No Vulkan support for the Nexus 9, Android engineer confirms

Back in November 2015, Google announced that future versions of Android would employ the Vulkan graphics API. This got many people excited – and for good reasons – since Vulkan promises to substantially increase the graphical capabilities of mobile devices.

Strangely enough, the Nexus 9 won't be receiving the graphics driver update needed for Vulkan support. This information was confirmed by a Google rep during a recent Android Nougat AMA on the /r/AndroidDev subreddit, where one user asked whether support would come to the tablet with the final release of Android 7.0 Nougat.

Since the fifth and final developer preview of Android N was pushed to the Nexus 9 without introducing support for Vulkan – or OpenGL ES3.2 for that matter – owners of the tablet were left in the dark as to whether their devices would eventually get the “next-gen” graphics treatment. Well, now they know.

During the AMA, redditor zxcvbad also stated that he got in touch with an Nvidia rep, who reportedly confirmed that the Nexus 9 drivers were ready on Nvidia's end. You can read the entire post here. Despite this, Android engineer Anwar Ghuloum had a short and disappointing answer to zxcvbad's query:

“Anwar: N9 will not be getting Vulkan drivers, but Pixel C has had them since the second N Developer Preview.”

It's a weird decision, to say the least, especially since the Nexus 9's hardware is more than capable for the task at hand, and that the Nexus 5X and 6P got support for Vulkan a long time ago.

source: Reddit via XDA Developers



1. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

what did you expect from 2014's device? :-/ is there any 2014's devices that get vulkan support?

2. ebilcake

Posts: 1227; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Yes, the shield tablet which uses the same GPU. That supports Vulkan already, Google have no excuse.

4. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

The 2014 Nexus Player also has been updated to support Vulkan BTW the Nexus 6 hasn't been updated to support Vulkan The Adreno 420 should be able to supports it

8. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Adreno 420 in Nexus 6 does not support OpenGL ES 3.2! @vincelongman

11. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

The Adreno 420 support OpenGL ES 3.1, which means its capable of Vulkan Qualcomm claim all Adreno 4xx series GPUs support Vulkan

3. vuyonc

Posts: 1089; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

Nvidia probably saw the Doom Vulkan benchmarks -_-

5. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Vulkan will bring improvements on mobiles It doesn't bring improvements to all desktops with Maxwell 2 since some of those desktops, especially reviewers use who have really power 4-8 core i7 CPUs, so they are not CPU bottlenecked I've read people with i3's and AMD CPUs are getting decent improvements from Doom, even with Maxwell 1 and Kepler cards

6. vuyonc

Posts: 1089; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

Sorry I should have revised that. Doom on Vulkan doesn't play nice with older Kepler GPUs, which probably concerns the Tegra K1 architecturally.

10. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

People with older Kepler GPUs still see improvements from Vulkan in Doom if they have a mid or low end CPU (e.g. i3 or AMD CPU) People with older Kepler GPUs and high end 4+ core i5 and i7s won't see improvements, since they aren't CPU bottlenecked

7. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

This post reminded me that there was a Nexus 9. Hehe

9. ebilcake

Posts: 1227; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Yes, Nexus 9 has good hardware but the design was a let down. I don't know how much input HTC had into the design, so I want blame them for that.

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