Apple iPad Air 2 vs Google Nexus 9: in-depth specs comparison

Introduction


Due to a in interesting turn of events, both Google and Apple have refreshed their tablet portfolios with over the span of less than 24 hours. Last night, Mountain View silently unveiled the HTC-made Google Nexus 9, which packs some rather respectful hardware innards in the form of the chock-full of power 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 chipset. In the meantime, Cupertino just remove the not-so-thick veil of secrecy off its new flagship slate - the iPad Air 2 - which sports and improved variation of the same Apple A8 chip that graces the insides of the latest iPhone crop. 

Apple and Google have grappled in an endless battle and their latest tablets will bring it to a new front. Although both predominantly focus on the smartphone theater of war, the Nexus 9 and the iPad Air 2 will play a rather important war in the ongoing battle between the ever-battling, never-settling tech giants.

Design


It's more than obvious that both companies have put a rather heavy emphasize on the design of their respective devices. The sleek, aluminum design of the thin Apple iPad has moved on to its successor. We didn't actually expect Apple to deviate from its well-known design language, so no surprises here. In the meantime, Google has collaborated with HTC and as a result, the Nexus 9 employs the signature HTC design that adorns the HTC One and the HTC One (M8) - we are talking about a predominant brushed aluminum finish, a pair of front-facing BoomSound speakers at the front, nestled at the very top and bottom of the front frame.

Meanwhile, the Apple iPad sports the signature Touch ID-enabled home button at its bottom frame, which was, as Apple said, the sole most requested feature. Its speakers are positioned on the bottom frame, similar to the previous iPad trooper. At the back, things are rather interesting. One of the two devices has a protruding camera, somewhat similar to the one of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus - can you guess which one is it? No, it's not the iPad Air 2, actually it's the Nexus 9. 

With its 7.9mm-thin profile, the HTC Nexus 9 is incredibly thin and sleek, but the Apple iPad Air 2 reigns supreme in this category. With its razor thin side profile of 6.1mm, the new iPad further amps up Cupertino's game in the tablet segment and brings it even closer to the limits, set by the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Undoubtedly, if you are looking for a thin slate, the Apple iPad Air 2 should be your first choice, as the difference between 6.1mm and 7.9mm is as clear as a sunny day. 


Display


Well, both slates flaunt IPS LCD displays at their fronts. The similarities don't end here, though. Both the Apple iPad Air 2 and the Google Nexus 9 also have the same display resolution - 2048 x 1536 pixels. The display real estate is rather different, though: while the Nexus 9 puts its faith into 8.9 inches of display size, the Apple iPad can boast a slightly larger, 9.7-inch display at the front.

This means that the pixel density of both devices is a quite different, 288ppi for the Nexus 9 and 264ppi for the new iPad, and the images will look sharper on the more dense LCD screen of the Nexus. The iPad Air 2 is not as pixel-dense as the smaller iPad mini 3 (despite toting 3.1 million pixels), thus its display can't be classified as a Retina one.
  
Unfortunately, we'll have to wait for a more in-depth comparison between the displays of the two slates, as a set of scientific test will have to take place before we can say which display is prevailing in color accuracy, color temperature, maximum brightness, and so on.

We expect the iPad Air to be color-calibrated similarly to its predecessor, dwelling within the sRGB color gamut that has been adopted as a standard for the industry. As far as the Nexus 9 is concerned, we can only hope for the same.

The display of the Apple iPad Air 2 comes with an anti-reflective coating that makes sure 56% less light gets reflected by the screen. Apple claims that no other tablet provides similar level of anti-reflective coating over its display. At the same time, the Google Nexus 9 employs Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which will make sure that hardly anything scratches the screen of your precious Android gladiator.

Processor and memory

The Nexus 9,  as we mentioned, is adorned with the "impossibly-advanced" Nvidia Tegra K1 - a 64-bit, dual-core chipset based on the Denver CPU architecture and humming at up to 2.3GHz. The on-board GPU of the Tegra K1 is a stunning powerhouse on its own: the Kepler DX1, it has 192 shader cores, operates at 950MHz, and crushes mobile graphics with its mind-bogging performance of 364.79 Gflops. Have in mind that the Tegra K1 SoC is slightly different from the quad-core, 32-bit one found in another powerhouse duo, the Nvidia Shield Tablet and the Xiaomi MiPad


Over at the Apple iPad's side, we are dealing with a dual-core A8X chipset, ticking and clicking at up to 1.4GHZ. Based on the ARMv8-a architecture, it's an improved version of the 64-bit A8 chip in the iPhone 6. The Apple A8X is a 20nm chipset that is "12x faster than the one in the first iPad" (which gives us little clue about its hardware prowess) and 40% faster than the A7X SoC in the previous generation. 

The situation in the memory department is not different at all with both tablets. You can find the pretty adequate for a tablet 2GB of RAM in the Nexus 9, which means that you'll hardly experience any serious issues with multitasking with both devices. At the same time, Apple is keeping mum on the amount of RAM in the iPad Air 2 (which most probably means it's still 1GB). Thanks to the optimization, however, even the iPad Air 2 came with "merely" a gig of RAM, the highly-optimized iOS doesn't actually need any more memory aboard so as to provide an adequate user experience. Still, if it came with 2GB, the tablet would have been a lot more future-proof.


Interface and functionality




Well, once again, we have an intense battle between the iOS and Android arc-hrivals and the best they have to offer at this point! Packed with the latest renditions of their respective mobile platforms, both the iOS 8-toting iPad Air 2 and the Android 5.0 Lollipop-boasting Nexus 9 will undoubtedly deliver a top-of-the-line user experience. Apart from being the software creme de la creme of their creators, there are both a lot of similarities and, at the same time, a number of key differences between the two ubiquitous mobile platforms. iOS is not as closed as it once was, as certain aspects of the UI are now openly available for developers to tinker with; at the same time, Android is more beautiful than ever thanks to the Material Design language that Matias Duarte showcased several months ago. 

The key differences between iOS and Android, however, are already slightly fading with each and every rendition. Yes, Android still reigns supreme in the functionality and flexibility departments, where the "beauty of Android" does pure magic, and iOS is still that sleek and fluid mobile platform that provides its users with an intuitive and easy way to get along with their iDevices. It won't be too far-fetched to say that iOS and Android have, willingly or inadvertently, inspired a number of still-ongoing changes in each another.


Camera



We surely can't say that they are as advanced as the ones in most flagship smartphones, but both tablets have been endowed with rear cameras for a reason. That said, both slates come with 8MP shooters at the back, which is rather adequate for a tablet.

Their image capturing capabilities are yet to be put to the test, though we expect neither the Apple iPad Air 2 or the HTC-made Google Nexus 9 to fail in this category. 

The iSight camera of the Apple iPad Air 2 is now an 8MP one, which means that you can produce 3264×2448-pixel images. Unlike the iPhone 6/6 Plus, the camera sensor does not stick out. It's also been improved in several other areas, too. For starters, it now allows you to shoot 120fps slo-mo videos, a feature that debuted alongside last year's iPhone 5s.

The 240fps slo-mo mode found on the Apple iPhone 6 has not made an appearance on the new tablet – maybe next year, Apple? The Time-lapse and Burst Photo mode are also aboard.

Meanwhile, the front 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera has an aperture of f/2.2, which allows more light to get into the snapper's sensor (resulting in better photos in low-light conditions). It also comes with an improved face detection. At the same time, the Nexus 9 is graced with a 1.6MP front-facing snapper for the occasional selfie or video conversation. Both tablets will allow you to record 1080p video clips with them, which will most probably fulfill the needs of the average Joe.



Conclusion and expectations


There you have, it arguably the best tablets at the moment! The sheer power of the Nexus 9 can't be simply neglected, while the premiumness of the iPad Air 2 will surely win many a follower after the latter lands on the shelves. Undoubtedly, both devices will reap success on the market, though we can't say which one will reap more success just yet.

The pricing is another domain reigned by the Nexus 9. It will be available in three different versions - the most basic 16GB Wi-Fi model for $399, a 32GB one retailing for $479, and an LTE-equipped 32GB one fetching a $599 price tag. That's in stark contrast with the iPad Air 2, which is costlier - $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, $599 for the $64GB one, and $699 for the 128GB one, while the Wi-Fi+cellular models will set you back $629 for the 16GB, $729 for the 64GB, and $829 for the 128GB, respectively.



Related phones

iPad Air 2
  • Display 9.7 inches
    2048 x 1536 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP (Single camera)
    1.2 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A8X, 2GB RAM
  • Storage 128GB,
  • Battery 7340 mAh
  • OS iOS 13.x
Nexus 9
  • Display 8.9 inches
    2048 x 1536 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP (Single camera)
    1.6 MP front
  • Hardware NVIDIA Tegra K1, 2GB RAM
  • Storage 32GB,
  • Battery 6700 mAh
  • OS Android 7.1 Nougat

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