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" 1536 x 2048 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A8X, Triple-core, 1500 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 7340 mAh
Nexus 9
  • Display 8.9" 1536 x 2048 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.6 MP front
  • Processor NVIDIA Tegra K1, Dual-core, 2300 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 6700 mAh

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99 Comments

1. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Let me grab the popcorn

2. TheStanleyFTW

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 20, 2013

*Steals your popcorn*

24. AnTuTu

Posts: 1612; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

Nexus 9 without a doubt.

85. technosiastic

Posts: 33; Member since: Sep 18, 2014

tell me a single thing that why you choose nexis over ipad Just because of android

45. james1

Posts: 97; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Both devices are great but one thing has to be said about the nexus 9. As much as I love google, android, and the nexus line....this nexus won't sell. I'm sorry but the facts are facts. The nexus 10 had better specs at its time and it was also sold for the same price of the 9, $399. The problem was that it only sold about 680,000 units in total. We all know the iPad is going to get 10s of millions units sold. That being said, with the best hardware and software the nexus 9 may not be a popular device when it comes to the consumer. I'm not an isheep, this is coming from an android fan and it's not hating on google or nexus 9 but stating the facts here. I hate that we have to be classified as either apple or google fans by the way, can we just judge a device on how well it does no matter what os.

47. Sakeem

Posts: 857; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

I feel the Nexus 10 didn't sell well because there was hardly any marketing behind it. The only way you knew about it was if you are in to tech. If Google decides to market the 9, they will definitely sell a lot more. Not Ipad numbers, but definitely more than they did with the 10. They need to let people see that there is another viable option for a tablet and not just Apple or Samsung.

52. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2192; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

Well said!!! I agree with you!!!

88. testerguy

Posts: 8; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

'That being said, with the best hardware and software the nexus 9 may not be a popular device' It doesn't have the best hardware, and best software is subjective (so it doesn't have that either).

97. robocopvn

Posts: 504; Member since: Mar 10, 2010

the nexus 10 didn't sell well because of the following reasons: 1- The design is ugly 2- The exynos 5250 with Mali T604-mp4 based on 32nm and not powerful enough to run the 2K (2560×1600) resolution. This is the Alpha version of exynos 5 I believe. 3- No marketing at all from Samsung or Google Besides, look at Nexus 7. It sells like a hot piece of cake :D.

98. Darkhell

Posts: 33; Member since: Nov 03, 2013

I would buy 3 of the Nexus 9 pre order for xmas but I don't like the lack of an SD card. I upgrade to the latest tablets every year for me and my kids.

48. BobbyDigital

Posts: 2125; Member since: May 29, 2014

Grab a troll doll too. Oh... But then you'd be grabbing yourself now wouldn't you?

3. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

Am I dreaming or the article is full of mistakes? iPad Air 2 has 2GB or RAM as far as I have read. Tegra K1 Denver destroys A8X... in which paralled world? The fight will be pretty close and I would bet A8X will take the crown by a hair. And last but not least A8X is 40% faster and has 2.5x the GPU performance compared to the A7 in the original iPad air, not the A8 in the iphone 6!

10. TheStanleyFTW

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 20, 2013

Source? (iPad Air 2 2gb ram= Tegra K1 might be better than A8X when you look at the result Anandtech got in their iPhone 6 review. 32bit Tegra got 68.7fps in GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex HD (Offscreen) while the iPhone 5s (A7) got 26.4. Now according to Apple A8X is 2.5 times faster than A7 which means that it wil get 2.5*26.4=66fps.

38. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

I guess you misunderstood, he is saying A8X is 1.4 times faster than A7 and GPU is 2.5 times.

44. TheStanleyFTW

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 20, 2013

No. GFXBench is for GPU testing, so if you read my comment correctly, you can see that even if A8X is 2.5 times faster it is nearly on par with Tegra K1. While CPU wise the A8X might have the upperhands in benchmark mostly because optimization (Safari + Sunspider benchmark = extremely low result which is good), iOS or whatever XD But let's wait and see result from consumer ready devices and let's see you is the FASTEST TABLET (Besides Surface) IN THE WORLD!!! :D Sorry if my english is bad or if the comment looks a bit unreadable! XD

57. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

The comment looks good, but you just came up as angry while in fact you just agree with my comment: the two SoCs will be close in GPU and CPU. Source? Anandtech and my own analytical skills of information. If A8X has a 2.5 the GPU power than A7 then the only GPU available for it is the PowerVR GX6650, which have the same amount of ALUs than Tegra K1 but more Rendering and Texture units:http://anandtech.com/show/7796/imagination-technologies-announces-new-high-end-mobile-gpu-powervr-gx6650 Second source: your calculation is slightly off because you use the iphone 5S and not the ipad Air numbers which is higher clocked. Ipad Air got 28.6 FPS in GFBench offscreen full HD T-Rex (the one you refer to). So with the same calculations you use: 2.5*28.6 = 71.5 FPS. The A8X wins by a hair ;) If we do it with Manhatan instead of T-Rex: 13*2.5=32.5 (Tegra K1 gets 31), so again the A8 wins by a hair. Data taken from GFXbench:http://gfxbench.com/compare.jsp?benchmark=gfx30&D1=NVIDIA+Shield+tablet&os1=Android&api1=gl&D2=Apple+iPad+Air&cols=2 I expect something similar in the CPU front.

58. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

Ah! And if you were asking about the 2 GB of RAM the source is phonearena itself:http://www.phonearena.com/phones/Apple-iPad-Air-2_id8948 (not the most reliable source I must admit) Othe sites claim 1GB: http://www.gsmarena.com/apple_ipad_air_2-6742.php

72. TheStanleyFTW

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 20, 2013

Lelz...Forgot that iPad Air's A7 is a bit faster. Well that means that we can agree on that either tablet is BADASS, the ecosystem is the only BIG difference. Btw it looks like PA have changed le details about iPad Air 2. It now says 1GB of ram :D

76. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

I'm actually unsure about the RAM, the first leaks were pointing to 2 GB:http://9to5mac.com/2014/10/13/ipad-components-a8x-2gb-ram/

74. TheStanleyFTW

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 20, 2013

Btw. One thing I now for sure is that games and other GPU based application will run better and look better than Nexus 9 because of Apple's Metal. Up to 10 times more efficient than OpenGL (Unknown version), which is what most android games are made of on Android. :D And Sorry if I "sounded" a bit angry....i wasn't ;)

77. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

Android L comes with some low level API for GPU, but it won't be as good, as there are too many GPU types into play...

78. TheStanleyFTW

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 20, 2013

True...But lets wait and see :D

81. renz4

Posts: 319; Member since: Aug 10, 2013

did L come with low level API? i haven't heard anything about that. all i know it will come with AEP so game dev can use feature that is not supported by OpenGL ES 3.1 spec.

82. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

I think I have confused the AEP with a low level API then. I tried searching for it and it seems there is none.

84. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Nah, your English was fine I thought you read his comment wrong, my bad.

91. Batsie

Posts: 8; Member since: Sep 25, 2014

” I would bet A8X will take the crown by a hair”))) I think you were joking, Apple never came with fastest processors, there were always some oxynos or snapdragons or Nvidias which were faster. The K1 is a beast and I can assure you that A8X won't be 2.5x faster than A7x in terms of graphics and moreover it wont be faster than K1 64bit, these bastards at Apple always lie about their hardware, they always try to draw our attention to the fact that iPad is "well optimized", because they can't compete with K1 or 805 in terms of real performance not the "which tablet opens the Angry Birds" test. And since kitkat update, apple can't even pull this "optimization" thing from their sleeves because well, android isn't slower anymore.

92. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

Either you stopped following the news of mobile devices on 2011 or you don´t really get the situation. Apple have nearly always have a better performance in the GPU performance than the Android couterparts. CPU is another sttory, but in 2012 they came with their own core: swift, which was something in between Krait and an A15. Really powerful but only dual core. The real issue was Cyclone in 2013: it´s more powerful than anything the competition has, including A57 cores. Moreover: A7X doesn´t even exist, there is only A7.

93. Batsie

Posts: 8; Member since: Sep 25, 2014

I am not sure if the 64bit of K1 has any GPU improvements but here you can see how the 32bit K1 rapes the Ipad Air A7 at the GPU test: 1080p T-Rex Offscreen: NVIDIA Shield tablet 3637 Frames (65.0 Fps) Apple iPad Air 1600 Frames (28.6 Fps) olmost twice and a half faster, the 64bit of K1 might have even better results. Another example is Iphone 6 A8(64bit) vs Nvidia Shield K1(32bit) 1080p T-Rex Offscreen: NVIDIA Shield tablet 3637 Frames (65.0 Fps) Apple iPhone 6 2395 Frames (42.8 Fps) 1250 points difference, do you really think that A8x will fill this difference and even outperform K1 (64bit), I really really doubt that, taking into consideration that Denver k1 can have even better results than the 32bit And don't forget that the K1 SoC is already 9 months old

95. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

No doubt the K1 is a real powerhouse, but the difference between the GPUs in the A8 and K1 is merely 50%. Takend from Apple keynotes: A8 has 1.5 times the GPU performance than the A7 (true from your numbers 1600x1.5=2400) A8X has 2.5 times the GPU performance than the A7: 1600x2,5=4000 (71.5 FPS)http://images.anandtech.com/doci/8622/DSC_0081.JPG As you see unless Apple lies (and they have been pretty accurate in that regard till the date) the A8X will have slightly better GPU performance than the K1.

99. Batsie

Posts: 8; Member since: Sep 25, 2014

well, we didn't see the 64bit K1 results, I think it would be more accurate to compare K1 32Bits to A8 and K1 64bits to A8X. There was no big difference in performance between Iphone 5s/Ipad Air, Iphone 5/iPad 4 and so on, with A8X they made an exception, but I really doubt that it would considerably outperform the Iphones A8, now lets sit and wait the results for Denver K1 and A8X)

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