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Apple iPad Air 2 vs. Google Nexus 9: Tablet Showdown




The iPad Air 2 and Nexus 9 will be the tablets to beat. But how do they compare? Read on for our rundown on both.iPad Air 2 vs Nexus 9
Another year, another update. As expected, Apple unveiled two new tablets at its latest event, the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. Both tablets see modest internal upgrades rather than radical design changes, as is tradition for Apple at this point.
The original iPad Air was our reigning favorite tablet, and until recently, competitors not named Samsung had largely backed out of the high-end tablet market. That changed earlier this week when Google announced the long awaited update to its tablet lineup, the Nexus 9. For the first time since the Nexus 10 release in 2012, Google and Apple will once again go toe-to-toe in the high-end, large-screen tablet market. Read on for a breakdown of both sides of this heavyweight showdown.
Apple has always excelled with its subtle, calculated yearly updates. The new iPad Air 2 looks nearly identical to its predecessor, but thoughtful upgrades throughout promise an even better experience. Google, on the other hand, is less predictable lately, with longer update cycles, but more tangibly unique devices. The Nexus 9 is a completely new form factor for the company, which also nixed the smaller Nexus 7 and larger Nexus 10. It's a difference in philosophy that tends to extend from hardware to software for the two companies.
NameApple iPad Air 2Google Nexus 9
 
Editor Rating
Lowest Price
$499.00MSRP
$399.00MSRP
Dimensions9.4 x 6.6 x 0.24 inches8.98 x 6.05 x 0.31 inches
Screen Size9.7 inches8.9 inches
Weight15.36 oz14.99 oz
Screen Resolution2048 by 1536 pixels1536 by 2048 pixels
CPUApple A8XNvidia Tegra K1 Denver 64-bit
Operating SystemApple iOS 8Android 5.0
Screen Pixels Per Inch264 ppi281 ppi
Camera Resolution8 MP Rear, 1.2 MP Front-Facing8 MP Rear, 1.6 MP Front-Facing
 

Let's start with physical design. From outward appearances, not much has changed for the iPad Air 2. It's imperceptibly thinner and lighter than the original at 9.4 by 6.6 by 0.24 inches (HWD) and 0.96 pounds. Compare that with Nexus 9, which measures 8.98 by 6.05 by 0.31 inches (HWD) and 0.94 pounds. That's a pretty dead heat, but keep in mind that the iPad Air 2 has a larger display and unibody aluminum construction. We haven't had any hands-on time with the Nexus 9, but in a tech world where metal almost unanimously trumps plastic, Apple will likely retain an edge on design and physical polish.
Moving onto the displays, Apple hasn't changed the resolution of its Retina panels (2,048 by 1,536 pixels), but it has added a new anti-reflection coating that should cut down on glare under bright light. Google matches Apple pixel for pixel, trotting out its own 2,048-by-1,536 display for the Nexus 9. Google gains a slight edge in sharpness (281 ppi to 264 ppi), but loses out on added screen real estate (8.9 inches to 9.7 inches).
Nexus 9Both tablets are flag bearers for their respective ecosystems, in terms of software and the guts that power them. Apple introduced the new A8X SoC, which promises improved performance and better graphics for gaming and accelerated video processing. The Nexus 9 features Nvidia's Tegra K1, among the first wave of 64-bit chips made for Android. We'll have to wait until we can thoroughly test each platform before we reach any conclusions.
Android and iOS are similar in so many ways, but espouse fundamentally different philosophies. Android is suited for tinkerers who want to maximize their experience to their liking, even if that takes a lot of legwork on their part. Apple's iOS is elegant in its simplicity, offering one of the most seamless user experiences around, but it's also a more gated experience. There's no better ecosystem, but one will be better to you depending on your needs.
Ultimately, many decisions will be driven by price. Google's Nexus 9 will start at $399, while Apple's iPad Air 2 will cost you $499. That doesn't necessarily mean the Nexus 9 is a better value, but it is a significant differentiating factor. So which will you choose for your next tablet? Let us know in the comments below. 



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