My brief affair with a Nexus 9A deal that caught my eye popped up on eBay the other day. I’ve been looking for a tablet and had some recomendations on what to get. After three recommendations for the Nexus 9, I decided to give it a try and drink the Kool Aid.

TL;DR: This is just Paul’s weekend banging his head against something that should not have been a problem.

Keep in mind, my main area of focus has been HTC for a long time with some massive Samsung work for a hospital. I’d not been exposed to the Google side, but as I’ve got roughly two months before I need something in place I went ahead and bought a factory reconditioned Nexus 9 CDMA/LTE/GSM edition for about $299 from a seller with 100something positive reviews and only two negatives dealing with packaging. I thought, “This sounds peachy!”

That’s not actually what I thought, but if I can’t make the comment in the comment system without getting moderated I’m not writing it in the article.

An absurdly well packaged Nexus 9 showed up a few days later. Whatever packing problems there were before, they weren’t having now. I popped it out, booted it up, and it had a Google account associated with it. This raised my hackles a bit as I’d heard tales of how when they’re associated with a person you need that person to hand over control to you. John pretty much verified this.

I scribbled down his information, did a factory reset from within Android, and about 10 minutes later the Nexus popped back up and the programs were all gone and it was still associated with that owner.

I hit up XDA and also shot the previous owner an email telling him I was some random guy from the internet who had come into possession of his old tablet, wondering if he might be able to help should the need arise. I was trying to just move forward and get this thing up and running.

Not finding much help, I did something I’d never done before – I contacted Google tech support. I was through to their chat support within about 12 seconds. It was a bit unreal. I told him the situation and he said I was probably out of luck as since 5.1 you’ve had to have the original owner to do this. I mentioned I was on 5.0.1, and he congratulated me as this was doable and we went on.

That’s when we found that recovery wouldn’t load. Oh, it had loaded before, but while I was on with him it didn’t work. Factory reset from HBoot menu would bomb out in under a second. Everything was working incorrectly. He suggested I flash a new factory image. As I was on 5.0.1, he suggested that or 5.0.2.

I downloaded the LTE Nexus 9 image for 5.0.1 and 5.0.2 and tried flashing both. Both gave me failed-pu when flashing the radios. I looked up the hboot version and guess what: this was the WiFi version of the Nexus 9. I would have stopped here and returned it for being the wrong product and being registered to someone, but I was curious to see if I could get it repaired and then return it or get a partial refund as it was a less expensive version of the tablet.

5.0.1 downloaded, I flashed, and the radios took. The main image took. The update flash failed looking for a .sig file that was not there. This was an image from Google, not like I was getting this on the street.

I found no solution for the .sig issue other than to extract the update.zip and fastboot flash each one of them. Everything was going fine until I flashed the cache file, and at that point the tablet froze. I got back into it and flashed again, this time it seemed to take.

I had a normally working recovery again. I went in, chose factory reset, things started going well. Unfortunately when it hit that it was formatting cache I started getting I/O errors. After several attempts and much headbanging the verdict is it most likely had a bad EMMC and there was no way to fix it.

If it hadn’t, I could have factory reset the original owner away considering it was on 5.0.1, but if it’d been at 5.1 I’d have been even more out of luck.

So that’s what I did this weekend. Today the unit was packaged up and shipped back.

Fun times.

I am without the refund at the moment so out of the tablet market for the next week or two – as long as the seller’s not a tool.