexus 9. This is because I like LTE tablets. I like to be able to take it out of my house and not have to worry about setting up my phone as a mobile hotspot. It is also why it took me so long to get my hands on one to review, because the LTE Nexus 9 came out on December 19, a month and a half after the Wi-Fi Nexus 9.

I can’t speak for the Wi-Fi model but at the moment, the overall user experience of the LTE Nexus 9 is awful. It is slow, apps crash, and the battery life is terrible. I’m going to chalk this up to the fact that it is new, Lollipop is new, and Google doesn’t really seem to excel at LTE tablets.

The Nexus 7, on the other hand, is an excellent little tablet, even a year later. It;s not a flagship, it never was. It’s always been a $200 mid-range. The overall user experience on the Nexus 7 is pleasant, assuming you’re comfortable with such a small tablet. I should note that the Nexus 7 in this case is the Wi-Fi only model.

Nexus 7 vs Nexus 9: Conclusion

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t really recommend either of these tablets. The Nexus 7 is aging. It’s ok for a mid-range tablet at the moment, but it has just received its first major update in Android 5.0 Lollipop and it’s not going to get any faster.

The Nexus 9 is one that I would recommend down the line a bit. Right now, it’s a nightmare to use but as Google works out the software a bit, it will get better. The Nexus 9 is very publicly not the only device having trouble with Lollipop, so give it time.

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.

  • I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you on the app front. I was plesantluy surprised with how well apps work on the 4:3 display. I have well over a hundred apps and no jhave the issue you describe.

    I also don’t have the crashing app problem. As with the tablet being slow, that isn’t the case 99% of the time. In the month ive had it, its gotten laggy 3 times and a simple reboot fixed this. You are correct, it is a software problem and very likely a memory leak.

    • rwoods716

      Let me ask you something. Are you using the Wi-Fi only model or the LTE model?

  • Jay

    I still did not get the lollipop update on my Nexus 7. This sucks! Not your review, my nexus.

    • rwoods716

      Which Nexus 7 are you using? As long as it’s not LTE, I would recommend flashing it. Android is probably the hardest platform to flash an update between the three. I wrote a post on it. Here’s the link. I wrote this because I found that most of the articles found on the Internet sort of assume that you’ve done it before and you need multiple sources to pull it off.

  • Simon

    “but it’s not going to receive Android 6.0 and the Nexus 9 will.”

    You seem very sure about that. Sources? Or only your misleading speculations?

    • rwoods716

      Sorry but I cannot provide specific names of sources.

  • Oz

    I can’t figure how you managed to get poor battery performance out of the 9. I’ve had two 7s and the 9. I get several DAYS of normal use per full charge on the 9. I’ve used it to watch hours of video at a time without running it down. The battery benchmarks, that you simply tossed off with a “huh”, seem accurate in my experience of using these tablets since the 7 was available.

    That’s exactly why benchmarks, which you generally dismissed as not” real”, ARE valuable. Your “real usage” tests mean exactly nothing unless you can state everything installed, and everything that ran, used networking, etc. while running your app as a pseudo-benchmark. Without that, it’s a report on performance of an unknown system. Not useful at all.

    • rwoods716

      Are you using the LTE Nexus 9?

  • “The Nexus 9 is a nightmare to use”, ” The Nexus 9 is slow”….What a load of rubbish.

    I own a Nexus 5, a Nexus 7, a Nexus 9 and a Nexus 10 and I can honestly say that most of the so called Nexus 9 issues are no more than nitpicking by monkey see monkey do reviewers.

    My wife uses an iPad air and I can assure you that running iOS 8 its not exactly a faultless tablet experience either.

    • rwoods716

      I assume that you are using the LTE Nexus 9?