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

James Temperton
12 Nov 2014
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Looking for new tablet? We pit the Google Nexus 9 against the Apple iPad Air 2 to see which you should buy

The Nexus 9 and iPad Air 2 are two of the most hotly anticipated tablets of the year, but which one is best? We've collected together all the key specs so you can decide what to buy based on the cold, hard facts. These are two very different tablets and comparing them directly is hard. Apple's iPad Air 2 is undoubtedly more high-end, while the Nexus 9 is aimed squarely at those on more of a budget.

This is purely a specs comparison and isn't based on in-depth testing and benchmarks. For a more comprehensive review of each tablet you should read our full reviews. Read our in-depth review of the Google Nexus 9 and check out our detailed review of the Apple iPad Air 2.

PRICE

In the UK the basic 16GB Wi-Fi only version of the Nexus 9 costs £319 with the 32GB version coming in at £399. The 4G LTE version of the Nexus 9 is only available with 32GB of storage and costs £459. Prices for the iPad Air 2 start at £399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version. The 16GB 4G version costs £499. The most expensive iPad Air 2 costs a whopping £659 but you do get 128GB of storage and 4G connectivity.

DIMENSIONS

The Nexus 9 weighs in at 425g and measures 153.68mm by 228.25mm by 7.95mm. That makes it more comparable to the iPad mini 3, but its specs put it closer to the iPad Air 2. By comparison the iPad Air 2 is 6.1mm thick and according to Apple is the "world's thinnest tablet". The basic version weighs 437g and measures 169.5mm by 240mm by 6.1mm.

DESIGN

Apple is probably the winner of the battle of looks. To keep down costs the Nexus 9 only has "brushed metal sides" while the iPad Air 2 is the same high-quality aluminium as the original iPad Air. The Nexus 9 is available in grey, white and light brown while the iPad Air 2 is available in grey, white and gold. The iPad Air 2 also comes with Touch ID, which Apple said was one of the most requested features from fans.

DISPLAY

The Nexus 9 has an 8.9in screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2,048 x 1536. It is made of Gorilla Glass 3 and comes with 'double tap to wake' to turn the tablet on. The shift to a 4:3 screen makes the Nexus 9 look a lot more like the iPad. Screen quality is a real Apple strong suit and the iPad Air 2 keeps the excellent Retina display from the original iPad Air. That means a 9.7in screen with a resolution of 2048 x 1536.

PERFORMANCE

On the inside the Nexus 9 is powered by a 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 processor and a Kepler GPU. The Nexus 9 shouldn't have any performance problems and the Kepler GPU means it will be able to handle games with ease. There's also 2GB of RAM. As Apple's new flagship tablet the iPad Air 2 is similarly speedy. It has the new A8X, created specifically for iPad Air 2. It has 2nd gen 64 bit architecture and a 40 per cent faster CPU and 2.5x faster GPU compared to the last iPad.

STORAGE

The Nexus 9 is available in two models - 16GB and 32GB. It doesn't have micro-SD card slot, so internal storage can't be expanded. It will also be available in Wi-Fi and LTE versions. The iPad Air 2 comes with a bit more oomph. It comes in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models. The iPad Air 2 is also available in both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE.

Nexus 9

BATTERY

The Nexus 9 has a 6,700 mAh battery has a claimed battery life of around nine hours while browsing the web over Wi-Fi. This drops to 8.5 hours for LTE browsing. Video playback battery life is given as 9.5 hours. Apple's iPad Air 2 will have up to 10-hour battery life, according to the company. It said users could expect that length of use when working, playing games or surfing the web. Apple didn't give an exact battery size.

CAMERA

The Nexus 9 has a 8MP (f/2.4) camera with auto-focus and LED flash while on the front there's a 1.6MP (f/2.4) camera. Apple made a big deal of new camera features in the iPad Air 2. It has an 8MP iSight camera (f/2.4) that can shoot video in 1080p. It can also shoot 43MP panoramas and has a 'Burst Mode' for catching high-speed motion. There's also timelapse and slow motion. On the front there's a new FaceTime HD camera with a larger f/2.2 aperture.

CONCLUSION

Deciding which tablet is best for you may come down to your preference of operating system. The Nexus 9 is one of the first devices to get Android Lollipop, with Google's latest operating system boasting a raft of improvements and a new design. The iPad Air 2 will come with iOS 8, which has fewer and less noticeable changes and improvements. There's no denying the iPad Air 2 is higher spec, but the Google Nexus 9 is cheaper. These tablets are very different beasts and picking the right one for you will depend on how much you want to spend and how much performance you want.

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